Cass Pickard graduates from CQUniversity in Emerald with her certificate three in fitness. (ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler)
Cass Pickard has already made her mark as a two-time world powerlifting champion, but it wasn’t enough for the mother-of-two who has just proved that she also has what it takes to achieve academic success.
Ms Pickard has graduated from CQUniversity with the Associate Vice-Chancellor Central Highland medal after completing her certificate three in fitness.
For Ms Pickard, of Emerald, who left school in New Zealand at 15, the academic achievement was one she never dreamed she could complete.
“I’m 45 now and to actually go back to uni at 44 and do that along with being a mum, along with working, along with still training to compete — I’m super proud,” she said.
“I just always thought it was something that would actually never happen. I’m a hands on person, I’m not academic.”
Seven years ago, Ms Pickard was overweight and unmotivated and she struggled to find the courage to step into a gym.
But after deciding she no longer wanted to be that person she took to powerlifting.
It was not long before she was she was wearing the green and gold and taking out 2017 and 2018 World Powerlifting Championships with the support of her husband Hamish and children Tyson and Dilyn.
The couple, both from New Zealand, have lived in Emerald for more than 20 years.
“I was extremely overweight and extremely self-conscious. I did laps around the gym, trying to get the confidence up to go in,” Ms Pickard said.
“I still remember that and I just think, thank God that I actually went in the door and started a whole new sport at 38.”
Ms Pickard joined the gym for confidence and weight loss but soon realised she loved being strong.
A few weeks later she was learning how to back squat, bench press and deadlift.
“I didn’t even know what it was and five weeks later I went in my first competition to see if I liked it,” she said.
“I came home from that competition in Townsville and said to my husband, ‘babe I think I could be good at this and I think I’m really strong’ and I haven’t looked back.”
From the regions to the world stage
Ms Pickard trains over the phone and via video with her coach, who is based in Canberra.
“I do try and get down there to train with him once a year for three days and I pack as much in those three days as possible,” she said.
“When you haven’t got access to the best of everything, you make the best of where you are.
“To me that’s surreal too, that you don’t have to be in big cities. It’s very, very achievable out here. I love being part of a smaller community.”
While continuing her training and raising two children, Ms Pickard has also become the manager of a new gym in Emerald.
“It’s a great way to be able to give back, help, mentor and inspire and motivate other people, not necessarily to be world champions, but everyone’s got their different goals,” she said.
“For the first time in my life I feel like I’m doing a job that I love and I’m passionate about, and I’m meant to be doing it.”
This year, Ms Pickard will focus on domestic competitions, including the Queensland Titles in May and the Australian Nationals in October.
She hopes to compete internationally again in 2021.
“This year my focus is on getting this gym up and running, still training, still doing my competing but not at the expense of the travel to go overseas,” she said.