A mother-of-two has been crowned Britain’s Strongest Woman after deadlifting the same weight as a pygmy hippopotamus.
Andrea Thompson, 33, who only took up strength training two years ago, deadlifted 215kg, nearly 34 stones.
She decided to get in shape when she was asked to be a bridesmaid and after joining her local CrossFit class, was encouraged to explore her super strength.
Andrea, a self-confessed former “big girl”, lost four stone in nine months for the wedding – but has since gained back more weight in pure muscle.
She has now been crowned the strongest woman after a gruelling five event competition on August 21 where she won four of the events.
Andrea from Melton, Suffolk, said: “When I was at CrossFit people started saying to me ‘wow, you’re so strong’, and I was encouraged to find a competition to get involved in.
“I came across Britain’s Strongest Woman last year and found a trainer but he was confused as to why I wanted to go because women train for years to compete in it.
“But after six weeks of training I came third and then it turned into a bit of a lifestyle change and now 18 months later I have taken the crown.
“I’m still really overwhelmed by it all and can’t quite believe it as I felt like I was having an off day during the competition and wasn’t performing at my best.”
Andrea claims she “didn’t do much” before she got involved in strength training and once she got in a relationship with her husband Stephen, 39, and had kids she gained weight.
The assistant bar manager of a pub said: “I have always been the fat one out of everyone in my friends.
“The ladies in my family are quite big and I always thought because I was so busy with work I could never really have the time to go to the gym.
“I get mixed comments about how I look now with my muscles and Stephen wasn’t sure at first when my muscles became defined.
“I was pleased to have a lot of definition and now he is fine with it as it comes with the competitions.
“I have my off days with how I look as girls do but when I’m not doing a competition I just look toned.”
Andrea, who weighs 120kg, over 18 stone, and is 5ft5 tall, now trains four times a week for an hour and a half lifting weights.
She normally eats around 3,000 calories packed full of protein and good carbs which she ups to 3,500 in preparation for a competition.
During the competition in a rugby field in Northampton she won the deadlift event, where competitors haul a weighted bar from the floor to a standing position.
She also smashed the giant dumbbell event which weighed 42.5kg where she had to lift it above her shoulder with one hand and managed seven reps.
Next Andrea took on the yoke carry where she had to run 15 metres with a 230kg H-shaped frame before dropping it and doing the farmers walk where she carried 100kg in each hand back down the route.
However in the truck pull, where competitors had to drag a Transit van weighing seven tonne 20 metres, Andrea suffered a mishap and came second-to-last.
Andrea added: “It sounds ridiculous but I didn’t actually have a very good competition.
“I didn’t feel pumped up and I’m not sure what happened to me but everything felt heavier than normal and it was a struggle.
“I thought I had done well in the truck pull but when I watched the others go after me, they were all doing it quicker.
“After that happened I got into the zone and it sorted me out so I could go on to win the final event.”
She finished strong in the Atlas stones where she lifted three of the four heavy spheres onto a 4ft platform in the quickest time to beat her rivals to the prize.
Andrea picked up the three stones weighing 80kg, 95kg and 110kg in just 16 seconds and no one managed to lift up the final 130kg stone.
She now has her sights set on the World’s Strongest Woman contest which takes place on September 17 and Europe’s Strongest Woman even in December.
Andrea, who is mum to Violet, seven, and five-year-old Olivia, trains with Ben Gray at Suffolk Strength Academy in Ipswich, Suffolk and said she is looking forward to the next event.