DENVER – One of the world’s most dominant athletes calls Denver home, and now she needs the community’s help in her pursuit to be named the 2018 World Games Athlete of the Year.
Jennifer Thompson is among the most accomplished female powerlifters in history, with 10 world championships under her belt and even more national championships to her name. Additionally, she holds numerous world records and is recognized as the first woman in the 63 kilogram weight class to bench press 300 pounds. Thompson’s personal bests include 320 pounds in the bench press, 342 pounds in the squat and 460 pounds in the deadlift, while her combined weight of 1,122 pounds among the three powerlifting disciplines is the current world record.
Thompson, 45, has been powerlifting for 20 years and while her list of accolades is impressive, her performance in 2018 may have been the most impressive to date considering the circumstances.
“In 2017, I missed the World Games because I had to have hip reconstruction surgery,” Thompson said. “I was having all sorts of issues, most of which I think came from sumo deadlifting where your legs are very wide, so I just think all the years of pulling and grinding messed up my hip. I was at a point where I was either going to have to retire and just focus on the bench press, or get this surgery to try and fix it. Dr. (Kenneth) Weeks at OrthoCarolina in Charlotte did the surgery and we weren’t really sure if it was going to work, but he had to basically reshape my femur and repair all the damage that had been done.”
After missing the World Games in June 2017, Thompson returned to competition later that year in October at the USA Powerlifting National Championships where she claimed first place in her weight class and qualified for the 2018 World Games. While she would go on to win the world title in classic powerlifting and be recognized as the World Games Athlete of the Month in June 2018, the pinnacle of her comeback from injury came earlier that year at the Arnold Classic.
“I won my nationals, but I wasn’t really at 100 percent yet because I was still rehabbing and had only been squatting for a few weeks since my hip surgery,” Thompson said. “I came back to the Arnold Classic in March 2018 and it’s this giant event on the main stage with like 100,000 people watching and there wasn’t even a thought of me winning this thing. All the media coverage was on the other girls who were considered the favorites, but I came in and I just killed it. I broke the bench press world record and I broke the world-record total for all three lifts combined. That was maybe my favorite moment of my career because I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to continue competing after my surgery, so that for me was a pretty awesome moment that I’ll never forget.”
Thompson is now one of 25 athletes, men and women, from all corners of the globe competing to be recognized as the 2018 World Games Athlete of the Year. If victorious, Thompson would be the first powerlifter, man or woman, to receive the award.
“This would be huge for powerlifting because it’s sort of an up-and-coming sport that’s really trying to get some recognition to become more of a mainstream sport,” Thompson said. “The powerlifting nominee came in second place last year and I think maybe fourth place the year before that, and a powerlifter has never been named athlete of the year.”
Thompson, a Michigan native, moved to Denver with her husband in 1997 and the two now reside on Lake Norman with their two teenage sons. When she’s not busy breaking world records, Thompson teaches a nutrition class as well as girls health and physical education at Lincoln Charter School.