Scottish Malaria scientist bitten by lifting bug set to represent Scotland on international stage


A SCOTTISH SCIENTIST will be swapping the laboratory for the lifting platform after being selected to represent Scotland in an international power lifting competition.

Irene Hallyburton, a life scientist at the University of Dundee has more than 20 years experience developing drug compounds for life-threatening diseases such as Malaria.

The 49-year-old is looking forward to competing in the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships in Canada in September this year.

Irene, from Perth, is hoping to break a few records but also the remove the assumptions around powerlifters.

She began lifting two years when she decided to add weight-training to her roller derby exercise programme.

Irene Hallyburton
Irene Hallyburton (C) John Post

Irene will compete in the Masters 1, Sub 84kg weight division when she flies out to Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada in September.

Currently her personal bests come in at 145kg for deadlift, 62.5kg for bench press and 130.5kg for squat. She will have to complete all three under competition rules to have a chance at bringing back gold.

Since taking up the sport, Irene says she has noticed an increasing number of women are joining the ranks of those aiming to raise the bar.

She said: “I was playing roller derby at a high level in Edinburgh against twenty-something year olds and the physical goal posts just kept moving so I picked up weight-lifting to stay one step ahead.

“But, then I went to support a friend at a powerlifting championship and thought to myself, hell I am already lifting those weights and that was it.

Irene Hallyburton (C) John Post
Irene Hallyburton lifting weights (C) John Post

“Powerlifting is still an amateur sport but there are almost 400 affiliated Scottish powerlifters right now.

“It’s definitely growing sport as more and more people, especially women realise that lifting weights doesn’t make you bulkier or more masculine. It makes you healthier and stronger. The side effects of correctly lifting heavy weights are fantastic.”

Irene trains three or four times a week at the University’s Institute of Sport and Exercise (ISE) during her lunchbreaks, and is coached by fellow female powerlifter Michelle Brand who has multiple international awards under her belt.

Sport scientists from the ISE have recently shown how weight-training can help combat childhood obesity.

Helping to dispel common myths that weight lifting stunts growth, Helen Collins revealed in her recent study that resistance training can has a positive effect on self-confidence, which could encourage children to stay active in later life.

Irene will head off to Canada to represent Scotland from the 15th to the 21st September.