How strong is Brittany Tregarthen?
Strong enough to send a punching bag spiraling through the air.
That’s exactly what happened during one of her recent training sessions at the Kodiak Athletic Club.
“She hits that thing, and it goes flying off the ceiling and lands on the floor,” said Lindsay Knight, Tregarthen’s trainer and owner of the club. “Her eyes are as big as saucers and her jaw drops almost to the ground … She is like four-foot tall and 113 pounds, and she is the one who knocks the heavy bag off the ceiling.”
To be fair, Tregarthen is actually 4-foot-8 and 114.5 pounds — a small package that packs a punch, something the entire world will soon find out.
Tregarthen will be representing the United States at the 14th Special Olympics World Games that begin July 25 in Los Angeles. She starts her journey on Sunday.
“I want to honor my hometown and the people who supported me,” said Tregarthen, who moved from Colorado to Kodiak in 2007.
The 27-year-old who has Down syndrome and an uncanny memory is one of four Alaskans to be selected to the World Games, a nine-day event that unites 7,000 athletes from 177 nations to compete in 25 different sports. Tregarthen will be displaying her strength in powerlifting, a sport she has been doing for the past five years.
Tregarthen has tried other Special Olympics sports during her 12 years in the program, but has found her niche lifting heavy things.
With form that Knight calls “impeccable,” she has been able to squat 155 pounds, bench 110 pounds and deadlift 160 pounds — all numbers that have increased dramatically since she started tossing around weights.
“I like to get stronger, and lose weight,” Tregarthen said.
Tregarthen was selected more than a year ago by Special Olympics Alaska to compete in the World Games. Her name was drawn randomly from a group of powerlifters who won gold medals at the 2014 state games.
However, her spot on the team wasn’t solidified until she returned home from a training session in Indianapolis in late 2014.
To prepare for competition, Tregarthen has been training, eating healthy and waking up early — she is not a morning person.
“She is a tenacious little athlete,” said Dan Canavan, Kodiak’s Special Olympics director. “When she needs to she steps up and competes hard. We are really excited about having another athlete heading to World Games.”
Kodiak’s floor hockey team won gold at the 2001 Winter World Games that were held in Anchorage, while powerlifter Christopher Kavanaugh grabbed a gold, two silvers and one bronze at the 2012 Summer World Games in Athens, Greece.
Knight, who coached Kavanaugh and was a USA strength coach for the 1999 Summer Games, believes Tregarthen has the potential to excel on the big stage.
“She is really brave,” Knight said. “These sort of things scare her but she will still rise up to the occasion and do what she has to do.”
The Games will have a national audience as ESPN is planning to broadcast portions of the meet. Opening ceremony is on July 25 and will be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, a stadium that holds 93,607 people. Powerlifting is scheduled to begin on July 27 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
“I don’t do well with too many people — I get nervous,” Tregarthen said.
There will be familiar faces in the crowd, as 12 relatives will be traveling to L.A. for the first week of competition. Her real dad, Tim, also lives in the area.
“He has never, ever got to see my powerlifting skills,” Tregarthen said.
Canavan said Tregarthen’s family has played an impactful role in her Special Olympics success. When she moved to Kodiak with her mom, Suzanne Bobo, one of the first things they did was attend a Special Olympics bowling practice.
Bobo wouldn’t miss a landmark moment in her daughter’s life — the two penned a book together in 2011 called “The Road Going: A Mother, a Daughter, an Extraordinary Journey.” She will be making the trek south to watch.
“It is amazing. It is a little terrifying,” Bobo said. “It is all her. It is fun to watch her do something that is all her.”