This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity

Jac: Tash, nine weeks today I understand you’re off to the World Champs. Can you tell us what that’s about?

Tasha: That’s the World Powerlifting Champs and this will be my first world champs for powerlifting. Super excited about it. Currently ranked fifth so I’m hoping to bring home some silverware.

Jac: Fantastic. And you’ve brought home silverware before?

Tasha: From the Oceania champs at the end of last year. Yeh I bought home the Gold in all three lifts and the Total.

Jac: What did the lifts involve?

Tasha: So powerlifting is squat, benchpress and deadlift.

Jac: What weights were you lifting?

Tasha: For the squat I did 170 kilos, benchpress is 97.5 kilos and deadlift is 195 kilos.

Jac: Had you lifted those before?

Tasha: Not in squat and press, I had actually done a 200 in deadliest in training not in competition.

Jac: Far out, that’s like over a couple of people really isn’t it?

Tasha: Yeh 462.5 kilo total but I’m gunning for the 500 kilo total. You know, like nice round numbers.

Jac: So what does your training involve?

Tasha: Currently it’s six days a week. Most sessions are about two hours though the odd session will go for around three, three and a half hours, and yeh basically doing three lifts, squat, bench, dead most sessions.

Jac: You work full-time eh?

Tasha: Yeh, fulltime work plus the girls in my two four-leggeds, the dogs. And yeh that takes up all my time. There’s not alot of downtime for me.

Jac: So I’m in your lounge and I can see on your wall a poster from the Official Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and it’s the opening ceremony, 15 September 2000 and it’s got lots of signatures all over it. Are you somewhere in that picture?

Tasha: I sure am. I was part of the New Zealand Athletics team. That was an absolutely amazing experience back in what I call my heyday. I was a hammer thrower and got to the Olympics, and to the Commonwealth Games as well as the World Champs.

Jac: Were you involved in that kind of sport at school?

Tasha: No, I was a sprinter at school. One hundred metre sprinter plus I played touch rugby, rugby at the local club, in the cycling team, played basketball and did athletics.

Jac: And when did you move into the hammer throw?

Tasha: I was at varsity when I met my sprint coach and he turned me into a hammer thrower. He said you’re never going to be an international sprinter, you’ve got to be a freak to be an international sprinter but he said no, you’d make a good thrower. Pick technique up really quickly and got strong really quickly as well so he bought a book and we bought a hammer and we learned it together and went from there.

Jac: Wow and then you end up in the Olympics.

Tasha: I held the New Zealand record for many years. It was only broken just about two years ago.

Jac: That’s awesome. When did you start doing lifting?

Tasha: I always did weightlifting as part of my training for hammer throw. When I retired from hammer I got back into rugby for three years then through the rugby, I was playing for Canterbury, we got back into the gym and a guy at the gym was a weight lifter I used to train with and I just got into weightlifting. Did a few years weightlifting and got a couple of Oceanias. And then moving to Wellington the gym was more into powerlifting and then, you know, got hooked into powerlifting. I found powerlifting is actually better on my body than weightlifting. Weightlifting is a lot harder on the joints. Now I’m getting a bit older powerlifting is a lot easier.

Jac: How old are you now?

Tasha: I’ll be 42 this year.

Jac: Ancient in sports terms (laughs).

Tasha: (Laughs) Yeh still beating the young girls though.

Jac: I’ll bet. You’re from Christchurch, is that right?

Tasha: Yeh one-eyed Cantabrian. Born in Dunedin, most of life in Christchurch, studied in Palmerston North and now four years in Wellington.

Jac: What do you do for work?

Tasha: I work for the Ministry for Primary Industries. I am actually a qualified vet but because I went from graduating to fulltime athlete when it was finally time to use my degree the best job available was with the government. I really enjoy the work, a lot of variety. I started off as a vet at the freezing works, now I’m in head office and been introduced to the dairy industry and people like Fonterra and those big players.

Jac: What do you do?

Tasha: Work in the food assurance team, mainly deal with non-conforming product and exceptions. Export non-conformances, so when they have issues overseas, and I give various exemptions as well for product to allow them to export it. Yeh get involved with things like this current 1080 deal, WPC and other big issues, it can be quite challenging and full-on.

Jac: So it’s probably quite nice to be able to go down to the gym and do a bit of lifting.

Tasha: Yeh turn off from work.

Jac: So when you’re at the gym is it just yourself or have you got training partners?

Tasha: Well I train at the Powerhouse Gym on Taranaki Street in Wellington. It’s not your normal Joe Bloggs gym, there’s one mirror, there’s no instructors, it’s all lifters, and basically you get a few athletes. And for me it’s my family and it’s just a really great bunch of people and no matter who’s there on the day you’ve got people to train with and people to help so you know you’re training with anyone in particular but it’s just a great group of people. Recently we’ve got quite a few girls lifting and we’ve semi started a strong girls club. So we always try to get together as much as we can, train together on a Saturday and let everyone know what everyone’s doing. We’ve got a girl in Christchurch and up in Palmerston North who are semi part of the club but it’s just a great supportive little network as well.

