Powerlifter Karenjeet Kaur Bains ‘found a love for being strong.’ Now she wants to inspire more women to take up strength sports

(CNN)Karenjeet Kaur Bains started her sporting life as a sprinter, but when she took up powerlifting at the age of 17 — initially to get faster and more explosive for athletics — her focus soon changed.”I found a love for feeling strong and never looked back” is how Bains explains the switch of sports.Under the guidance of her father, a former bodybuilder and powerlifter, she quickly displayed her prowess in the squat, bench press and deadlift. Three months later, she entered — and won — her first ever competition.

Fast-forward eight years and Bains now holds the accolade of being the first Sikh woman to compete for Great Britain in powerlifting.

Her “ultimate dream,” she says, is to be the first Sikh female world champion, as well as using her platform to inspire other girls to take up the sport.”Strength sport is often such a male-dominated sport,” Bains tells CNN.”You get the stereotype that you’re going to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger with a wig on, or something like that … it would be a dream for me to have girls like me coming up the ranks in the juniors and they look like me and you never saw them before.”Bains started powerlifting when she was 17 and entered her first competition a few months later.Bains, a regional 300-meter sprint champion as a teenager, found sporting inspiration throughout her family when she was growing up.Her older twin brothers were national level 400m hurdlers, and she recalls watching them fly around the track “like Superman.”Her mother, meanwhile, was encouraged to take up athletics by Bains’ father and won local championship medals in the hammer throw, discus, and shot put in her 40s.”She had always wanted to do sport when she was younger, but she never got a chance because she came from Punjab, India, and back then, girls didn’t have the same chances to do sports and education,” says Bains of her mother.”Her older brother was a champion wrestler in India as well, but she couldn’t, and I think she always wanted to do something sporty.”My parents never stopped me, they always pushed me equally,” she adds. “I’ve had role models everywhere, really.”

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