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Jennifer Maile Powerlifting

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A few words with
the Alaskan Iron Maiden Jennifer Maile

by Tony Bassett

jennifer maile powerlifting

ANCHORAGE, Alaska ­ Mighty Mouse could take a few lessons from Jennifer Maile.

Standing an inch under five feet tall and weighing just 105 pounds, the high school junior from Anchorage, Alaska, recently earned "best lifter" honors at the USA Powerlifting Women's National Championships in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Jennifer, who turns 17 on May 14, set U.S. open records in the bench press (203.75 pounds), squat (336 pounds) and total weight (865 pounds) categories in her weight class. In the past three years, she has lifted in three women's nationals, a high school nationals and three junior World Championships (where she placed fourth, third, and ­ most recently ­ first). As a member of the Alaska Iron Maidens powerlifting team, Jennifer has competed all over the United States and in Russia and Japan, capturing several titles and personal bests along the way. She will be heading back to Japan later this year, and also will visit the Czech Republic, where she hopes to place in the top three in a field of women lifters from all over the globe.

All this from a relatively shy young lady who doesn't look or act like a world-class weight lifter -- until she's gripping the iron bar competition.

"I enjoy doing this because I really have a lot of fun," Jennifer said. "When I was younger, I wanted to go into gymnastics, but I'm just a lot better at powerlifting. I've been going to meets since I was a little baby, so I guess it's just natural for me to be doing this."

Natural, indeed.

Jennifer's father, Dr. Larry Maile, has been a competitive powerlifter for 25 years and holds several individual national titles. Dr. Maile, a forensic psychologist for the State of Alaska, still competes in masters events and coaches the Iron Maidens and the U.S. national team. His coaching honors are many, including the 2000 IPF Women's World Championship Head Coach; 1999 IPF Jr. World Championship Head Coach; 1999 IPF Women's World Championship Head Coach; 1999 IPF World Bench Press Championship Head Coach; 1998 IPF Jr. World Championship Head Coach; 1998 IPF Women's World Championship Head Coach, and Coach of the 1999 National Champion Alaska Iron Maidens.

Jennifer's mother, Janna, is a former professional basketball player who met her husband when she went to the gym to start powerlifting training. Jennifer's brother, Justin, 18, is a U.S. record holder in basic training with the Marine Corps and also has won three teenage and one high school nationals. A younger sister, Kalyssa, 8, accompanies the family to the gym but is too young to begin powerlifting.

"Going to the gym to lift weights has always been a family occasion for us," Dr. Maile said. "We joke that we have no real athletic skills, we just lift heavy things." Jennifer said a typical day during competition starts with a fast prior to weigh-in. After making weight, she loads up on sodium by eating chicken soup out of the can and spoonfuls of caviar ­ a tip learned from a Russian coach. When a meet begins, Jenniferšs diet consists mainly of water, bagels, bananas and orange juice throughout the day.

In terms of the actual weight lifting, Jennifer said it's important to stay focused on her individual tasks while not being distracted by the competition.

"It's a great time when I'm in competition," Jennifer said. "I just feel great when the meet is over, except for some sore knees. This is something I'll be doing for along time because I'm good at it, and I really wasn't good at other sports."

Jennifer said she is looking at attending the University of Washington after high school, possibly to study journalism.

Dr. Maile said his daughter was a great lifter the moment she was allowed by IPF rules to compete ­ the day of her 14th birthday (and her first victory, no doubt).

"You never see her nervous before a meet. She's very low key in terms of her attitude," Dr. Maile said about his daughter and star lifter. "And she's pretty much flawless, technically. The stupid things you see other lifters do, Jenn doesn't do. With some of the older lifters it's very difficult to change the flaws, but she has never had these. Jenn has had a great deal of ability from the very beginning."

"She's shy with strangers on the phone and in person, but she competes very aggressively," Dr. Maile added. "From the beginning Jenn has always set her sights at winning at the next level. Her philosophy, like ours, is that she would rather go against hard competition and lose than win and go nowhere."

In addition to Jennifer being the top-ranked woman powerlifter in the United States as a result of her efforts In Fort Wayne, the Iron Maidens took their third consecutive national title. Gretchen Nosbisch and Nicole Sperbeck established U.S. age-group records, and Nosbisch, Sperbeck, Sally Bowers, Rhiana Willis and Kathy Dingle-Craig all posted firsts over all in their divisions. In all, the Iron Maidens lifted 5,470 pounds in their winning effort.

The Iron Maidens, who began competing at the national level in 1996, own more than three dozen national age-group and open records. Dr. Maile shares the coaching duties with Lawrence Everett, Ron Burnett and Janna Maile (a former Iron Maiden).

Dr. Maile said his primary goal is to prepare the women lifters for premiere competition on the national and international level. The team competes without any major sponsors to offset the costs of traveling abroad to compete; hence, members of Iron Maidens do not pay for their training and coaching but must fund their own travel expenses.

In addition to coaching the Iron Maidens on proper technique, Dr. Maile and the other coaches are strong proponents of drug-free powerlifting and getting the sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee. The International Powerlifting Federation applied to the IOC for formal recognition of the sport more than two years ago, but the IOC has taken no action.

Dr. Maile said that might change when Jennifer and some of the other Iron Maidens travel to Akita City, Japan, to compete in the World Games this year, as the IOC is a new sponsor of the World Games.

"Weightlifting has always been jealous of us," Dr. Maile said. "But we really are the sleeping giant of the sport. We really labored along for many years, publicity-wise. Worldwide, there are probably 1,000 Olympic weightlifters compared to 20,000 to 30,000 powerlifters. I think it's come to a point where we've become very popular all over the world and should be recognized. It's really only a matter of time."

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DISCLAIMER: This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.

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