Kimberly Lawrance: Strongwoman champion trying to lift her sport ("1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast)

Kimberly Lawrance: Strongwoman champion trying to lift her sport ("1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast)
Strongwoman champion Kimberly Lawrance of Wilmington is the guest on this week's "1on1 with Jon Evans" podcast.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Kimberly Lawrance lifts hundreds of pounds of weights in Strongwoman competitions. She carries yokes. She raises stones. She pulls trucks. She cleans and presses logs. All done trying to win a title of "Strongest Woman in the 'fill-in-the-blank'". The 27-year-old from Wilmington has captured several trophies and championships in her short career. Now, along with performing all those tasks while chasing titles, Lawrance is also working to lift the sport to new heights and make more people aware of the hard work necessary to achieve success.

"I really hope that with some of the stuff I've been doing recently, I'll be able to get the exposure," Lawrance says. "I really do feel I have a good platform behind me in order to help a lot of people understand Strongwoman and bring more people into that world."

Strongwoman competitions have taken place for years, with female athletes like Lawrance competing in amateur ranks. But in 2016, groups like Strongman Corporation and US Strongman created professional Strongwoman events. Lawrance arrived in the right place at the right time to enter and win several high-profile competitions.

Born in Greenville, NC, Lawrance and her family moved to Texas when she was seven, and then to Atlanta where she would spend most of her childhood years. Lawrence and her mom moved back to Greenville prior to her freshman year in high school, and she recalls competing in several sports including soccer, swimming and basketball at J.H. Rose High School. She came to Wilmington to play soccer at Cape Fear Community College, and later earned a scholarship to play at Francis Marion University. At the same time, Lawrance was taking an interest in nursing as a potential career path. She learned the two priorities didn't match and talks about it around 3:00 of the podcast.

"Once you declare your major, it's very hard for that schedule to be flexible with an athletic schedule," she says. "When I was in nursing school at Francis Marion, 6:00am is when that started, but I also had two-a-days, and 6:00am is when soccer starts. It was constantly combating schedules, and it just wasn't the best fit."

Lawrance left the dream of nursing school behind and moved to Wilmington to live with her father. She had some personal struggles that she says led to a period where she became a shut-in, not leaving the house for months. Lawrance talks about that battle, and how her father's advice about getting active again led to a change in her life, at 8:00 of the podcast.

"I was just really in a bad place," she says. "So much that I was supposed to accomplish by 21 was not accomplished. You literally have next to no confidence, no pride. My dad actually told me I was going to CrossFit."

After the first week, Lawrance never looked back. She excelled in the atmosphere, leading to job opportunities at gyms in Wilmington. Lawrance tried to qualify for the CrossFit games, and when those plans did not work out her attention turned toward strongwoman events. Despite not training at all in strongman events, noted Strongman promoter and trainer Lynn Morehouse suggested Lawrance go to a competition in Raleigh. She talks about it at 12:00 of the podcast.

"He told me I would be good at it, and at that point what did I have to lose?" she said of Morehouse. "So I went, and I won North Carolina Strongest Woman weighing in at 142 in a 180 (pound) class. Basically, I just walked in like an underdog, and I just wanted to have a good time."

The events at that competition included a log clean and press, a truck pull, a dead lift and stones. That was an amateur event, but winning sent Lawrance on to the next challenge.

"North Carolina Strongest Woman qualified me for nationals," she said. "I already had people telling me I wasn't going to make it. So, I just kind of went in there, kept to myself, had a boyfriend with me, had a hood on, kept my earbuds in and slept in-between each event because I knew calm, cool and collected is a better way to address any situation than getting amped up."

Lawrance walked away as the 2015 National Champion in the under-160 pound class. That victory qualified her to the highest-profile event of the Strongman Corporation, the Arnold Sports Festival in March 2016. The event, which is billed as being "co-promoted by legendary bodybuilder and film star Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger", grew out of what used to be the Arnold Classic, a one-day professional men's bodybuilding competition that started in the 1980s.

Lawrance ended up winning the two-day Arnold Amateur Strongwoman World Championship in the women's middleweight division, defeating 12 others from an international field. That victory earned Lawrance her professional status.

In 2017, Lawrance won Strongest Woman in the World and America's Strongest Woman titles in the Pro Strongwoman's middleweight division. A controversy ensued over a scoring error during that competition, which Lawrance talks about around 25:00 of the podcast. 

Lawrance has had to battle through some difficult injuries. A torn labrum in her shoulder sidelined her for part of 2016. She is still not 100 percent after suffering a torn ACL in her knee near the end of 2017. One of the goals Lawrance set for her recent trip to Norway to defend her Strongest Woman in the World title was to come out of the competition without causing more damage to her knee. She came up short in the middleweight division, but remains healthy as she looks to compete in more events with an eye on raising the profile of the relatively new professional sport.

"I was always told if you build up what's around you that you're going to feel better about yourself as well," she says about working to promote Pro Strongwoman. "Because it's not just about you. You're building a community, making doors and other opportunities open for those who may not have had that door open. It would be a really nice goal if I could have my story out there, and have a girl who was in my boat in high school make different decisions and go straight to Strongwoman."

You can hear the entire conversation with Strongwoman champion Kimberly Lawrance by clicking on one of the links listed below.

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