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Five-time world powerlifting champ at Glyndŵr University

January 31 2014


Five-time world powerlifting champion Emma James is boxing clever with her latest move.

The Manchester strongwoman, a trainer and assessor in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), hypnosis and timeline therapy is now studying a BSc (Hons) in Psychology at Glyndŵr University.

In past years Emma – also a 15-time European and 23-time British powerlifting champion, as well as the current world record holder with a 200kg bench press – has grown to become one of the most respected “mental coaches” in the UK.

The 44 year-old has helped dozens of sportsmen and women across the country, including Premier League footballers and top athletes, appearing on television shows and visiting countries all over the world.

The majority of her clients come from the fight game; she has worked with boxers such as Paul Smith and Brian Rose, and MMA star Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson in past months in a bid to improve their performance.

Fresh from her gold medal victory at the World Powerlifting Championships in Prague, Emma says she is “proud” to be a Glyndŵr student and looks forward to adding another string to her bow with a qualification from the Wrexham university.

“I had been questioning my life and career and where it could go,” said Emma.

“There is not a lot of money in the sport of powerlifting and I can only go on for so long.

I also feel the standards for NLP have been in sharp decline since I qualified in the 1990s. It’s been a hard decision – financially and emotionally - but if I want progression and evolvement this is what I have to do.”

She added: “For so long I had wanted to get a degree because the majority of qualifications I have are vocational; much of what I do is based on that and my experiences.

“I have lectured in the United States on NLP in sport and been a keynote speaker at different conferences in Europe, but I wanted substantial further underpinning of my knowledge and to take what I have been doing to the next level and on into clinical psychology.

“I really believed I wasn’t very bright, and that’s why I went down the vocational qualifications route, where it turned out I wasn’t.

“It transpired I was dyslexic, even after having written a book!”

Emma is now enjoying her studies and says studying at university is “a dream come true”.

“To be honest I should have done this 10-15 years ago, it’s been a real lifesaver for me. I’ve been given academic and practical support and am really enjoying my time here,” she said.

“After this I want to go to London to study for a PhD in Clinical Psychology, that’s my dream and I’m going to work hard to make it happen.”

Having powerlifted since the age of 16, gaining respect and plaudits in a male-dominated industry, Emma says her mental fortitude and strength will help reinforce her studies and secure academic achievement.

But where did it all begin for Emma, who was born and raised in Northern Ireland.

“It was a pure fluke that I even started lifting,” she said.

“I was spotted by a coach at 15 and it went from there. A year later I was competing in tournaments across the UK.

“Women are still in a minority in powerlifting but there are some tremendous female lifters out there. That said, there are also some big egos!”

There are age classes in powerlifting, so Emma could carry on for many more years if she wanted to.

She says technique, strength and determination are all important, but the mental aspect is “more important than anything else”.

“I’m completely terrified of the weight that I’m lifting, there is genuine terror about dropping the bar on myself, so you have to put yourself in the right frame of mind,” said Emma.

“Being out there in my Great Britain kit is a pressure situation but I enjoy it so much, it means the world to me, much more than medals and records – I think that’s what I’d miss most.”

With the sport dominated by Americans and Eastern Europeans, Emma admits it will get harder and harder to bring home gold, but she certainly isn’t ready to retire just yet.

She will compete at the European championships in Azerbaijan this June and continue her role as President of the British Powerlifting Union, as well as her involvement with the World Powerlifting Congress.

“Powerlifting and weight lifting are two very different creatures, with the latter getting far more publicity and exposure on television, but it’s still hugely popular, especially in America.

“I love the sport and will always be involved in it; the same goes for boxing. There are similar pressures, physically and mentally.

“With the training I’ve already got behind me and the support I’m receiving from Glyndŵr University I really feel I can take the next step in my career and do anything I want to do.”

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