How this 72-year-old weightlifter is lifting expectations

How this 72-year-old weightlifter is lifting expectations


WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Finally, to our “NewsHour”
Shares, something that caught our eye that might be of interest to you as well. Staying in shape is difficult for many people,
no matter their age. But one Virginia grandmother is raising the
bar, literally. The “NewsHour”‘s Julia Griffin has this profile. LINDA LEIGHTLEY, Weight Lifter: Commissioner
of revenue’s office. JULIA GRIFFIN: Between the phone calls and
family photos, you would be forgiven for thinking Linda Leightley is your average government
employee easing toward retirement. But as her co-worker Becky McNaughton at City
Hall in Fairfax, Virginia, knows, Leightley isn’t the type to take anything easy. BECKY MCNAUGHTON, Co-Worker: The first or
second day I worked here, Linda came into my office, and she asked me to check out her
butt. (LAUGHTER) BECKY MCNAUGHTON: Because it was very, very
solid. And that is how I met her and found out she
was a powerlifter. JULIA GRIFFIN: At age 72, not only is Leightley
a competitive powerlifter; she’s a record- setting one at that. LINDA LEIGHTLEY: I have set several world
records, which I’m really proud of. JULIA GRIFFIN: Leightley competes in 100%
RAW, a worldwide powerlifting organization that emphasizes clean, steroid-free competitions. Since 2014, she’s garnered 12 world records
in her age and weight categories; 132-pound Leightley can dead-lift 273 pounds. But she wasn’t always so in shape. In 2006, after years of shuttling three children
and six grandchildren to their athletic activities, she finally got her own itch to work out. LINDA LEIGHTLEY: I was 60, and I was very
sluggish. And I said, you know, I really need to do
something for me. JULIA GRIFFIN: Blaine Dulin is Leightley’s
personal trainer and coach. BLAINE DULIN, Personal Trainer: She was a
disaster when I got her. The first time we exercised, she almost fell
over doing a lunge. JULIA GRIFFIN: But Leightley stuck with it,
and within a year, she lost 40 pounds and found a love for weight lifting along the
way. LINDA LEIGHTLEY: Every once in awhile, he’d
say, well, do you want to stay here or do you want to lift higher? And I would say, I want to lift higher, because
it felt so good. JULIA GRIFFIN: Soon, her strength was getting
noticed. BLAINE DULIN: One day, she — I think she
was picking up 220 pounds when she was 68. Somebody mentioned, does she compete or whatever? And I looked it up. And the world record was, I believe, 232. And I thought, well, why not? If you want to, why not give it a go? JULIA GRIFFIN: Expectations and preconceptions
were broken at that first competition. LINDA LEIGHTLEY: There was another gal from
the gym there. And she said: “Don’t worry about it. Whatever you do, it’s a success because you
are here for the first time. Don’t worry about it if you fail.” And I looked at her and I said, “I don’t have
any intention of failing.” BLAINE DULIN: She set a world record then,
and has set at least one every other meet since. JULIA GRIFFIN: The key to Leightley’s sustained
success, Dulin says, is making sure each lift is done correctly and safely. BLAINE DULIN: I hate to yell at somebody’s
grandmother, but I have yelled at somebody’s grandmother for picking up weight improperly,
because, if she gets hurt, we’re done for months, maybe indefinitely. So I go out of my way to try to make sure
she does everything right. JULIA GRIFFIN: At most events, Leightley is
often the only person her age, or even close to it. That, says her daughters Colleen and Mary
Beth, is what crowds find so inspiring. COLLEEN WOOD, Daughter: To see how all these
young 20-, 30-something-year-olds were cheering for my mom, who is in her 70s, that was really
neat. MARY BETH HAZELGROVE, Daughter: We always
say she’s the strongest woman that we know, and it’s literally and figuratively. JULIA GRIFFIN: For her part, Leightley is
just glad to show that age is no restriction when it comes to physical fitness. LINDA LEIGHTLEY: Some of the younger lifters,
female lifters come over, and they say, you are role model to us. This is the goal we’d like to have as we get
a little bit older. That’s really an amazing compliment. JULIA GRIFFIN: A compliment that might just
top her long list of accomplishments. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Julia Griffin
in Fairfax, Virginia. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: I love that her name is
Leightley. What an amazing woman. On the “NewsHour” online right now: Nominees
for the National Book Awards were named late last week, and among them were authors who
have written essays for the “NewsHour.” You can watch their takes on reading challenging
fiction, choosing to live without fear and reconciling with marriage after a parent’s
divorce. That’s on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour. And that’s the “NewsHour” for tonight. On Tuesday, we will have Judy Woodruff’s interview
with Turkish President Erdogan and a look at President Trump’s speech to the United
Nations. I’m William Brangham. Join us all online and again here tomorrow
evening. For all of us at the “PBS NewsHour,” thank
you, and see you soon.

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