Sport | Weightlifting

A promise to her dying father inspired world bench press record

Twenty-seven-year-old Ashleigh Hoeta of Te Atiawa completed the record (317.5kg) just three years after suffering from a stroke.

Left: World record attempt. Right: Ashley (Father) and Ashleigh (Her).

The world record for the heaviest equipped bench press for women has been broken by a woman from Taranaki.

Twenty-seven-year-old Ashleigh Hoeta (Te Atiawa) completed the record just three years after suffering a stroke.

A week before the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 she was forced to learn how to use her fingers and legs again after the stroke.

“I spent every single day walking around the house, doing basic things, trying to do a press-up, trying to do a sit-up, and I actually came out of the lockdown five weeks later stronger on the side I had the stroke on than my normal side.

It was a very empowering moment for me. It gave me the mindset that I literally can do anything that I put my mind to,” she says.

Stronger than ever, 13 months later Hoeta was crowned the top female powerlifter in New Zealand.

Lifting the equivalent of 150 bricks

In 2021, she won the women’s New Zealand arm wrestling competition.

And, on the weekend, the now Kirikiriroa resident became the first woman in the world to bench press 300 kg.

She lifted 317.5kg - the equivalent of 150 bricks.

The stroke wasn’t the only hindrance on her journey when she lost her father (Ashley Hoeta) to emphysema in October.

However, the mother of two says felt the weight of his support through her memories of him on her record-breaking day.

“He was the whole reason behind it.

“I just know that if he wasn’t sick, and in that position, he would have been right there next to me doing it.

“That was helping me cope during all of it as well as knowing that he could see it in this lifetime,” Hoeta says.

In the past 12 months, Hoeta spent time away from competitions and training to care for her terminally ill father.

Setting a record didn’t look like part of her future as she looked to retire from all sports.

But she made three promises to her father before his death.

They were to keep training for two weightlifting competitions in September regardless of his state, to win the New Zealand Arm Wrestling Nationals, which she did a month after his death and to attempt the world record for lifting the most weight in a female bench press.

On a roll after completing her promises to her father, she invited her family to support her on the special lifting day

“I had my family there though. I was really calm right up until after it happened, and then I let out a month’s worth of emotion. It was beautiful because my family was coming up to me.”

Her promises inspired her to continue her chosen career as she has gained a lot of attention since her win on Saturday.

The weightlifter also paid tribute to her coach and director of Kiwi Strength, Hamilton, Daniel Rudolph.

She believes she owes him a lot calling him a pillar of strength for her over the past four years as her trainer.

“He’s always just been there to remind me to keep going.

He’s very much like ‘Just get on with it and do it, I know you can do it’. He believes in someone initially before they believe in themselves and once it happens we’re like ‘Oh he was right,’” hse says.

Hoeta will continue to defy the odds in many pressing competitions as she will now take up international offers for arm wrestling, powerlifting and bench pressing.