Meet Karen Ho: Western Sydney University, Elite Athlete in Powerlifting 💪✨
Aug 23, 2019 by CORINNE Blight
Western Sydney University, Elite Athlete: Powerlifting
Karen Ho, an inspiring Western student is making her mark on Powerlifting within Australia. This humble, kind-hearted yet determined Western student is not only committed to be her best, but also to make a positive mark on the world through using her platform in Powerlifting to inspire and empower others.
1.Tell us about yourself, your history in Powerlifting and where you are now with it,
I started Powerlifting about 2 years ago when my friend introduced me to it. Before that, I was just doing my regular cardio and weights training at the gym and not really feeling challenge of it. I soon realised powerlifting was a sport that anyone can do. You don’t have to be any specific size, weight, height; you just have to be able to lift the heaviest weight you can whilst being the lightest body weight.
Growing up, I’ve always played a lot of sport; I had two older brothers who I naturally was competitive with. I currently play basketball and do sprinting, but have also played tennis, swimming, soccer and more. I love the challenge of trying something new, which is why I’ve stuck with powerlifting.
2. What was it that made you want to get into powerlifting? Was there a pivotal moment or event that made you want to start?
There wasn’t really anything that directly made me want to start powerlifting. I really just loved it as soon as I tried it. Once I started, I knew I could prove something to myself that I can be a better person, sibling, daughter and friend because of how much discipline is required to be good at it (like any sport). You have to train, eat and sleep in a very routine way. You also have to make lots of sacrifices with your time. Its really great character building and promotes excellence in all facets of life.
3. What are some of your top highlights from your powerlifting career so far?
There’s not really a single standout moment in my career. For me, it’s more about the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made along the way. I’ve really made some friends for life in powerlifting. It’s also been a real highlight sharing the platform with so many inspirations female power lifters and having my family watch me compete.
4. How do you find juggling university and competing at a high level in powerlifting? What does your weekly schedule look like?
As I said, there are a lot of sacrifices that I have to make to ensure I can juggle everything. I’m currently on full time placement Monday – Friday from 9-5pm (I’m completing my Masters in Social Work). I’m due to finish this year. From there, I go straight to my training gym in Granville where I train for at last 2-3 hours. The whole time leading up to training, I’m force feeding myself all my meals and drinking lots of water to ensure I have adequate energy and stamina for my training. Following training, I spend about 30 minutes having some downtime where I might go to my parish and pray. Social work is very emotionally draining and it takes a big toll on my mental health so this is a very important part of my routine. By the time I’m home, have unpacked and prepared my meals for the day, I will get into bed around 10-11pm.
As you can imagine, my weekends are very busy where I try and block out time to study and play sport such as Basketball. I carry my university texts and laptop in my handbag wherever I go in case I can fit in even 5-10 minutes of study throughout the week.
5. What are the goals you’re currently working towards? Where do you see yourself heading with Powerlifting?
As you can imagine, I have big numbers in my head of lifts I want to hit. As a long-term goal though I want to represent Australia at the Olympics when it becomes and Olympic sport. My main goal is to use the platform I have from powerlifting to bring goodness into the world and spread goodness for people. I want to be able to fundraise for underprivileged children and use sport as a way to help them through hardship.
6. Tell us a bit about your experience representing Western Sydney University and Australia at the World University Games in Estonia in July?
Overall, I did really well at the World University Games and placed 11th out of 25 competitors so made the top half, which was my goal! I was however expecting big things of myself as before, in the lead up during training I was hitting some really big numbers I was really proud of!
I underestimated the toll the trip to Estonia would take on my body though. I flew for 30 + hours to get there and resultantly was very stiff and sore. Another challenge I was faced with was that I was 58.5kg when I was supposed to be competing in the 57kg weight class (so I had 2 days to loose 1.5kg!). I had to eat and drink less so I could make the weight class- thank goodness I did! Another challenge I was faced with was being the only Australian competitor in powerlifting so I was assigned to the Irish team who looked after me.
On the day, I did my best to just enjoy the experience and have fun “I didn’t come all this way for nothing” I told myself. It was such a privilege to share a platform with world champions and represent Australia. My Squats were the best lifts of the day, followed by bench-press and deadlifts.
7. How has the Elite Athlete Program assisted you in your studies & reaching your powerlifting goals?
The Elite Athlete program has helped me in several ways. First, financially, I’m not able to work full time due to my training so the program has financially supported me to go overseas to compete when I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to. In addition, I have been helped in getting extensions on my assignments and assessments, which are important to me in finishing my degree. Finally and most of all, the Elite Athlete Program has empowered me by showing me I have a dream that Western Sydney University supports me as a student, and athlete and a woman!
8. What advice would you give to those who are hoping to get into powerlifting or get to an Elite level in their sport of choice?
I would say in terms of powerlifting, keep giving it a go. Don’t let the first time you try it be the deciding factor if you will stick with it or not. Powerlifting can be a very intimidating sport especially if you’re not used to lifting heavy weights. Get yourself a good coach, surround yourself with people who have a similar goal to you and you will go far. Also, strive to have balance in your life. There was a time earlier in my career when I didn’t let anything but powerlifting consume me and it took a toll on me. Still make time to see your family and friends and do things you love, as this will help you go further.