SINGAPORE: It was in secondary school when Farhanna Farid first realised she was a little different.
“I was very goofy,” she told CNA. “I just didn’t feel like I needed to be like the other girls … prim and proper. Activities they liked to do was not something that I very much liked to do.”
And it was suffocating at times, because Farhanna felt she had to do certain things to fit in.
“I felt like I always had this unbridled, unfulfilled potential and I didn’t know what it was,” said the Singaporean, who earlier this month set a new world record in the women’s Under-52kg deadlift.
Her 203kg effort, set at the World Open Classic Powerlifting Championships in Malta, was her sixth deadlift world record in the span of a year.
Staying “within the lines” didn’t bring much joy and Farhanna poured her energy into various hobbies.
“I tried to do everything … I was a jack of all trades, but master of none.”
Until she discovered powerlifting.
It was a “series of unfortunate events” that led her to the sport. An avid runner during her university days, Farhanna started to experience niggling injuries.
“I just kind of kept pushing through and then I suddenly hit a wall … Basically, me running was doing more harm than any good.”
But she still had all that pent-up energy. So she decided to hit the gym with her boyfriend, now husband, James Barcelo.
“He’s a gym rat. All our dates and everything would centre around his gym sessions,” she said. “I wanted to see what it was about.”
She was anything but a natural when starting out. “The first time I stepped into the gym, it was super awkward,” she recalled. “The racks, the bars and the plates were just so intimidating. If not for my partner kind of forcing me to shadow him or him teaching me the ropes, I don’t think I would have gone there myself.”
Deadlifting was what she took to “most naturally” and the turning point came in 2017, during a friendly competition with some guys in the gym.
“I was training with them but I was not formally trained in powerlifting. And I happened to pull above the national record.
“Back then I didn’t know exactly what that meant, I didn’t know what powerlifting was. I didn’t know what (the) national record was. It was a bit mind-boggling.”Farhanna signed up for her first competition in 2018, won it, and the rest is history.