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  • Writer's pictureJordan Green

How World Record Holder Tamara Walcott Found Strength Through Powerlifting

Updated: 4 days ago

Jordan Green | WeINSPIRE Journalist

  • Tamara Walcott started powerlifting five years ago as a way to save herself from obesity.

  • Tamara Walcott is the world record holder for the heaviest cumulative lift in a competition and the heaviest deadlift in her weight class.

  • She is now an ambassador for Project Rock, started by Dwayne Johnson, and a campaigner for Ulta Beauty.

10-minute Read

MEMPHIS, Tenn — For Guinness World Record Powerlifter Tamara Walcott, lifting heavy weights isn’t a chore to clean out a closet – it’s what saved her life. Walcott was not always a world-champion powerlifter. Born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Walcott was active throughout her childhood and adolescence.

Her life hit a turning point when she decided to start living for her two kids rather than herself. At the time that she made this decision, she had reached around 450 pounds. She then started going to the gym in 2016, and in that first year alone, she lost 100 pounds.

Walcott admits, “I felt like I was slowly dying, and I needed to do something, and the easiest thing was to go to a gym because most of them are open 24 hours, and that's kind of what I did. So I walked into a gym, I saw people lifting, and boom, I fell in love.”

Courtesy of Tamara Walcott.

When she first started going to the gym, there were mixed reactions. While people in her gym were supportive and saw her as inspiring, people online were critical of her. She then started powerlifting in 2018 and set a new precedence for herself.

However, as time passed and she continued to persevere, Walcott became a staple in her gym. There were often times when people would look to her as a source of inspiration in the gym, and she was happy to be a person they could admire.

“A lot of people definitely look up to me, and I don't think it's just from that external physical side, but it's also from that mental fortitude to continue forward,” Walcott says.

One of the biggest struggles she had when first starting was her food habit. Walcott says there were times when all she could do was eat as a comfort for how her life was going. It was and still is one of her hardest challenges.

“I'm a food addict, and to this day, I'm still a food addict,” Walcott admits. “All I did was replace one addiction with the other. So I think one of the biggest things that I had to overcome, and I'm still overcoming is that food addiction.”

Now, five years after she first started powerlifting, Tamara Walcott is the world record holder for the heaviest cumulative total in powerlifting. In 2021, Walcott broke the cumulative total record. This past July, Walcott broke her own record for the cumulative total at 1,620.4 pounds (737.5 kilograms) which is 3.3 pounds (1.5 kilograms) heavier than what she did in 2021. In the same tournament, she also broke the world record for a single deadlift at 639.4 pounds (290 kilograms).

“I never pictured myself being the number one of something in the entire world, and I've done that three times now,” Walcott says. “So I've never pictured myself being the number one of something in the entire world. What I did envision is that I would never stop because I drank the Kool-Aid, the bug bit me, and I absolutely knew that I was gonna be lifting for the rest of my life. I just happened to take a record that was sitting there for almost 14 years.”

Even though she is a three-time record breaker, Walcott has no intention of slowing down any time soon. She wants to continue to inspire other people higher and higher.

Walcott says, “Records are meant to be broken, and I think it's important for someone to be a beacon in order to help others push towards their goals and dreams and aspirations. So I look at it as an honor, to be others’ goal to beat.” Looking at the biggest factors in her continuous growth, there are three main ones. The first two are her children. They were the reason she wanted to lose weight in the first place – she wanted to be there for her kids. The third factor is herself. Every day Walcott strives to be the best version of herself and powerlifting has now become a part of that.

“At the end of the day, my original goal was to make sure that I'm here and living for my kids,” Walcott says. “You gotta take care of yourself if you want to take care of others, and, and taking care of others is a big part of my life. I now give myself a hundred percent every single day.”

One of Walcott’s more recent claims to fame was being featured in an Ulta Beauty ad that came out in August 2022. She was flown out to California five weeks before her 2022 double-record-breaking competition. While she was there, Walcott says it was one of the most amazing experiences she’d ever had.

“One of the biggest things that I think it derived from is that I have a tour called ‘My Strength is My Sexy’ because I am a plus-size woman living in a world that doesn't necessarily embrace a plus-size body,” Walcott says.“So I started a tour that spoke to body positivity that spoke to your strength is your sexy. Being strong is okay. Being bigger is okay. Being bold is okay.”

While she was on set the first day, Walcott remembers lifting real weights rather than fake ones because she was in the middle of training. On that particular day, she had to reach 585 pounds on a deadlift, so she did just that while the cameras were rolling. The second day was much calmer, but Walcott recounts the feeling of pure joy being a part of something that celebrates so many different kinds of people.

“I was born and raised in the US Virgin Islands,” Walcott says. “I didn't see a lot of people that looked like me on TV. Especially wearing my natural hair, being a dark-skinned woman, a bigger plus-size woman, I did not see a lot of representation of me on television growing up, and I literally was thinking about my own daughter and her dreams and her aspirations.”

Walcott has also been an ambassador for Project Rock which is an athletic clothing brand started by Dwayne Johnson. She has been an ambassador since September 2022 and is proud to be a part of something that lets people see athletes that look like her working with big names like Dwayne Johnson.

Along with powerlifting, Walcott also tries to find ways to give back to her community and give thanks to those who helped encourage her. In early April 2023, held a charity fundraiser called “The Road to Victory” in honor of her late coach’s legacy, Dan Fox. The fundraiser donations are all going to help fund powerlifting throughout the year. Walcott hopes to make it an annual event.

Courtesy of Tamara Walcott.

Through all of these social campaigns, Walcott is hoping to show people that being healthy does not always equal being skinny. There are many different kinds of healthy bodies and just because a person is plus-sized does not mean they are not staying fit and healthy.

“Every single day I advocate for plus-size athletes,” Walcott says. “I think how I advocate is just showing up as myself, showing up on my good days, showing up on my bad days, showing up when I have difficult times, and showing them every day is not gonna be perfect.”

A recurring theme with Walcott is that every person is meant to be here. If a person doesn’t like the way they look or the way they are, there is no point in worrying about things that can’t be controlled. Weight is something that a lot of people can’t control the way they wish they could, whether that is too much or too little weight. Sometimes, just trying your best is enough.

“When I got on the scale two years ago at 275, my 275 now looks so different. My quads are popping in this 275, and it's the 275 I prefer. So at the end of the day, you have to remember why you started. It's important to know that you belong and just be here and be present and own your space,” Walcott says.

Courtesy of Tamara Walcott.

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