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SUPERWOMAN JACKIE; She works with ton weights for fun and has a body that would make Big Arnie jealous. Now she wants to lift the World's Strongest Woman title...

Byline: KATRINA TWEEDIE

NEVER joke about women and motors when you are around Jackie Young - she flips tyres for fun and can lift a whole car.

Her 44-32-36 statistics are pure muscle and her biceps make most men look like 10-stone weaklings.

And the 35-year-old from Stevenston, in Ayrshire, finished in the top four of the first World's Strongest Woman contest.

Her training regime would frighten most strong men, but the fact that she combines her role as flag bearer of Scotland's national hopes with a life as a mother, wife and nurse, makes her a superwoman in every respect.

"There is nothing wrong with women being physically strong," she says.

Flexing her rippling muscles, she adds: "I love the way my body looks."

At first glance there seems little that is curvaceous or soft about Jackie. But despite the charge normally laid against such female body builders that they are "unfeminine", Jackie is one of a growing band of women taking up the sport.

And she claims that she never threatens men, even when wearing her nurse's uniform.

In contrast to their bulk, most female bodybuilders emphasise their femininity with long hair, lipstick and the obligatory bikinis.

Still, the main reason the public love looking at female bodybuilders such as Jackie is to admire the sheer power in their perfectly-honed physiques.

With only 12 weeks' notice, Jackie competed in the first World's Strongest Woman competition, representing Britain, and came a respectable fourth.

The competition will be screened on BBC1 on Monday night.

People love seeing women doing a sport that only men normally do and at the inaugural competition in Zambia, with Victoria Falls as a spectacular backdrop, the level of interest was unprecedented for a women's event.

But when Jackie stepped off the plane into 40 degree African heat for the event last October, she had to stifle a gasp.

"One of the girls was a wrestler, others were professional power lifters. When I saw who I was up against I felt like getting back on the plane," she says.

There were eight women from all over the world and seven events such as flipping 210 kg tyres, lifting a car and walking with back-breaking canisters.

The competition is something the world has never seen before and sceptics should reserve judgment until they have seen the evidence, she says.

A mum with two teenage boys - Paul, 18, and Ryan, 14 - Jackie first ventured into a gym to pump iron to get back in shape after the birth of her second child.

She says: "Initially, I just wanted to get back into shape, then I decided to continue to keep trim, although at first I never took it seriously.

"I've always enjoyed exercise and have a large frame. When I started weight training my muscles gradually grew bigger and bigger."

Even as a child, she was no girlie pushover.

"I had four brothers and I soon preferred to be playing football and doing things that were a bit more demanding. I guess I've always looked for a challenge," she says.

Jackie only became a She Hulk after husband Garry, 36, who runs a gym, Glencairn Fitness Centre, trained a friend for a bodybuilding show and she tagged along to watch.

She says: "His friend won, then I saw the girls come out on stage in their bikinis and tans, looking fabulous, and I thought 'I want to do that'."

That was five years ago, but within weeks of serious training with Garry putting her through her paces, her body shape began to change dramatically.

While most women are eternally occupied with losing weight, Jackie concentrated on piling it on.

As she bulked up on proteins and porridge, spending up to pounds 70 on tubs of chocolate-flavoured protein drink, her body shape quickly changed - and she also developed a complete aversion to the taste of chocolate.

She adds: "I could feel my clothes getting tighter as the muscle piled on, then I went on a 14-week diet to show off my muscle definition."

Almost a year to the day after seeing that show, Jackie competed in a bodybuilding competition and won.

Success saw her receive the ultimate bodybuilders' acclaim when her picture appeared in Muscle Mag. "I loved my new physique and so did Garry," she insists.

It was the former World's Strongest Man, Forbes Cowan, also a Scot, who suggested she compete in the world's first strength event.

Jackie explains: "For years I had been bodybuilding, building muscle. But muscle doesn't equal strength and I had to change and quickly try to develop more explosive strength."

JACKIE, who works at Ayrshire Central Hospital, regularly squats with 204kg weights - but winning is also about stamina and endurance and Texan Jill Mills claimed the first title.

Super-fit Jackie, who doesn't drink or smoke, is a favourite for the next competition in Kuala Lumpur.

"I have been training for two hours a day, five days a week," she says, pledging to come home with a trophy this year.

Jackie, who is 5ft 7ins and tips the scales at 12 stones, says: "When I'm competing, I usually get down to 10st 6lbs which is actually two stones over the average weight for my height.

"But muscle weighs more than fat, so this is perfectly natural."

Jackie admits to getting the odd comment from people because her muscles are so visible. She adds: "Some women stop and stare at my body, which is a little bit embarrassing. I feel like some sort of freak.

"You get those who say it all looks a bit manly and there are girls on the circuit with very tough-looking faces, but it depends on how you want to develop your body. I always like to keep a balance and still look feminine."

Garry agrees. He says: "I think she looks fantastic - not mannish at all. She is still a woman, still feminine and I am just really proud of how much she has achieved in such a short time."

Jackie's training regime targets each muscle group separately - rather like fine-tuning parts of a machine.

She adds: "I concentrate on two body parts every day, so that one can rest while the other works. I take a couple of days off a week, but it's important to keep the routine regular or the muscles will waste away. Then all the work you've done would have been for nothing."

Jackie's two sons couldn't be more proud of their mum's hobby and have definitely inherited her competitive streak.

Paul, who has just joined the army, won the title of best rifle shot and Ryan proudly shows photographs of his mother at school every time she competes in an event.

Jackie laughs: "They think it's great, but I don't think they'll be following in my footsteps."

The World's Strongest Woman, Monday, BBC 1, 6.30pm.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 4, 2002
Words:1143
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