ANNIE NELSON has overcome more than the usual obstacles to become one of the world’s best athletes in her sport. 

The Perthshire woman admits that had she never found the sport of powerlifting, she’s not even sure she’d still be here, such was the extent of her mental health issues. 

Powerlifting, however, has not merely lifted her out of the depths mentally, it’s also seen her become one of the very best lifters in the world and if anyone ever doubted the power of sport, a few minutes speaking to Nelson is all it takes to highlight the life-affirming qualities of sport and specifically, in Nelson’s view, powerlifting. 

“I wouldn’t want to think where I’d be if I hadn’t found this sport – I’m not sure I’d even still be here, it was that bad,” she says of how she felt just a few years ago. 

“It just shows how big an impact this sport can have and that’s why I’d always recommend for anyone to get into it. 

I love how it makes me feel and whenever you put more weight on the bar, it’s really empowering

“I love how it makes me feel and whenever you put more weight on the bar, it’s really empowering. It helped my mental health massively.” 

Nelson began her sporting journey as a runner specialising in 400m. 

However, as she approached her twenties, she was no longer finding the same enjoyment from athletics. 

So, at the age of 21, knowing how much she relished her weekly weights session, she took the plunge and decided to give powerlifting, which incorporates squat, bench press and deadlift, a go. 

She’s never looked back. 

“I’ve always been really sporty and I’ve always been very competitive. I was doing athletics for a long time and I used to love my weights sessions; I’d be so competitive trying to lift more than the boys,” she says. 

HeraldScotland: Annie NelsonAnnie Nelson (Image: PR)

“I got to the point where I just wasn’t enjoying athletics very much and wasn’t where I wanted to be in the sport, and my mental health wasn’t great at the time either so I took a chance on trying powerlifting. Straight away, I loved it and I can’t believe I ever had a life without this.” 

Nelson’s improvement in the sport has been rapid. 

Within the space of five years, she has proven herself to be a world-class lifter and goes into the European Championships, which begin today in Poland, with serious ambitions of silverware. 

Much of her drive comes from what she calls a “disappointing” World Championships, in South Africa in June, at which she finished a creditable eighth in the final. 

But having recently moved up a weight class from 63kgs to 69kgs Nelson admits she feels like she’s got a new lease of life and having set a new personal best of 500kgs in total on her last competitive outing six weeks ago, she is feeling confident about her chances at the European Championships. 

“I’m really excited about this one – my last competition prep was pretty rocky with injuries whereas this one has been good so I feel really grateful to be healthy,” she says.  

“The Worlds didn’t go quite as well as I’d hoped – I was devastated but on reflection, it’s actually pushed me on. 

“People were saying that eighth in the world is really good but for me, it was really disappointing. I know that’s just sport though and I’m really using the disappointment because I know I’ve got so much more to show. 

“I’m definitely looking at potentially winning a medal but I also know I have to be sensible and see how I feel on the day. 

“I definitely feel in PB shape but it’s just a matter of taking my chances at the right time.” 

Powerlifting is a huge test psychologically and Nelson’s mental resolve has been severely tested over the past few years through more than merely the stresses and strains of elite sport. 

I always make sure I have make-up on and I put my fake tan on the night before a competition

As a female in what’s been traditionally seen as a male sport, Nelson doesn’t have to look far to find criticism and trolling directed at her on social media. 

Initially, ignoring what can be extremely personal comments about her appearance was not, she admits, particularly easy but experience has taught her that what other people say is entirely irrelevant. 

“At the start, the comments used to really bother me,” she says.  

“But the abuse is just insecure people, mainly guys, who can’t accept that a female is better than them at this.  

“So as soon as you realise that, it’s not nearly as offensive and now I just laugh about it.” 

That her other half is also an elite sportsperson – her boyfriend is Scotland rugby internationalist Luke Crosbie – helps keep her focused on what’s important and reminds her that anyone who’s critical of her is, more than likely, intimidated by her ability. 

And far more than the negative comments directed at Nelson, she’s encouraged by the part she’s playing in showing other females that powerlifting is most certainly not sport only for men. 

“I love showing people that this isn’t a sport just for guys and that it’s a brilliant sport for females too,” she says.  

“I always make sure I have make-up on and I put my fake tan on the night before a competition. There’s more and more females showing you don’t have to look a certain way to do it and that’s a really good thing.”