MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- Knees tightly bandaged and a thick weightlifting belt bracing her waist, she lowers herself into a tense squat. The weight on her shoulder equals almost three times her own body weight, but she is not giving up. Holding her breath and tightening every muscle, she struggles against gravity to put the weight back on the rack. At age 50, the spouse of one Air National Guard member here, still puts men half her age to shame in the weight room. Vikki Traugot is a veteran powerlifter. In her personal best powerlift competition, she benched 325 pounds, deadlifted 408 pounds. and squatted 480 pounds.
"My wife is currently the number three rated woman powerlifter for her weight class in the nation," said Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Traugot, the director of education here at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center.
Vikki lifts in the Southern Powerlifting Federation as well as for the U.S. Powerlifting Association. In her most recent professional meet she took first place overall in the women's 148-pound weight class and walked away with $1,500. "I like to be a little different," Vikki said. "I like to see how far I can push my body, and it's empowering to know that I could squat or bench what most guys probably couldn't." The Traugots married 30 years ago after meeting during military training to become Chinese linguists. Vikki was in the Army National Guard, and Andrew was in the Air Force. Vikki crossed from the Army Guard after two years to join the regular Army for four more years before leaving the service. She started powerlifting during her husband's first assignment here as an Air Guard professional military education instructor.
As opposed to Olympic weightlifting, which emphasizes physique and size, Traugot said powerlifting is a sport where one puts overall strength first. Lifters only get three chances during competition to lift their maximum weight. After eight years of lifting, Traugot is encouraged and challenged by a promising field of younger women powerlifters, she said. "It's refreshing to witness new females lift weight they never thought possible and also realize that lifting weights is healthy," the athlete said. Vikkie lifts four times a week at a gym that has special equipment and experienced powerlifters to spot and coach her. For the future, her plan is to beat her personal best at the USPA Olympia Invitational in Las Vegas this fall. She will participate in other competitions until then to gauge her progress. The Traugots said that physical fitness is an important part even of their successful relationship. "It can be shared together, even as a supporting spectator," said Andrew, who, after recovering from an injury, hopes to get back to his sport of choice this summer.
Until then, he said he will continue to support his wife and help her see that she's done the training and is ready to lift the bar. "I'm very proud of her, and I want her to do what makes her happy," Andrew said. "If she wanted to wrestle alligators, and it made her happy, I'd be happy for her."