The Power Angels set up three years ago to encourage Nelson women to take up power lifting - now the Angels are taking on some of the world's best.
Aimee Hayes and Celia McMillan will compete in Auckland this week at the Commonwealth and Oceania Power Lifting Championships.
Over the three years since their foundation, the Angels, along with the third member Chris Webber, have built up a strong resume with competition gold, national titles and national records.
Now they are looking beyond New Zealand, representing their country over four days of competition among more than 500 lifters from around the world.
"We have been at the top of New Zealand for a couple of year so it is definitely a step beyond that," said Hayes.
"We have worked really hard to get here. It's the biggest competition we have been to and our first international event," said McMillan "At the world champs you might not even have those numbers, so 500 is quite big, a very big deal."
To qualify and make the team, lifters needed a big total at the national champs and both Nelson women achieved that, winning their weight classes and gaining the national title while setting new national records.
Hayes competes in the under-63kg weight class with personal bests of a 152.5kg squat, 77.5kg bench and 152.5 dead lift. McMillan is in the under-52kg weight class. Her personal best lifts are 140kg squat 93kg bench and 140kg dead lift.
The athletes have been running a "secret squirrel" training cycle that they believe is the best they have developed in three years. They are excited about the power lifting cycle but wanted to keep the details "under our hats".
Yet the duo does share their secrets with the people they are coaching. Many of their clients at Evolve Gym have gone on to perform in competitions. Two of McMillan's clients, Ruth Donaldson and Ana De Joux, are also headed to the upcoming champs for the first time.
"We formed the Power Angels three years ago to promote power lifting in Nelson among women," said McMillan.
"People can be scared of lifting weights but this is a really good way for people to train specifically, have a good lifestyle and a healthy body," added Hayes. "We do coach and we will run power lifting group sessions next year, because we are about growing and promoting the sport."
The Power Angels will host a competition of their own in March and offer coaching in the leadup.
With success on both the regional and national stage. the Angels have now made it to the next level of competition. The upwards curve seems likely to continue, with the world champs next in their natural progression and it is a challenge the pair always believed they would take on.
"We would like to do worlds in the next couple of years, so this is a step towards that," said Celia. "We have the qualifying total to get to worlds, but it is about where it is and getting there.
"It is about finances, really, getting good sponsorships, because it is expensive getting to international events and we both have children and we both work."
Perseverance, determination and a whole lot of heavy lifting has seen the Power Angels go international. While perhaps understating their chances of being successful, the Nelson lifters are just hoping to go there and perform to the limits of their ability. They would like to achieve some personal bests and see where that places them.
At this level medals are awarded for each of the three lifts along with the combined total champion.
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