A powerlifting schoolteacher from Northern Ireland has conquered the world just a year after first picking up a weight.
Lucille Rowan, 50, celebrated after winning three Commonwealth medals in South Africa earlier this year.
She teaches mathematics at St Malachy’s High School in rural Co Down and trains in a diminutive gym with no frills housed in a corner of a small industrial estate.
She said: “I did not actually know I was strong until I came in here and the weights just went up and up.”
She took up the sport aged almost 49 after feeling she was losing a bit of her strength and wanting to get toned up.
She had practised yoga so knew she had good flexibility.
“But I did not actually know I was strong until I came in here and the weights just went up and up until (coach) Conor decided seven weeks after I lifted my first weight in here in the powerlifting I was in a competition – after seven sessions.”
In her first competition she broke her personal bests and the following February set Northern Ireland records.
By September this year she was on the plane to South Africa, fuelled by adrenaline and pre-competition nerves.
Athletes from 11 countries took part in the week-long event, of all weights and sizes.
“There were a lot of impressive lifters, very inspirational lifters.”
She competed in the under 72kg class, winning two silver medals and a bronze and finishing third overall.
She felt “ecstatic” when she received her medals.
“It has been one of the highlights of my life, in sporting terms the highlight, because I never would have been considered to be a sportsperson before and found it very strange people using the word athlete, I am still in the process of adjusting to that word.
“It has sunk in but still I know I am on a journey, I am just a beginning athlete I would say.”
She said a lot of the girls she taught were very curious about her sport.
“A few said that they did not know girls went to the gym, they thought that girls did not do weights.
“The boys certainly see me totally differently now.
“There is a bit of cool maths teacher, they have a bit more respect for the weights than sometimes they do for academics.”