Aiea Powerlifter Takes Second Place At World Championship

A chance encounter at the gym has led to an exciting run in powerlifting for Aiea resident Ren Yamashita.

Her biggest challenge now is balancing it with her work and schoolwork. “It isn’t easy trying to find time to practice all three (powerlifting events),” said Yamashita, a 2007 Aiea High graduate. “I could be at the gym about six hours (for one single workout) if I wanted to concentrate on everything. (Currently) I train two or three hours a day, five times a week because I work and go to school.”

Ren Yamashita competed in the International Powerlifting Federation’s World Championships in Poland, where she placed second in her 114-pound weight class. Photo from Susan Yamashita.

Yamashita recently returned from a trip to Szczyrk, Poland, site of the International Powerlifting Federation’s World Championships, where she earned a pair of second-place finishes in the bench press and dead lift, and a third-place finish in the squat. Her overall tabulation of 925.2 pounds earned her a second-place finish in the 114-pound weight class, which also was a personal best. With her help, the USA Junior Women’s Team also took gold, scoring 49 points with a pair of first-place finishes, a second-place finish and two third-place finishes. Kazakhstan and Russia scored 48 points to finish second and third, respectively.

It all began when she was at Powerhouse Gym one afternoon in 2008.

“I met Johnny Bareng there, and he talked to me about going with them (fellow powerlifters to train) and getting into it,” she said. “In 2008, I started training with them and did my first competition. I took a break then to help my sister Joy train for wrestling at Aiea High, and came back and got hooked on powerlifting in 2009.”

Her current training partners are Al Fritz, Leo Richardson and Angelique Poe. She had been a stellar wrestler in high school, finishing fourth in the state in 2007 for Aiea. She likes to travel for competitions two or three times a year if time and money allow.

While she was under sponsorship in 2010, powerlifters often have to pay their own way, according to Yamashita, who is majoring in criminal justice administration at UH-West Oahu.

The social benefits of the sport have been among the highlights, she added. “I like meeting new people. I’ve met a lot of elite powerlifters like Darren Matsumoto and Tony Harris, and they’ve exposed me to traveling and testing myself against some of the best in the world.”