Solicitor Kimbah pushes powerlifting to the limit

WORLD RECORDS: Kimbah Pengelly set a new benchmark in powerlifting at the national championships in Brisbane. She is pictured above with coach Ron Birch. Doug Eaton

THE smell of chalk dust and the clanging of weights is music to the senses of powerlifter, snake lover, and upstanding solicitor Kimbah Pengelly.

Ms Pengelly set two new world records at the national powerlifting championships in Brisbane last weekend, dead lifting 120kg and qualifying for the world championships in November.

It was an impressive effort for a woman in her 50s who took up heavy weights again just two years ago - after an eight-year break.

She stopped training with coach Ron Birch in 2005 when five months pregnant with her daughter.

A career change into practising law followed.

"I had to adjust to being a mother for two years, then I was studying for two years, and then did general fitness for two years," she said.

"My life got exceptionally busy.

"Powerlifting is not something you just pick up with no training - I needed to condition myself again after having a break."

Now a Lismore solicitor - also closely involved with several community groups, including being chair of the WIRES wildlife rescue organisation - she's back with a vengeance.

"Kimbah was always a very keen student of the sport," coach Ron Birch said.

"I was happy to spend time with her to get her ready again.

"It's a pretty big effort to come back like that after everything she's done."

Mr Birch himself set four world records in his class and is also off to the world championships alongside three of their fellow teammates.

One secret to their success is Ron's "power gym", in a backyard shed in Wollongbar, where heavy metal is the soundtrack of choice.

"What we do is a bit noisy and messy - there's chalk flying everywhere, and bars clanging about," Mr Birch said. "We can do what we want here.

"For anyone just walking in, it can be a bit intimidating."

Ms Pengelly said Mr Birch motivated her to "lift and improve".

"He is really an inspiration to everyone who trains there - he's a legend," she said.

And there's no plan to retire.

"I've got decades of lifting left in me," she declared.

"I love the fact I can push myself to my limits, it helps me with all other areas of my life.

"If I'm struggling with other areas (of my life), I just have to think about what I'm capable of doing physically," she said.

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