Valerie Silver's name is on everyone's lips in the hot crowd gathered in Tamworth for the strongman and strongwoman competitions — but she's nowhere to be seen.
The first sign of the 73-year-old is a bobbing North Tamworth Bears cap moving at elbow height through the other competitors, all looming mass and muscle strapping on accessories to compete.
"My grandkids call me G, they don't call me grandma — well, my grandson calls me The Big G because I'm so little," Val laughs.
She's the oldest competitor in the Tamworth Country Music Festival's strongwoman competition and is preparing to pull a truck, deadlift 80 kilograms, run with sandbags, and lift up to 45kg of concrete balls.
Some might ask, why does she do it?
"It's fun, and strong feels better than weak," she winks.
"It's transferable strength. I use it everyday. I'm 73 and I can move my own fridge and carry it up the stairs. If I fall over, I stop myself, I don't get hurt."
She says she's here to show women this is something they can do — and in her opinion should do — at her age.
"You shouldn't think that you've got a use-by date as a woman," she says.
"Women of my age have a lot to contribute, and [strength training] helps us play with our grandkids, that helps us continue to work, that helps us participate in the community."
Never too late to start
Val started lifting weights at the age of 55 when she was running her two boys to fencing, cricket, and surfing as a single mum, while waitressing and studying part-time in Brisbane.
She fell in love with the sport, and is determined to keep lifting and pulling heavy things until she's 90.
"I mean, I can ride my BMX bike with my seven-year-old grandson," she says.
"I can't stand up out of the saddle because I've got a torn meniscus – I've got to go over the jumps sitting down – but I can still go over the jumps!"
Val's next goal is overseas.
She's got her eyes on a big competition in the US, and says she should be home training right now.
"I'm training to not make a fool of myself. I'm up against big, big guns," she says.
But in the meantime, she's relishing the friends she's made camping at a local rugby club, and of course, the country music at the festival.
"I love coming down here. I feel so welcome. It's like my second home," she says.
Story by: Lani Oataway
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