Powerlifting star Natalie Blake is setting herself a new challenge as she trains to compete alongside the best able-bodied lifters.
Paralympian Natalie Blake in training at PHP Gym, Farndon. 030217DD1-1
The 33-year-old, of Newark, has her sights set on two major competitions in the International Powerlifting Federation calendar.
She wants to compete in the World Open Bench Press Championships in Kileen, Texas, US, and the Commonwealth Bench Press And Powerlifting Championships in Potchefstroom, South Africa, later this year.
Blake, who trains at the PHP Gym in Farndon, competed in her fifth Paralympic Games at Rio last year.
She finished sixth in the -55kg class and is now looking for a new challenge.
“Training has been going well recently. I have made the switch to able-bodied lifting training and getting back to focusing on competitions,” Blake said.
“I have had a look at what I want to do in the next few years. We were thinking about this before Rio but were just trying to find the right time.
“This is a very good opportunity to test myself and gives me something different to aim for.”
Blake was born with spina bifida, which prevented her vertebrae developing properly.
The differences between able-bodied bench press and powerlifting are not huge, but pose certain technical challenges for Blake.
“It’s not huge and I am still lifting with my arms. My legs don’t get strapped down in those competitions,” she said.
“On the release the referee shouts me to start and press, which is a bit different from what I have been doing.
“The most difficult aspect is planting your feet and keeping them there. Other than that it has been going really good.”
Blake has already competed in and won the British Powerlifting Bench Press Championship 2017 against able-bodied lifters at Horncastle.
She defeated defending champion Louise Murray to take the domestic crown in a hard-fought contest.
'The event was a little tactical'
“It was a pretty good event,” Blake said.
“There were lots of people there and hopefully I can build on that for future events.
“The event was a little tactical. I was just focusing on getting more weight on the bar, getting my strength there and keeping it there.
“She weighs a little bit more than me, so she was having to try and lift a lot more than I did.”
As well as the bench press competition, Blake is also eyeing up a powerlifting spot at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 to be held in the Gold Coast, Australia.
She is hoping to retain or better the silver medal won at Glasgow in 2014, in what would be a return to the country where she competed in her first Paralympics — in Sydney in 2000.
Seventeen years on from her Paralympic debut, Blake has no immediate thoughts of retirement.
“I am taking it one competition at a time,” she said.
“My body is going to play a major part in the next few years so I am just going to look to enjoy myself.”
Blake is looking for sponsorship to travel and compete in the able-bodied competitions. Anyone interested should contact email@example.com