A weight lifted: Spotsylvania teenager returns to powerlifting after breaking both arms

by | Apr 12, 2024 | ALLFFP, Sports, Spotsylvania

Elaina Stimmell had performed the lift many times. 

The Spotsylvania County teenage powerlifter can typically support more than three times her body weight. 

But last December, while squatting 275 pounds at Gold’s Gym in Fredericksburg, Stimmell stepped away from the rack with the bar on her back. When she braced, the bar shifted down her back slightly and she felt her left arm snap. The impact from the mishap caused all the weight to fall on her right arm, which snapped, as well. 

“Luckily I knew how to dump the weight properly,” Stimmell said. “My wrist wraps kept the bone from coming completely through both arms.” 

She had her father call 911, and doctors immediately performed emergency surgery. Stimmell suffered broken radius bones in both arms and had a plate and six screws placed in each limb. 

Stimmell said she relied on her faith as she recovered from the setback. Five months after the incident, she returned to the weight room. She competed in the USA Powerlifting High School Nationals last weekend at the Crown Plaza Executive Suites in Baton Rouge, La.  

She finished second in the nation in her weight class after lifting 280 kilograms, or roughly 620 pounds. She was down 40 kilograms from her personal best before the injuries, but it was nonetheless a victory to return to the stage. 

“Just me getting on the plane and coming here was a win,” she said. 

Stimmell, who weighed in at 110 pounds, was 2.5 kilograms away from the championship. Her deadlift of 308 pounds was the heaviest in her weight class. 

Stimmell began competing with USA Powerlifting in March 2023 and quickly became successful. She set seven state records and an American record in the deadlift. 

She said she was intrigued by the sport after trekking to the gym with her dad, former Riverbend High School baseball coach and athletic director Tim Stimmell.  

“He went to the gym every morning and it started with me wanting to go to the gym with him,” she said. “I realized I was kind of freaky strong. I just did my own research and discovered the world of powerlifting. At my first meet, I was able to set four state records. I realized that was definitely my sport in that moment.” 

Tim Stimmell said an emergency room doctor told his daughter that she would never compete again. He said although the family kept the faith that she would return, it was a rough process and they had no idea she would be ready to go by nationals.  

But Elaina Stimmell kept pushing. She said the injuries made her mentally stronger. She also was intent on building her leg strength during that time. 

“I just focused on the Lord and just really looked forward to nationals,” she said. “Even if it was just me going and lifting the bar, I knew that would be a win in my book.” 

Stimmell was cleared to restart training in early March, but the competition was only a month away.  

“She thought, ‘I want to compete even though I’m not doing the same weights I was doing,’” her father said. “It was just a never quit, never give up kind of testimony.” 

Stimmell, who is homeschooled, will graduate from high school in May. She completed enough college credits in high school to depart with an associate degree.  

After completing high school, she plans to immediately begin the process of becoming a certified personal trainer and weight loss and health specialist. She also works at a bridal shop in downtown Fredericksburg. 

Her next major competition is nationals in September. She said her goal is to turn professional by age 20.

Tim Stimmell said he’s overjoyed that a future in the sport is still a possibility. Just a few months ago, Elaina Stimmell was so weak that family and church members assisted her with nearly every task. 

“She was not able to lift more than two pounds. She had difficulty even feeding herself,” he said. “Literally a month ago, she could barely pick up a washcloth. But now she’s back competing.”  

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