Plenty of players will be playing the game as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the upcoming film “Terminator: Genisys,” but none as intently as Kiana Cook. The Washington University student learned about the role after she competed in the Professional Powerlifting Association Nationals, about two years ago. A bar was setting up for her in college, and he told her to leave when he found out that she’d won the national junior division. He told her to shut up and not talk, a man that – had she known that he wasn’t joking – she would’ve taken seriously.
“I didn’t handle it that way,” said Cook, now a senior. “I started screaming and pointing at him that he should actually leave.” She later saw the man at another bar. “At first, I was kind of worried that he might try something, but he seemed very polite,” Cook said. “He did buy me a beer or two.” She still shakes her head about it, having wondered if the man was trying to get revenge on her in a bar.
“People think you have to do it that way, that you have to look just like him,” Cook told the Washington Post’s Cristian Farias last year. “But you get the stereotype that you’re going to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger with a wig. And I don’t want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, man.”
She eventually complained about the experience to the PPA leadership. According to Farias, she learned that the bar was topless, and began to regret that incident because that of stripping was so different than her profession, powerlifting. When he complimented her current physique, she promptly opened up about her work, eventually even mentioning it to the president of the sport.
According to Guardian Magazine, the reality is that the PPA does help along female empowerment, but in addition to working on that issue, they have tried to highlight their clean, but brutal, way of raising weights. I’m not sure women as a whole are fully on board with it yet, but I’d be extremely surprised if we hadn’t seen the launch of women’s weightlifting already.”
Cook tells a true story, but she’s not the only one who has a story about powerlifting – even if they won’t talk about it at this time. Instead, they stay focused on it, still being active competitors. Like Cook, they have had situations with other players in the group, they have had some bad practices to overcome, but they continue on. When I spoke to Ron Tonnachon, one of the men from the gym where Cook was (maybe) berated, and the leader of the group, he was clear about what Powerlifting is all about:
“We’re just doing a hard work, hard rowing for a prize. That’s the big secret,” Tonnachon said. “We have to prove ourselves all the time … If somebody else doesn’t think we’re capable, then we can take it to the next level by lifting.”
It’s hard not to admire their resolve and their bodybuilding dedication in a sport so fresh to the world. However, some hold the belief that it is not quite as glamorous as it might seem from the outside. My questions about the perks of lifting always lead to the question that only a female sports fan could imagine: how does someone do it all? How do they, as men, find time to eat, take care of children and then powerlift for hours? The answers are endless, but especially for someone like Cook, it’s hard to entirely define their work. For now, she’s working on her coaching, and she hopes to soon get on the stage to go for the women’s national titles.
Her talks and debate on The Miss Division Podcast describe how she feels about her work for the game. She says she still hears more critics than fans about her profession, and it’s easy to see why. On that podcast, she likens powerlifting to a game. In fact, the first time she talked about it, I wondered if she thought she could play football.
Take it from Cook, though: “You actually get paid for it,” she says. “I only say that because I feel like you’re actually getting paid for it. If you’re thinking about baseball or football, you’re basically like, ‘That’s not really my sport. I don