Christiane Hazzard, a third-year in respiratory health, approaches the barbell for deadlift at the IPF University Powerlifting World Cup in July 2019. Credit: Courtesy of Christiane Hazzard

Next time you lift weights in an Ohio State gym, there could be a collegiate world champion training next to you.

Christiane Hazzard, a third-year in respiratory therapy and vice president of the Ohio State powerlifting club, has gone from a hobbyist discovered at an intramural powerlifting meet in 2017 to the No. 9 ranked 63-kilogram women’s powerlifter in the United States.

“Christiane close-grip bench-pressed 190 pounds,” John Downing, founder of the powerlifting club and an Ohio State alumnus, said. “She may not have known [that] was a crazy feat, but everyone on the team knew it was a crazy feat, and that’s what led to us hardcore recruiting her.”

Since that day, Hazzard has earned a collegiate title, set a world collegiate record in bench press and competes Friday in one of the nation’s most prestigious powerlifting meets, the USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals in Lombard, Illinois.

Powerlifting tests strength in three events: squat, bench press and deadlift. In a powerlifting competition, every lifter has three attempts to complete a lift in each of the three events, and the heaviest lift of each event is added to his or her total score.The lifter who accumulates the largest weight total over the course of the competition wins. 

Hazzard finished the USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals with a 430-kilogram total, placing No. 8 in the 63-kilogram women’s open division. 

She broke her previous personal records in bench press and squat by half a kilogram and  2.5 kilograms, respectively. 

Although she said this meet was on her radar for quite some time since a victory at the International Powerlifting Federation University World Cup in July, she said this meet would be about having fun, hitting new personal records and socializing with some of the best lifters from across the U.S.

“The thing about powerlifting is that it’s not 30 or 35 games [a] year,” Hazzard said. “It’s months and months of training that leads up to literally nine minutes on the platform.”

Hazzard grew up in Milford, Ohio — near Cincinnati — where she started training early on with free weights in her basement and was a highly competitive softball player. 

“I didn’t always want to be in the weight room, but I wanted to use weights,” she said.

After starting school at Ohio State in 2017, Hazzard said she felt burnt out from softball and was looking for a new sport in which to compete.

“I knew I had a pretty strong upper body, and it was a matter of what kind of sport I could find,” Hazzard said. “I was looking into Crossfit, other things I could be competitive at, so I was like, ‘What the heck? I’ll join the powerlifting club.’”

Since embracing Downing’s coaching, Hazzard quickly achieved success in the sport, competing in the 2018 USA Powerlifting National Championships in College Station, Texas, and earning an invitation to compete in the 2018 University Powerlifting World Cup in Pilsen, Czech Republic.

She said she remembered a moment in the hotel after the meet in College Station when she was brought to tears at the thought of how far she had come. 

“I was a mess,” Hazzard said. “I really felt like the universe was telling me where I was supposed to be.”

In her last meet at the 2019 University World Cup in Estonia, Hazzard was able to avenge her runner-up finish at the 2019 USA Powerlifting Collegiate National Championships, where she only lost by a half-kilogram. 

Not only did she win the 2019 University World Cup, but Hazzard set the collegiate world record in bench press for her weight class, pressing 231 pounds. 

“When she won in Estonia, we were stoked,” Downing said. “It is something she deserved.”

Hazzard said it was a special meet.

“Performance-wise, that was my favorite meet,” Hazzard said. “I PR’d on everything. It was the best block of training I ever had, and I wanted redemption from collegiates.” 

Hazzard was not the only Ohio State powerlifter competing on the national stage; she was joined by fellow teammate Heidi Lewis, a fourth-year in physics, who took eighth place in the 84-plus kilogram weight class at the USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals.

“When I first met Christiane, you could tell she’s just a really good athlete,” Lewis said. 

She said that since witnessing Hazzard shift her focus to powerlifting, she’s recognized the strides Hazzard has made in her nutrition, training and mindset.

Those attributes have contributed Hazzard’s rise as one of the best in her weight class not only at the collegiate level, but on the national stage.

Lewis said she was excited to lift alongside Hazzard at USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals, knowing all the work she’s put into her preparation.