Jac: Is that to try to support more women into the sport or to try to support the women who are in it?

Tasha: Bit of both. A couple of us just started training together and invited a few others to train together and a few other girls came back to the sport and we've had some other girls at comps that we’ve sort of taken under our wing so it’s a bit of both.

Jac: Under your wing, in a kind of mentoring way?

Tasha: Yeh more mentoring. I’ve got a lot of experience in training, in competition. Not just how to train but also mentally how you tackle things on competition day, and how you warm up. That kind of stuff.

Jac: Right. That’s just in a really supportive role.

Tasha: Yeh it’s great. I mean there are more and more women getting into the sport as well. They’re all really green so you just help to get them back on track. I don’t have time to coach but I’m always happy to help out in another way. Check their technique and help them I like I said, mentally.

Jac: How have you found yourself being regarded in that sport over the years, in powerlifting and so on?

Tasha: I’ve just always been another athlete. I mean that’s the great thing about sport, you know, guys, girls, whether you’re gay, straight, or what, you’re just another athlete and I’ve never been judged. You know I think my success has helped as well. You know you get respected for what you’ve done and what you do.

Jac: How many years do you think you’ve got left in the powerlifting world?

Tasha: Many many years. There’s a lot of masters out there still doing well and when I’m competing in the opens. But after opens I can always get into masters lifting as well. We’ve got a girl in our gym, she’s well in her 50s now and lifting phenomenal weights and still training hard. It’s one of the sports you can keep going for quite some time. My biggest thing is just keeping my body in one piece.

Jac: How do you manage that?

Tasha: I got to a chiropractor and massager once a week and I couldn’t get through without that. I try to stretch where I can. A lot of it is about getting your technique right as well. I’ve done a lot of work on that lately because I’ve had a pretty crap lifting technique in the past. But getting that right and training, training smart. It’s not just about going to the gym and smashing it, it’s about being smart and listening to your body and eating properly.

Jac: And what does that mean?

Tasha: For me, eating a lot of protein. It’s not a sport that burns a lot of fat. I’m in a weight class where I’ve been lucky, I’ve been trying to put on a lot of weight to get up to the top weight class. I lift in the 84s but I still watch my carbohydrate intake, at night I generally don’t eat any carbs so lots of veggies, protein, plenty of protein shakes, very clean supplements, yeh, very careful about what I take. I get drug tested all the time. With weight lifting I was probably tested two or three times a year. Not so much in powerlifting yet but I’m sure it will come.

Jac: That’s pee in the bottle stuff is it?

Tasha: Pee in the bottle with your shirt up and your pants down to your knees so they can see everything so they make sure that you’re not cheating, you’re not using tubes or anything, yeh because of what people have done in the past to cheat. So yeh you can’t be shy when you’re an athlete.

Jac: That’s quite intrusive really.

Tasha: You get used to it. When it happens two, three, four times a year you get to know the drug tester.

Jac: And they get to know you.

Tasha: Pretty much, when I walk up the path and they’re waiting for me it’s like ‘ah, hi, it’s you’ (laughs).

Jac: Alongside the weightlifting do you have other hobbies? I know you don’t have a lot of time but you’ve got your dogs.

Tasha: I used to enjoy surfing but I haven’t been out in the last few years because I’ve just focussed on training. But I love reading, I read a lot of books. I’m churning through book a week at the moment and yeh I don’t have time for anything else.

Jac: What sort of books are you into?

Tasha: I read everything and anything, lately I’ve been into a real fantasy buzz so I’ve been reading a lot of Robin Hobb books and Brandon Sanderson but anything I can get my hands on.

Jac: It must cost quite a bit to do the champs and so on, how do you fund being involved in those competitions?

Tasha: It’s all self funded. For this trip, work has given me some money and I’ll get a bit of money out of the federation but I mean I’m lucky, you know, I mean not having any kids or other people sucking my money yeh and I’ve got a decent job and yeh, it’s all self-funded.

Jac: So you don’t get a sponsorship?

Tasha: It’s pretty hard to get a sponsorship in these sort of sports and especially if you’re not the ideal image, you know, like the pretty bimbos that they like to portray. And it’s hard work too looking for it, I just don’t have time. As I said I’m lucky I’m financially stable enough I can support myself.

Jac: That must be a relief to you rather than trying to chase around the money. I guess a lot of people must just not do it.

Tasha: They struggle and they rely on parents as well. I guess I just live on my visa and constantly pay it off.

Jac: So the look that you have on stage if it’s not the bimbo look, what’s your look?

Tasha: Well it’s not really a look I’ve created. I mean I’m just me. What you see is what you get and if you met me in person I’m really shy and quiet but if you see me in the competition in the arena I’m totally the opposite. I totally psych myself up for comps and make a lot of noise and get into the zone. I don’t care what other people think. I’m there to lift.

Jac: What do you do to get into the zone?

