Vassar Quarterly - Spring 2018 - 37
uring the day, lawyer Alma
Kimura '76 works on behalf of
her clients, drafting wills and
seeing to other legal needs.
At night, she heads down to a subterranean
gym sans amenities-nothing but rusty pipes,
peeling plaster, and heavy weights. It's where
she trained to become a world-recordbreaking powerlifter.
Kimura's journey to become a world
champion started with the advice of a
75-year-old friend from her tennis league.
BeBe Burns, a record-holding powerlifter
herself, told Kimura that she had the ideal
body type for the sport-she's just a hair
under 4 feet, 10 inches and has actively
participated in sports since her days on the
Vassar tennis team.
So in the summer of 2013, Kimura, then
58, and her son and former lifting partner
Ben Kimura, headed to Seattle Strength and
Power. Though she was athletic-she'd also
been in a soccer league and had spent the
previous year doing Zumba-Kimura faced
some difficulties starting the new sport. For
instance, to perform a squat, she needed to
start with her knees bent and her hips below
"I couldn't get down when I first started
doing it," she says. "I was so inflexible."
With assistance from a large rubber ball
to help her keep her balance, Kimura worked
on improving her flexibility. Next came
squatting with dumbbells and then later a
broomstick across the back of her shoulders
so she could practice the correct form.
"It took me about a month before I had
some weight on the bar and could do a squat,"
It didn't take long for her persistence to
pay off. Seven months after her first successful squat, Kimura set her first American
record in the discipline. Now she has a world
record in the squat and the deadlift in her age
and weight category.
Succeeding in powerlifting, as in any
other sport, takes a lot of work and dedication,
Kimura says. She typically goes to the
gym three times a week for three to four
hours each visit and is trained by the gym's
owner. She attends the USA Powerlifting
(USAPL) championships and International
Powerlifting Federation (IPF) competitions
Her world records are in the "raw"
category, meaning she wears only a weight
belt when lifting, not additional gear like
compression suits, which are said to improve
performance. Her world record in the squat
is 253 pounds, and in the deadlift-where
you lift a weighted barbell off the ground
to the level of your hips before dropping it
on the ground-is 315 pounds. Her USAPL
records are 254 and 327, respectively
(American and world events keep separate
Kimura set her most recent records
in October at the USAPL competition in
Orlando, FL, where she deadlifted 327
pounds and had a total lift of 696 pounds
(that's the combined weight of the squat,
deadlift, and bench press). She received the
gold medal, which means she'll move on to
the IPF championship in Calgary in June.
While some may think it's an odd sport
to begin in your late 50s, Kimura says it was
actually the perfect time. Weightlifting is a
good way to ward off osteoporosis and build
strength, and powerlifting gave her a real
feeling of accomplishment, she says.
News about her after-work activities has
spread to her clientele. When her services
are recommended by a colleague, potential
clients often google Kimura's name, anticipating information about her legal acumen.
"For the most part, my clients think it's
pretty cool, especially divorce clients. They're
like, 'She's pretty tough. You don't want to
mess with her,'" Kimura says.
VA S S A r Q U A r T E r LY