After More Than A Year Away From Powerlifting, Ashley Dyce Is Set For Her Return At The Parapan Am Games
by Bob Reinert
When Ashley Dyce first discovered Para powerlifting, she was already a Para track and field national champion and American record holder in the discus.
“I was juggling both for about a year, and eventually I realized I have to kind of commit to one,” Dyce said.
She was having more success in powerlifting at the time, so the choice was clear.
“I stuck with powerlifting,” Dyce said.
The decision has paid off for the 36-year-old from Colton, California, as Dyce has three world championships appearances under her belt and is now headed to the Parapan American Games, which will be held Nov. 17-26 in Santiago, Chile.
Dyce was ranked No. 12 in the world in 2022 in the women’s over 86 kg. weight class. She hasn’t been able to earn a spot in the world rankings this year due to an injury that’s kept her out of competition since July 2022.
Ahead of Parapans, Dyce is focused on getting herself mentally prepared to compete for the first time in more than a year.
“For me, it’s just more mentally building back that confidence of getting back on that stage and competing and being there with my teammates,” she said.
Despite the time away from competition, Dyce said she has felt good in training.
“My body still remembers everything,” she said. “That muscle memory kicks right back in. Once I get back on that bench, it’s like I haven’t left it for too long. Everything just clicks right away.”
Dyce’s last major competition was the 2021 world championships in Tbilisi, Georgia, where she placed 12th in best lift.
“That one was tough, too, just coming out of the pandemic,” Dyce said. “A lot of things changed in everybody’s life. So, just being able to focus and compete and still rank pretty well was a good accomplishment for me.”
The 2021 world championships were Dyce’s third. After failing to place in her 2017 debut in Mexico City, Dyce finished 14th in 2019 at Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
The Mexico City experience was disappointing but contained a silver lining.
“That was like my first real big competition,” said Dyce, who was born with spina bifida. “And not doing well was very, it was tough, but it definitely helped me prepare and get myself better for the future. I was just happy to be there, represent the country.”
One thing Dyce wasn’t prepared for in Mexico City was the food, and making sure she had enough of what she needed to stay fueled.
“The situation didn’t work out the way we thought,” she said. So, definitely, preparing more food to bring with me. I know that’s going to get me pumped up, give me that energy that I need. That helped me for the future, just being more prepared.”
The lessons Dyce learned in Mexico City paid off two years later in Kazakhstan.
“I felt like that one was a little bit more solid as far as my performance,” she said. “That’s when we started focusing more on technique because we know the strength is there. But now we’ve really got to buckle down and focus more on technique because that’s what the judges are looking at.”
Diet remains an important focus for Dyce.
The transition from track to powerlifting required a shift in training and nutrition. While she was competing in track, she mostly trained to improve her flexibility. Once she made the switch to powerlifting, her training became all about increasing her power and strength.
Dyce also changed her diet and started eating more carbs and protein
To fuel her body before competitions, she generally chooses a breakfast staple.
“I like to do oatmeal,” she said. “It’s a good carb, and it’s easier to break down. It usually doesn’t give me any feeling of like I’m going to throw up or it doesn’t upset my stomach.”
A lot of different foods can make Dyce “queasy.” She added that oatmeal is great for competitions because she can bring her own oats anywhere and prepare them in her hotel room.
To motivate herself before competitions, Dyce listens to a variety of music. The tone of what music she picks depends on her mindset heading into the event.
“What I’ve learned over the years when I was working with our sports psychologist, depending on my mood, if I’m feeling very anxious, sometimes I’ll try to listen to slower R&B or worship music to kind of just bring me down,” she said. “But then if I’m not feeling anxious or excited, then I have more of a kind of a hype up and pop music artists. I will say sometimes I’ll listen to Britney Spears. Sometimes that just gets me ready to go.”
All her training and competitions point in one direction these days: qualifying for the Paralympic Games Paris 2024.
“That’s the goal,” Dyce said. “Ever since I started track and field, my goal is always to make a Paralympic Games and compete at that highest level. So, I’m definitely still on that path.”
Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to usparapowerlifting.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.