Record-setting powerlifter Tammy Lauer, returned to international competition this past spring at the 2019 International Powerlifting Federation’s World Championship.
The 54-year-old Hutchinson woman competed in the first IPF World Championship in 2016 in South Africa, but this year’s trip took her across the world to Tokyo, Japan, from May 16-24.
“It can be a little bit intimidating,” she said. “There’s so much to do and so much to figure out.”
According to Lauer, she was one of more than 1,000 lifters in Tokyo. She competed with the U.S. Masters team in the 50-59 women’s age division at 63 kilograms. Though it wasn’t her first time at the world championship, things had changed since her trip to South Africa.
In 2016, the competition was new and Lauer was one of just two women in her division. She won the gold medal in the raw bench press without needing to reach the marks she achieved at the national competition.
Lauer again won nationals in Aurora, Colorado, in the fall of 2016 to qualify for the 2017 international competition in Poland. Three days before she was leaving to compete, Lauer suffered a detached retina that kept her home.
“Not so much ouch, but more just urgency,” Lauer said. “You got to deal with it right away. They put gas in the eye and you can’t fly. And you also need to look down for about the first week. So one thing or another, I just couldn’t do it.”
Following the recovery from her eye procedure, Lauer returned to competition and was again a top performer at nationals the following year. She declined her invitation to Finland for the world competition, however, electing to stay home for her son’s high school graduation.
She targeted the 2019 world competition for her return to the international stage and won both the raw and equipped bench press at nationals to punch her ticket to Tokyo.
In the days leading up to the world championship, Lauer set new American records at the Minnesota State Championship in Rockford. She benched 88 kilograms, or about 194 pounds, in the raw bench press to set four new records with one lift. The performance had her feeling confident going into the world championships, until she suffered another setback about a month before her trip.
“I was doing my one repetition maximum and that, combined with maybe something else, caused me to injure my shoulder,” Lauer said. “Then I had to take a step back and walk that fine line where you continue to train, but you don’t train so hard that you worsen the injury.”
The injury and tough competition had her altering her expectations for Japan.
“If you talked to me about a year ago, I’d have thought I would be setting a world record,” she said. “But Russia came in October of last year. They had been banned, and they’re no longer banned from competing in the International Powerlifting Federation. Right off the bat, the gal set a world record in my age and weight class. So last October I knew it was nearly impossible (to set a world record).”
When the nominations sheet came out, Lauer knew gold was “out of reach” but hoped to earn at least a silver medal in the raw bench press. She “underperformed” and benched 82.5 kg, or about 181 pounds, to earn bronze.
A few days later, Lauer competed in the equipped bench press. She again benched 82.5 kg, which earned her a silver medal.
Taking in Tokyo
While Lauer was focused on her competition, the trip also allowed for time to explore the city.
“In Africa, we were kind of out in the boonies,” she said. “In Tokyo, while we were still probably a half-hour from downtown, there was lots going on. (It was) more of a metropolis.
“We were by a newer airport in Tokyo called Narita, and from there we did some day trips that took us maybe only 20 minutes from the hotel,” she said. “We tried to see some historical villages and walk down some local streets and eat local food. Food was kind of a big part of the trip. I wanted to go outside the comfort zone.”
She didn’t know the names of many of the foods she ate, but she enjoyed many of them. One food she avoided was eel after witnessing a cook prepare one live for consumption.
Europe in her future?
With her second world competition under her belt, Lauer learned new things during this trip.
“With international competitions, you’ve got, potentially, different altitude,” she said. “There’s jet lag, there’s kind of a lack of control sometimes of what you’re eating. The stores aren’t right there.”
She also had to adapt to a different coaching style than what she is used to. That, along with a competition schedule that ran behind, combined for a difficult experience.
“There were no clocks on the wall, and they were trying to pack a whole lot into one day,” she said. “As a competitor trying to warm up at the right time and stay ready, things kind of went awful. And I learned something from that.”
The 2020 world championships are in the Czech Republic. Lauer is interested but said it’s not an automatic yes. Before she thinks too far ahead, though, she must first earn her invitation.
In benchpress, Lauer is ranked No. 1 in the country in her age and weight class and No. 3 in her age group regardless of weight. She hopes to continue her strong run at the next national event, which is in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“I’m still not where I was in April,” she said, “but I’m preparing to go back and win nationals in late August.”