Bethel native sets American record in women’s powerlifting squat

Natalie Hanson set a new American record in women’s powerlifting on January 28, 2017 in Milwaukee, WI when she squatted 578.7 pounds at the USA Power Lifting Wisconsin State Open Championship. (Photo: Ryan Carrillo / Lurchman Productions)

Bethel native Natalie Hanson has set a new American record in women’s powerlifting. On Saturday (Jan. 28) in Milwaukee, Hanson squatted 578.7 pounds, more than three times her body weight, and more than 33 pounds over the former record. The 26-year-old set the new all-time-high at the USA Powerlifting Wisconsin State Open Championship.

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Natalie Hanson knew she had three chances to break the American Women’s Open Division record in her weight class. Hanson stands five-foot-three and weighs 185 pounds. On her first lift, Hanson started light. That is, if you consider a quarter of a ton to be light.

“So my opening squat was 240 kilograms, which is 529 pounds. So I was just, like, 15 pounds off the American record on my opening squat,” Hanson said.

On the second squat, she went for it.

“I broke the record on my second attempt squat with 255 kilograms, which is 562 pounds,” Hanson said.

Not content with that, on the third lift Hanson broke the record that she had just set.

“The weight was 262.5 kilograms, which was 578.7 pounds,” Hanson said.

That squat raised the American record by more than 33 pounds, and automatically sends Hanson to the national competition in Orlando, Florida in May. The double-record-breaking lifts were part of her plan to reclaim her former title as the American Women’s Open Division record holder.

“When I first broke the record was 2015,” Hanson said, “and I set it with 535 pounds, or 242.5 kilograms, at USA Powerlifting Nationals.”

Hanson would have broken her own record the following year, but she failed a drug test. This is how she explains it: “I injured my back at that meet, and I took a pain killer at the end of the meet when I was done competing, when I hurt my back, to relieve myself of that pain. And I was drug tested, and I failed the drug test.”

After that experience, Hanson said she was ready to have her record back. And this past weekend, she took it along with two additional personal records: in the deadlift with 474 pounds and in total weight lifted with 1,400 pounds.

“It’s exciting and it’s really rewarding to achieve it, but I was ready for it,” Hanson said, laughing.

In the world of weights, Hanson is a celebrity. That’s why she was invited to compete as a guest lifter by Tonya Lambeth, the Event Director for the USA Powerlifting Wisconsin State Open Championship in Milwaukee.

“For many here in Wisconsin, to see this young lady from Alaska squat, and bench, and deadlift these really superb numbers was quite impressive,” Lambeth said. “And it was inspiring to a lot of the teenagers and young people that we had at the competition. Natalie just has a great personality where she met many of the younger lifters, and they thought it was great that they talked with a powerlifting celebrity.”

Hanson trains about 16 hours a week at Southside Strength and Fitness in Anchorage. During the rest of the week, she works as the Executive Director of Nuvista Light and Electric Cooperative. She calls power lifting “addicting.”

“It’s really fun. It’s really fun to compete in something that I can see my personal progress in a daily or weekly basis. And it’s also really empowering to be extremely strong,” Hanson said.

Lambeth in Wisconsin said that when she started lifting 35 years ago, there was no women’s division. Only herself and a bunch of men. Lambeth hopes to see a 50-50 split one day between men and women. At this competition, women comprised 40 percent of the power lifters.

Hanson plans to be one of those competitors for many years to come, continuing with Nationals in May and then hopefully the World Championships to follow.