Age and weight ain’t nothing but numbers.

If you were to pass by Chiyomi Sawa on the street, you might just assume she’s like any other 72-year-old grandmother. However, her short and rotund frame that could easily be confused for fat actually contains the raw muscle power of a 19-time World Bench Press Champion.

Sawa picked up her 19th Championship in a row last October when she lifted 100 kilograms (220 pounds) to win the 69-76 kilogram (152-168 pound) weight class. She is now preparing to get her 20th consecutive win, proving that it’s never too late to pick up something new, even if it weighs 100 kilos.

▼ The full video of Sawa’s division of her most recent competition, cued to her performance

When Sawa was younger she was fairly active in sports, especially softball in which she developed a strong throwing arm. Even after having two kids she continued to play, but that eventually fell to the wayside when she started work as a pre-school lunch lady at the age of 27.

By the time she was nearing her 50s, the results of an annual check-up informed her that her less active lifestyle had caused her to become overweight. Around that same time the Tae Bo fad of kickboxing-style aerobics, better known as Billy’s Boot Camp in Japan, was in full swing, so she decided to try it out.

▼ There was even a Nintendo Wii version of Billy’s Boot Camp.

She eventually also added weight training into her routine, and one day while lifting some dumbbells a male trainer out of the blue asked her if she wanted to try to bench press. She had always assumed that was only for men and beyond her ability, but decided to give it a try anyway.

Everyone in the gym was blown away when Sawa, then an overweight 49-year-old lunch lady, benched 50 kilograms (110 pounds) on her very first try. It was clear that she had enormous potential in weightlifting, and only a few years later began competing on the world stage.

▼ A profile of Sawa by News Tokyo Flag

Nineteen Championships and several broken world records later, she is still going strong at the age of 72. After retiring from working as a lunch lady, she found herself with more time to focus on the sport, making her an even fiercer competitor despite her age.

Online comments showed nothing but respect for her accomplishments.

“She’s 72 and benches 100 kilograms!? She would kick my ass if we fought.”
“100 kilos… 19 straight wins… 72 years old! Amazing.”
“The exercise is doing wonders for her too. She doesn’t look 72 at all.”
“I saw her on TV a while ago, but she never fails to impress me.”
“She totally still looks in her 50s.”
“I don’t think I could have done 100 kilograms at my peak.”
“100 kilograms? That’s the same weight that Goku was wearing when he fought Tien.”

Sawa told media that she is considering hanging up her barbells after a 20th win, but won’t decide for certain until she gets there. However, she had also gone on record back in her 50s as saying she would only lift until age 60, so we certainly can’t rule out a lot more competitions in the years to come.

Source: Joesei Jishin, YouTube/Tokyo MX, My Game News Flash
Top image: Pakutaso
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