UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 6 | April
Uplifting Vision Helps Blind Athlete Excel
UBC lab technician finds award-winning strength.
By Helen Lewis
As a child, Nancy Carpenter watched in awe as Olympian Vasily Alexyev
competed on weightlifting's world stage, and she dreamed of doing
At the age of 39, with her sight fading fast, Carpenter refused
to let go of that vision. Legally blind, she could no longer play
most of her favourite sports - baseball, track and field, softball,
basketball, squash and cycling.
But she held fast to the weight-lifting dream, and in 1995 took
up the sport as a masters level athlete.
Just two years later, the UBC Biotechnology Lab media technician
won gold for Canada in the International World Masters Games, setting
a world record in weightlifting (57.5 kg clean and jerk in the 59
Now 46, and tiny at 156 cm and 65 kg, Carpenter has taken countless
medals in provincial, national and international weightlifting and
power-lifting competitions - realizing her dream every time she
steps up to lift.
"I'd always wanted to do this as a kid, but girls didn't
weightlift when I was young and there weren't even any gyms for
women," she says. "During the 1972 and 1976 Olympics I
watched Vasily Alexyev and the greats of that time on TV and thought,
'Isn't that great, they're so strong. That's what I want to be -
Carpenter admits it is unusual to compete in both weightlifting
(also called Olympic lifting) and power-lifting, and even more unusual
to start in the sports as late as she did.
"It's hard because you're training for two sports and five
lifts, and they're very different. Power-lifting is about short
movements and brute strength, while weightlifting is more athletic
- there's greater co-ordination, flexibility and movement skills,"
she says. "Most people I'm competing against started earlier,
but this sport is about testing yourself. I'm a workhorse - my style
is basic hard work, discipline and consistency."
Carpenter trains at home ("I don't have a house - I have
platforms and squat racks," she says) six days a week.
With a degree in physical education and a teaching background,
she also trains several clients in weightlifting and physical conditioning
in her home gym.
Her long list of medals includes three gold and two silver in
B.C. weightlifting championships, as well as second, third and fifth
placings in three world weightlifting championships.
In power-lifting, she won best dead-lift, best squat and best
bench in the 1997 B.C. championships, second in open power-lifting
in the 1997 national championships and gold in the 1998 World Masters
Games bench division.
But for Carpenter, the sport is about more than competitions.
"It's not confined to the gym - it helps me in real life.
I never have trouble carrying groceries, opening lids, moving heavy
things," she says.
"My friends all want me to help them move house, and in the
office I'm the one who can move the photocopier. It keeps me energetic,
healthy and better conditioned."
Carpenter says she wants to lift "until I fall over"
and is motivated to be a role model, proving that women can be fit
and strong well beyond 35.
Her next goal is to compete in the World Masters Games in Australia
in October, where she aims to lift 62.5 kg in the clean and jerk
in the 45-50 age division.