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Scholarship helps Thornton powerlifter Maddi Harper fulfil her dreams


Thornton powerhouse Maddi Harper is only 15.

But, the 52kg teen can deadlift almost three times her body weight after recently posting 130kg.

And, that’s just a year into the sport… with no signs of slowing down.

Maddi Harper

After contesting the NSW Championships in December 2023, the St Bedes Catholic College Chisholm student qualified for the upcoming national series at Wallsend.

If successful there, Maddi will be eligible for the World Championships in Malta later in 2024.

She’ll compete in three types of lifts – the deadlift (her favourite), squat and bench.

The best results from each discipline are then totalled to determine qualification.

Maddi’s quietly confident of a strong showing, too.

“My coach (Aiden) says that if I nail most of my attempts, I have a good chance,” the Year 10 pupil said.

“I only got into powerlifting because my dad was training and didn’t want to enter a competition by himself.

“To be honest, I didn’t want to compete initially.

“I thought it would be too stressful and ruin my love of training.

“However, I love competing.

“I can’t wait for my next competition.

“It is so much fun; there is so much adrenaline.”

Maddi, who trains four days a week, said powerlifting helped take her mind off the stresses of school… and other things.

“It teaches you a lot about how your body works and the importance of sleep and nutrition,” she explained.

“It’s also helped me realise a possible career.

“I’m really interested in nutrition and looking at how food affects your body and its performance.”

Maddi’s journey has been assisted by Grow A Star, created by Newcastle’s Home in Place.

She found about the innovative, youth mentoring and scholarship program from Tiggy Sadler-Barker, another local powerlifter.

“Tiggy is a great role model for me,” Maddi said.

“She’s always supporting me and gives me some good motivational talks.”

Maddi Harper with her coach Aiden.

Having a community of support is important for the youngster.

“My mum, dad, older sister and younger brother come and watch me compete,” she said.

“My father has had to give up competing because of work commitments.

“However, my younger brother is keen to get into the sport.

“My coach Aiden, at the Hunter Performance Centre, is a great support, too.

“It is good to have everyone cheering you on.”

Maddi’s using her Grow A Star scholarship to help fund the cost of training, as well as the entry fees to the nationals starting 26 April.

Her mum, Eri, admitted the financial assistance came at the right time.

“It allows my husband and I to try and keep supporting Maddi’s dream of competing on the world stage,” she said.

“Despite both of us working, with three kids, we struggle financially.

“Entering these competitions is very expensive.

“So, to have funding to cover that cost is very helpful.

“We must still fund travel to the World Championships if Maddi makes it, so every bit helps.

“Powerlifting is not recognised for Australian Sports Commission grants.

“That means there are few places to get help financially for Maddi’s sport.

“So, Grow A Star’s been a godsend.”

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