Caroline Cunniffe in action at the IPF World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Halmstad, Sweden.

Moate powerlifter's medals haul at world championships in Sweden

After two years of setbacks, due to a broken wrist and then the pandemic, local powerlifter Caroline Cunniffe returned to action in style recently when she earned a total of four medals at the IPF World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Halmstad, Sweden.

Competing in the Masters' section, the 63-year Moate resident, who teaches at the Ballymahon Youthreach Centre, won bronze in the Squat and Bench events, and a silver in the Deadlift.

She and Norwegian Ingeborg Gjone both lifted a total of 265kg across those three events, which meant their positioning for the overall medals had to be decided based on their body weight.

The Scandanavian competitor was 400 grams lighter than Caroline, which meant she took the silver, while Caroline went home with the overall bronze.

It was a tremendous performance from the local competitor, who achieved three new national records and a big personal best of 125kg in the Deadlift.

"It was a big improvement from my last worlds, in 2019, where I received just one bronze medal in the Squat," explained Caroline.

Caroline achieved three new national records at the recent event.

"To be honest, I was itching to get back out and compete again. The training leading up to it was very good, things were going my way, and I felt I was progressing nicely with it so I went in with a very positive outlook."

A total of 109 women and 127 men, from 33 countries, took part in the Masters event at the championships, which got underway on September 23 and ran for 12 days in total.

Caroline's progress was followed from afar by her biggest fan, her 12-year-old grandson Deegan Hopkins, who lives in Perth, Australia.

"My daughter sent me a video clip of him watching me, and he sent me a text afterwards saying he was the proudest grandson in the world, and that I had to send him some pictures!

"So that was a real highlight for me. He's my best supporter - he's very tuned-in. He's a very good competitive swimmer, so he understands sport."

After coaching swimming herself for many years, Caroline took up powerlifting in 2016, having been encouraged to do so by Joe Macken, an instructor at Athlone Regional Sports Centre.

She hasn't looked back since and, in addition to training in Athlone a couple of times a week, she trains on the weekends under coach Deividas Barisas at the ABS powerlifting gym in Finglas.

Last July, Caroline appeared as a guest on Virgin Media's Ireland AM programme as part of a segment outlining the benefits of resistance training for the older adult. She said weightlifting was steadily growing in popularity among women.

"If you went into the gym in Athlone ten years ago, you'd see very few women doing any weights, whereas it's very much changed now. That stigma is beginning to go, which is no harm," she said.

After the success in Sweden, Caroline will soon be back in action domestically, competing in the national championships in Limerick later this month, and already has her sights set on next year's worlds in Canada.