Haileigh Lupo: A fresh(wo)man to the title of World Champion


Courtesy of Haileigh Lupo

Haileigh Lupo standing in first place, after just being awarded her medals at the end of the powerlifting championship.

Most people come to college wanting to make a name for themselves in the world, but one student at Southeastern has already had her name etched in the record books at just 18. Haileigh Lupo, a freshman majoring in business management, is a world champion in weightlifting in her weight class of 76 kg. 

Lupo was a dancer throughout her childhood until high school. There, her physical education teacher saw potential in her becoming a weightlifter. Although hesitant at first, she decided to attend the tryouts. She found weightlifting enjoyable but decided it wasn’t the right time for her to pursue it. During her sophomore year, she decided to hit the weights again.

“I’ve just grown a passion and love for it so much. “I’ve put blood, sweat and tears into this sport so many times,” Lupo said. 

Over the next four to five years, Lupo became committed to her training and constantly listened to her coach, John Burford. 

Lupo trains every day. On Mondays, she works on her squats. On Tuesdays, her training is focused on bench presses and leg exercises, and Wednesdays are all about deadlifts. Each time she trains, she uses heavier sets to find her max. 

Intense training caused stress on Lupo’s body. Right before competing, she had to get treatment for tendinitis in both of her triceps and experienced issues in her back, requiring physical therapy. Her injuries almost caused her to not participate in the world championship. 

“It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt, and it was hard training,” Lupo explained. “Every day I benched I felt weak and couldn’t hit the light numbers I was used to.”

However, over the past few years, Lupo has noticed positive changes within herself. She’s become stronger and her mental health has improved. 

Haileigh Lupo standing next to her coach after receiving her medals during the end of the world weightlifting competition. (Courtesy of Haileigh Lupo)

“It’s mentally changed my perspective on the world and other people,” she said. 

During her first competition, Lupo said she didn’t feel any desire to win. She wanted to understand how the system worked before she started her career and adapt to the environment she was placed in. 

The details involved in competing in a weightlifting competition can be tedious. A competitor must listen to a series of commands and, if not followed precisely, could be disqualified. One of the rules includes no movement once the squat, bench or deadlift has begun. 

Lupo has won gold at other competitions as well. Her first time winning first place was during her senior regional meet. She was also awarded best lifter in the heavyweight categories. 

“When you’re going into a meet, you have to be in the mindset of wanting it,” Lupo explained.

She noted she likes to enter a meet feeling angry and competitive. One of the strategies that help her the most is playing loud metal music. When she steps onto the stage, she can only see and hear her coach and the judge.

However, this was an approach Lupo had to learn. Originally, Lupo headed into competitions focused on breaking and setting records. This mindset didn’t help her succeed during training or competition.

“You cannot always plan to go into a meet and break a record. It doesn’t always happen like that,” Lupo added.  

Going into the world’s competition in Turkey, she wanted to break the world’s record for bench. Lupo was aiming to bench 320 pounds or more, but this almost caused her to fail to complete at least one successful try in a competitive lift, which would have resulted in her being disqualified. 

“It changes your mentality; you start to overthink it and you’re thinking about it more than what you need to focus on at that moment,” she said. 

Luckily, that didn’t happen. 

Lupo squatted 370 pounds and benched 250 pounds to win gold in her 76 kg weight class. She placed third in the deadlift, only 11 pounds from first place. In total, Lupo lifted 935 pounds that day alone. 

Although Lupo has accomplished so much already, she doesn’t plan on stopping by beating a world record. 

Along with two of her friends, Lupo has created a new powerlifting club to help coach and train people interested on Southeastern’s campus. 

Lupo has plans on what she’s going to do when she graduates. She dreams of owning a gym and it having a room that is tailored toward people who want focus on weightlifting.

“I really want to own businesses in the future, and start my own gym. I want to make a difference in people’s lives because of how amazingly it has changed my life, and what it’s done for me,” Lupo said.