Tasha: I make a lot of noise, I’ll yell, I’ll dark myself up, I’ll get people to slap my legs and just like I said, make a lot of noise. And then if I’m up for a really big lift I’ll get the crowd in behind it as well and try to get them to make noise. They said they love it, and they respond to it, and it’s really good. I get a lot of support. I’ve had people say they love watching me lift because of how much I get into it.

Jac: Why do people slap your legs?

Tasha: I find it hurts but it stimulates your legs but it draws the blood out you know where you want it and it takes your mind off everything else, it totally focusses you.

Jac: Can you give us an example of your noises? I’m not going to slap your legs (laughs).

Tasha: Nah, that’ll start the dogs barking or they’ll run.

Jac: I’m only kidding.

Tasha: You’ll have to watch one of the live feeds from one of the comps, you’ll see it.

Jac: When’s that happening?

Tasha: Most comps they’re live feeds. I’m not sure what sites they are on, there are definitely ones for World Champs. There was one for Oceanias. A whole lot of athletes here set up at the gym to watch the Oceanias.

Jac: Are we talking about May?

Tasha: June, I think I’m lifting on the 14th of June but that’ll be Europe as well so that’ll be the 15th here.

Jac: Where are they?

Tasha: In Finland this year.

Jac: So that’s not cheap.

Tasha: No, not cheap. Plus I want to go two weeks before to acclimatise but I’ve been lucky there’s a girl that came out from Sweden to play rugby and I’ll stay with her in Gottenberg and do a week and a half of training then head over to Finland for the comp and then go travelling for two weeks afterwards.

Jac: Where are you going to go?

Tasha: I’ve got to go to St Petersburg. If you’re that close you’ve got to do it, St Petersburg, Helsinki, I want to go up to Stockholm, flying out of Copenhagen. I’m travelling on my own so just hit the big cities and stay safe.

Jac: Stay safe? What’s that mean?

Tasha: Well yeh I love travelling but travelling on your own you’ve just got to be that little bit more careful.

Jac: You must have done a lot of travelling with the competitions?

Tasha: Yeh I’ve been very lucky I’ve done a lot. In athletics days I was back and forth to Australia about four or five times a year, plus I played Sevens in Hong Kong, I did bobsled for one season as well so that took me to the States, Canada, Germany, Italy. Through athletics, I’ve been to Manchester. KL, Hungary, Croatia, States again as part of a build up. Did some travelling with my father, went down to South America, and then for my 40th I went with my parents, down to the States once again and went down to Cuba and Mexico. So like I said I love travelling. Sports just open the door for that.

Jac: Are you pretty close to your parents?

Tasha: Yeh my family’s been really good, really supportive. I’ve got another two sisters and a brother who lives in the States. I wouldn’t say hugely close but when we get together we’re a great family, we have a lot of fun.

Jac: How supportive are they of you getting into the sports? From the hammer throwing through to the weightlifting?

Tasha: They’ve always been supportive. They came to KL and watched that. Dad came over to Sydney for the Olympics. Mum would come down to the odd weightlifting comp. They’d totally not a sporty person but they’d come and watch the odd rugby game. The first rugby game she came and watched I was still at high school and she always said ‘you be careful, you’ll hurt yourself for your athletics’ and someone head high tackled me and completely rooted my shoulder and of course it was the one game my parents were watching but no, they’ve been really supportive of my sport. Though my mother was pretty super happy when I finally started using my vet degree.

Jac: Get you off the field.

Tasha: Yeh they did support me through varsity and the only one in the family who studied and then I graduated as a vet and then I became an athlete and she was pretty rapt when I got a decent job and started using my degree.

Jac: So you were involved in the Butch on Butch exhibition and the portrait was of you at the gym lifting weights. Have you had feedback from friends about you being in that exhibition?

Tasha: No I haven’t actually (laughs).

Jac: None at all? That’s fantastic, that’s like no surprises.

Tasha: My friends are all supportive and they know what I do anyway and they know that half the time I’ll say no to things because of my training but I’ve got a great bunch of friends.

Jac: How do your friends support you with what you’re doing now?

Tasha: I had a couple of friends come up and help me load some wood up the steps today. If I ever need anything they are always there, invite me around for dinner there’s never any pressure to go to anything.

Jac: There must be a no drinking rule in your life.

Tasha: Just sort of self-inflicted. Gone are the years of those big drinking days. I’ve just sort of grown out of drinking anyway. It just doesn’t bother me and I’d rather feel good in the morning. They are used to me going out being the sober one drinking water.

Jac: People slapping your legs.

Tasha: Save that for comps eh?

Jac: Thanks very much Tash. Is there anything you want to add?

Tasha: I don’t know if you want to go into that whole butch thing. I definitely fall into society’s definition of being butch. But me, I’m just myself, I’ve never defined myself as being anything, it’s just me in my own unique special way.

Citation information

Record date:22nd March 2015
Interviewer:Jac Lynch
Transcription:Jac Lynch