A Life In Sports Eventually Led Sara Edwards To Para Powerlifting
by Steve Drumwright
Sports have always been a huge part of Sara Edwards’ life.
In high school, she played basketball, volleyball and softball. After that, she eventually got into coaching, something she still does, as well as being a referee and an umpire.
So, it was no surprise that it was the sports community that was there for Edwards as she twice dealt with traumatic health situations. First, in 2008, she was diagnosed with flesh-eating bacteria in her right leg that left her hospitalized for more than three months, most of that in the intensive care unit. Edwards nearly died. The infection returned in 2012, this time requiring an amputation below her right knee.
“What got me through it was not only my family and my community, but I was coaching at the time, too,” said Edwards, a 46-year-old from St. Charles, Minnesota. “So that whole being able to go back out on the field, having my athletes around me and my coaching staff, that was huge. I knew that I wanted to still do something with sports. When I was doing research on what could I do as an amputee, that’s kind of how I ran into Para powerlifting.”
In part, Edwards found Para powerlifting through a colleague at work — she works in technology for the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation — who felt Edwards could excel in a sport she had never tried. Edwards was excited for this new adventure.
“I wanted to be the strongest amputee female powerlifter with all three elements,” Edwards said.
The allure of getting to the Paralympics in a sport she took up in 2017 was also a major draw.
That path to the Paralympics took a dramatic turn this year, as Para powerlifting went from an independent organization to coming under the umbrella of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Some athletes took part in a camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in June, the first get-together since the organizational change.
“For me, that was a very humbling experience, yet so honored to get to be a part of that and to be able to bring the whole team together,” Edwards said. “It was so essential to our success. But it was a really cool experience.”
It was eye-opening for Edwards to be on the same campus, stay in the dorms and use the facilities that past Olympians and Paralympians had before their moments of glory.
“It was very surreal to me to know that some of these heroes and idols that I have grown up with have been there and not everybody gets that opportunity (to be in those facilities),” Edwards said.
Edwards, who has an 18-year-old son, Jacob, was among 16 athletes on the team who participated in the camp. It provided a rare chance for the group to bond, especially before six participated in a world cup competition in Mexico.
“I think the biggest thing was just not only working out in the weight room, because that was amazing, but actually walking into the shopping area there,” Edwards said. “When you walk in there, they have the videos going on the walls and as we were standing there, one of our fellow teammates was in that video. That was really a cool experience.”
As one of only two women on the team, Edwards also had an opportunity to learn from Ashley Dyce, who has competed in three world championships.
Edwards briefly met Dyce before, but this time around she got to talk to Dyce about her experience within the sport.
“To actually room with her and get to talk with her and get to learn more about her and her ways of thinking and getting her thoughts and everything about what a female needs to do in Para powerlifting, I will never ever forget,” Edwards said. “It definitely helped me with my first international competition.”
That competition was the Veracruz 2023 Parapan American World Cup at the end of June in Mexico. Emboldened with the energy and experiences from the team camp, Edwards turned that into a performance that earned her three medals in the 86+ kg. weight class. She won a silver in overall total lift in the legends category and bronzes in overall total lift among all competitors and bronze for best lift among legends.
While this competition cycle is for the Paralympic Games Paris 2024, Edwards has not participated in enough events to be eligible to represent the U.S. at next summer’s Games. She has her sights set on the LA Games in 2028.
“I feel like getting the extra years to build up strength, I’ll be more competitive in 2028 than I would for even Paris,” Edwards said.
Steve Drumwright is a journalist based in Murrieta, California. He is a freelance contributor to USParaPowerlifting.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.