Gowanus

Iron Maidens all-female weightlifting competition returns to Gowanus

February 14, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rachel Hsiung, a product designer in Brooklyn, practicing for last year’s Iron Maidens weightlifting competition.  Photo courtesy of Rachel Hsiung

Badass female athletics will once again be lifting some astounding weights in Brooklyn’s annual Iron Maidens Raw Open. The event takes place on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Crossfit South Brooklyn, 597 Degraw St.

These spectacular ladies have been practicing their back squats, bench presses and deadlifts all year to get ready for what is shaping up to be another exciting competition.

This year’s Open has attracted 60 ultra-fit competitors ages 21 to 71, who will be cheered on by their friends, family and interested spectators. (It’s free for spectators.) Weightlifters have signed up from Brooklyn, Long Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and California.

Weight classes are broken down into categories: 123 lbs. and under; 132 lbs. and under; 148 lbs. and under; 165 lbs. and under; and over 165 lbs.

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These are women who bench press their own weight and do handstand pushups for fun. One 2016 winner in her weight group, Sherine Marcelle, deadlifted 405 lbs.

Rachel Hsiung, a product designer in Brooklyn who is competing again this year, told the Brooklyn Eagle, “My personal goal is to beat my previous numbers, but I’m also participating to show support for the other competitors, to inspire other women, and to be inspired!”

She added, “There are still so many misconceptions around weightlifting and female strength, and this competition is so beautiful in its diversity — diversity of color, of age, of size.”

“Last year was such a success we were able to send seven women to college via The Iron Maidens Stay Strong Scholarship fund,” Danae McLeod,” Grace Outreach associate executive director and Iron Maidens competitor said in a release.


Money raised via Iron Maidens pays for 80 percent of college tuition for undocumented women as well as women who have been victims of predatory for-profit colleges. Last year, Iron Maidens participants raised $30,000, surpassing the $20,000 goal. This year, the goal is to raise $50,000.

“Iron Maidens is at its heart a celebration of women who prioritize strength training,” Margie Lempert, the meet director at CrossFit South Brooklyn, told the Eagle before last year’s competition.

“There are just a handful of all women powerlifting meets in the country, most focusing on seasoned lifters,” Lempert said. “What sets Iron Maidens apart is our focus on building community, and educating participants about the process of preparing for and participating in a powerlifting competition.”

This year’s sponsors include Café Grumpy, lululemon, Sara June Salon; Twig Terrariums; Threes Brewing/Meat Hook/Ninth Street Espresso; Left Bank Restaurant and others.

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