Pint-sized and powerful: 74-year-old UTMB employee "addicted" to breaking world records in powerlifting

Mar 16, 2017, 10:01 AM by KirstiAnn Clifford
Lucy weightlifting
Lucy McMahon may be pint-sized, but she packs a powerful punch.

Standing at 4 feet 10 inches, the 74-year-old UTMB medical interpreter has been traveling across the globe breaking world records in powerlifting.

“I’ve always been competitive,” she said. “You could say I’m addicted to breaking world records.”

According to McMahon, she holds more than 20 records in various age and weight divisions. Most recently, she traveled to Russia in December to compete in the Global Powerlifting Alliance/International Powerlifting Organization World Championships, where she took home a gold medal in her division. Although she weighs 97 pounds, she can deadlift 180 pounds, bench press more than 80 pounds and squat nearly 130 pounds.

“I look like a toothpick next to many of the competitors,” she laughed, pointing to a photo of herself with two large Grecian powerlifters. “But I like to challenge myself to see how far I can go. The harder the goal, the more proud I am when I achieve it. It sets an example for my son, daughter and grandkids—if I can do it, you can do it, too.”

McMahon knows a thing or two about hard work and determination. Moving from Mexico to the U.S. when she was 19, she held various jobs around the country while learning English—from dancing in musicals in New Orleans to working as a salon beautician—before landing in Galveston.

“I moved to Texas to study and work,” said McMahon. “In this country, we have opportunities, so I studied as many things as I could. I’ve always liked to help people, so I attended nursing assistant school while working at a gas station and cleaning beach homes. I worked in the ER at UTMB for several years and was also an EMT in Galveston County.”

It wasn’t until her late 40s that McMahon first discovered a passion for bodybuilding. After hurting her lower back while lifting a patient on a stretcher, she had six months of physical therapy. Part of her rehabilitation involved lifting weights. Soon, she was hooked.

“On my 46th birthday, I went to the gym and started to train for bodybuilding,” she said. “I trained hard, following the advice my father gave me when I was young—‘If you’re going to do something, give 100 percent or don’t do it.’”

McMahon placed well in many competitions both nationally and internationally. But when she reached her mid-60s, her passion for bodybuilding morphed into a love for powerlifting.

She’s become just as well-known for her weightlifting ability as she has for her trademark scream—which is part of her routine before and during each lift.

“If I don’t scream, I can’t lift,” she said. “I mean, I’m not lifting peanuts! I’ve tried not to scream, but I couldn’t even move the bar from the floor. Before I lift, I put chalk on my hands, rub them together while pacing back and forth and give myself a pep talk—then I start screaming. I don’t mind putting on a show—I love the audience.”

Her routine works. Many countries visited and world records later, McMahon hasn’t slowed down. She’s now working toward a goal of deadlifting 190 pounds and trains several times a week at a gym along the seawall. And she brings that same hard-working mentality to her job as a medical interpreter, where she helps hundreds of Spanish-speaking patients and their families navigate the health care system.

“I’ve always believed in myself and that’s helped me get where I am today both professionally and personally,” she said. “Size doesn’t matter and age is just a state of mind. I still have many more things I want to do and people I want to help.”