Education Academics Claim World Powerlifting Titles

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Category: News

Catherine Walter completing a powerlifting squat

Therese Hopfenbeck and Catherine Walter named 2018 World Powerlifting Champions by the World Drug Free Powerlifting Federation (WDFPF).

Department academics, Therese Hopfenbeck and Catherine Walter, have achieved World Powerlifting Champion titles for their ages and body weights following this year’s WDFPF World Championship Powerlifting event, held on 3 November 2018.

Therese Hopfenbeck is Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Educational Assessment in the department and has been named the World Champion in the Masters 2, under 55.5kg category. Catherine Walter, a former lecturer in Applied Linguistics, is the current World Champion in the Masters 7, under 58.5kg category but also emerged as the strongest woman over the age of 40 and the second strongest woman of any age in the WDFPF’s UK affiliate. 

Both women had no training experience prior to joining the club and attribute their success to their coach, Shehzad Naqvi, who also works in the department as part of the Bodleian Education Library and reception staff. Shez, together with Catherine, founded the women’s weightlifting group, ’ Linacre Ladies that Lift’, which both women are members of. The club has been training Oxford women since October 2012.

Catherine commented: “I began powerlifting at the age of 65, when my son advised me that it would be better and would take up less time than cardio exercise. I have never looked back: I am stronger, more physically confident, and healthier than I have ever been. The mindful practice of this sport in the company of other like-minded women with the guidance of a superb coach is a haven of peace in my busy life. The records and trophies are a bonus that allow me to promote strength training for all – if someone like me can do it, anyone can.”

This year, four women from Linacre Ladies became World Champions at the WDFPF Championships. Their small club based at Linacre College, Oxford competed in the same league as the Army women’s team, the Police Federation, and several highly professional gyms. Shez himself has been training for 20 years, coaching for 8 years and is highly skilled in working with people of all abilities and all goals in their lifting, not just with elite athletes.

Shehzad Naqvi said: “Weightlifting is low impact form of exercise that can help burn fat, strengthen joints and bones, increase strength and musculature, help regulate sleep and stress in a way that cardiovascular/stretching type exercises don’t. It is a much neglected form of exercise. Most people default to cardiovascular or stretching type exercises.”

Catherine joined the department in 2009, as a member of the Applied Linguistics research group and as a Lecturer on the MSc in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition. She founded the fore-runner of the MSc in Applied Linguistics for Language Teaching. Upon her retirement in 2015 she received the Oxford University Student Union Outstanding Tutor in the Social Sciences award. Her research was and continues to be in the area of second language acquisition, mainly in the area of second language reading. Catherine is currently liaising with Oxford University Press on a project on extensive reading in a second language and is also co-supervisor to two DPhil students in the department.  

Therese joined the department as Deputy Director of the Centre for Educational Assessment in January 2012. Therese’s research interests are focused upon large-scale comparative assessments and how international testing has shaped public policy across education systems. She was the Research Manager of PIRLS 2016 – a project assessing and comparing the reading attainment and attitudes of year 5 children – and the Principle Investigator for the ESRC Impact Acceleration Award project PIRLS for Teachers. She is currently leading the ESRC-DfID Research Study AFLA (Assessment For Learning in Africa). For more information see here.

Image © Dave McWilliams

For more information and coverage see:

BBC News interview featuring Catherine Walter: 

BBC Radio 4 Saturday Live programme, featuring Catherine Walter, Stephen Fry, JoJo Wood, Bisi Alimi and Jenni Murray:

A short film ‘Ladies that Lift’ by Guy Loftus: