By: Annika Zelander – Two-time Swedish Powerlifting National Champion, European Classic Bench Press Champion, Silver Medalist at the Classic World Championships 2018, Silver Medalist at the Classic European Championships 2017
I’ve been a ’horse girl’ pretty much all my life. From the age 5 to 26 I spent most of my time in the stable. In the horse world a lot depends on money. If you are wealthy you have better conditions to succeed. I’m not raised in a rich family, which meant that I had to work a lot to even get up on a horse. It’s been many years hard physical labor. Today I’m very grateful for all these years because it has given me my work ethics, the knowledge that nothing comes for free and a real attitude. That’s a big part of me.
It wasn’t until I was 25 that I came into contact with powerlifting. I was doing PE with some police students when I was studying at the university, and I sustained a knee injury. The PE teacher prescribed strength training and I had to familiarize myself with the gym all the weights for the first time in my life. At first it was just all rehab, bodyweight and band exercises and later I moved on to the machines. At last I found the barbell and was told that squats are good for developing leg strength. I realized squatting came very naturally to me, and within a few months I did reps at 100kg. It was around this time a powerlifter approached me and told me I should compete. ”Compete in what?”, I asked. ”Powerlifting, of course” he said. Back then I had done the bench press just a few times because I didn’t want to get too big.. And I hadn’t ever done the deadlift out of fear of injuring myself – I am a very clumsy person. But after this conversation a seed was planted in my mind, and it started to grow. I got into contact with a local powerlifting club, and met some powerlifters and trained with them. They taught me the competition rules. 6 weeks after I first set foot in a powerlifting club I was wearing a singlet on the podium, and did my first ever meet. I weighed in at 71,0kg and totaled 140 squat, 77,5 bench and 155 deadlift. This was 30kg over the qualifying total for the Swedish nationals, and put me in 6th position in the national -72kg ranking. This was in November 2014.
Up until the first nationals I trained 3-4 times a week, without any plan whatsoever. I also did some cardio during this time. At nationals, I placed 2nd. There and then I realized that I probably should take this more seriously. I contacted a powerlifting coach (who turned out to become my partner). Oscar started doing my programming and monitoring my lifts and in 4 months I had increased my total with 25kg. And at my second nationals I had increased another 25kg, totaling 460kg – which would have meant a 4th place at worlds 2016.
In 2017 I was selected to join the national team and my first international competition was Europeans in Denmark. I ended up at second place, with one failed deadlift away from the gold. I also got to go to worlds in Belarus where I placed 5th after a nice and tight fight about the bronze. Again, it was the last failed deadlift. I was very disappointed and how I used that feeling as fuel would have to be an entire blog article of its own. But worlds in Belarus changed me in a positive way. I finished 2017 with becoming European champion in bench press.
My training leading up to worlds in Calgary has been great. I’ve made some drastic changes in my life the last year, and I’m entering the competition as a stronger, smarter and more secure lifter. I also have an entirely different mindset. I have power within me – a lion – and anything is possible for an underdog like me.