Sports Stories

If you believe, then you can achieve.

Rochelle “Rocky” Luedeker, a 42-year Village of Oak Creek resident, has found success throughout her life with that kind of attitude.

For the last five years that success has come in the form of 13 powerlifting world records and four “best lifter” awards, the most recent at a competition in Las Vegas on July 8.

“You have to have the right mindset, you have to know that you can do it,” Luedeker said. “You’ve got to say ‘I am going to get it’ instead of saying ‘Well I hope I can get it.’”

What really sets Luedeker apart is that she is 62 years old, and a vegan.

Luedeker stressed that being a vegan for 15 years and vegetarian for 31 has helped. Her weight does not fluctuate between the roughly 10 competitions she does yearly, and she keeps fat out of her diet.

“I just really want to do good,” Luedeker said. “I just really want to show that as a vegan that I can do this. No meat, no problem. I can do it. And I want to show ladies my age, ‘Hey, you can do it, too.’”

Powerlifting has positively influenced her lifestyle, too. She still enjoys skiing and hiking, and they are not tiresome either.

“It’s keeping me feeling younger. If I’m not doing it, then what would I be doing?” Luedeker said. “Your heart’s beating good, you’ve got your muscles and you’re out in public more, you’re not sitting around doing nothing.”

Admittedly there is not much competition for her; she has seen some women up to 80 years of age but it is rare to see any around her age. She does not do it for glory, but rather just for herself and others. Younger women approach her with praise.

“A lot of the younger girls will come up and say, ‘When I get to be your age I hope I’m just like you,’” Luedeker said. “I’m pretty happy when they tell me that.”

The Mental Edge
Of course, training her body is key to getting stronger as she has gotten older, but it is the mental edge that she attributes much of the success to. Years ago she entered sweepstakes, those competitions that are hardly heard of these days.

Those ones where one simply filled out and mailed in a three-by-five card to enter. And she won quite a few.

She met Jeff Gordon at a Bashas’ in Phoenix. She jubilantly recalled when she met, and kissed the cheek of, former NBA MVP and Phoenix Sun Steve Nash at a game, on the court.

She won a trip to a three-day high performance driving camp worth thousands of dollars, among other prizes.

The key to winning those things?

Believing that she would.

Once she stopped believing that she would win, she stopped winning. The same goes for her competitions.

At two different official competitions she lifted more weight than she thought she was, by accident. Once she wanted to bench press 72 pounds, but after completing the lift an official informed her that she had actually lifted 83 pounds.

Bench press is the exercise she is working at most. The next United States Powerlifting Association competition is in November, where she hopes to get the world record.

The Flagstaff native competes in the 97-pound weight class and 55- to 59-year-old age range, but will at times move to the 105-pound class in pursuit of more records, a common practice.

She holds records in all three powerlifting federations: The USPA, 100% Raw and the Amateur Athletic Union.

Competitors have three chances to lift as much weight as possible in four different exercises: Deadlift, squat, bench press and arm curl.

Deadlift is her best and the one she found easiest to learn — her lifetime best is 184 pounds — nearly twice her body weight. That weight was first achieved at a competition in Virginia Beach, Va., in October 2015. It was one of her fondest moments to date; she set world records in all four exercises and took home a best lifter award.

“I was pretty happy about that,” Luedeker said. “It was the first time I tried and only in competitions I get those [heavy] lifts.”

That is because during her everyday training, mostly done at her home in the Village save a weekly trip to the Cottonwood Recreation Center, she does not lift heavy. In fact she does not follow too much of a structured workout routine as many other powerlifters do.

“I just do it until I’m tired. I do what I can do every day.”

A Family That Lifts Together, Stays Together

It started with daughter Bianca, who had a successful first competition in Las Vegas. Then it was husband Lee and son Nathaniel, who competed in Cottonwood.

After that Rocky decided to give it a go. She found that she enjoyed it and has continued ever since.

“I was watching [them] and I was like, ‘Why am I just sitting here? I can do that,’” Luedeker said. “And then I just started doing it and I was just going up a pound at a time and I started getting the world records.”

Oftentimes Rocky, Lee and their children will compete together, donning shirts with the name “Lifting Luedekers.”

“It just like felt like a good thing. Like ‘Wow, we can all do this together and it’s fun.’”

They have competed in eight Arizona cities and 12 in the Southwest altogether. The next competition is an AAU world championship event in September, also in Las Vegas.