Mar 7, 2022 - Sports

Scenes from the 2022 Arnold Sports Festival

Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks on stage during the Arnold Sports Festival.

Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks to fans during the Arnold Sports Festival on March 5 in Columbus. Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

Squat lifting a 250-pound barbell is an achievement for anybody, but especially for 70-year-old Shelly Stettner.

What they did: Stettner's lift was among numerous American records set in a span of just 30 minutes at the 2022 Arnold, as athletes completed leg-busting squat lifts one after another in rapid succession.

  • Another new record belongs to Ohio native and former world champion Joseph Marksteiner, a 68-year-old rocket scientist and 2018 USA Powerlifting Hall of Fame inductee.
  • Yet another was set by Mary Pregler, competing at the age of 80.
80-year-old Mary Pregler completes a squat barbell lift.
Shelly Stettner completes a new American record squat lift. Clip: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

What they're saying: "Most of you have a hard time waking up to pee at 80," USA Powerlifting announcer Geno Biancheri told an astonished crowd on day two of the 2022 Arnold.

  • "Mary's out here setting new records."
A Scottish Highland Games competitor uses a rake to throw a weighted bag over a tall bar.
The Scottish Highland Games are a popular annual event at the Arnold. Here, a competitor uses a rake to fling a weighted burlap sack over a tall height. Clip: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

State of play: The festival expo is nothing short of sensory overload, a barrage of supplements, exercise equipment, protein powder, creams, loaded chocolate bars and athleisure wear.

  • So. Much. Merchandise.

The intrigue: Booths for brands like Girls Who Powerlift and Kinda Fit Kinda Fat appealed to a wider audience than stereotypical muscleheads.

  • The latter, meant "for those who love fitness and food," featured the slogan, "Hit them (personal records). Make them gainz. Eat that donut."
A woman slaps another woman during a Slap Fighting contest.
Julia Kruzer slaps Adrianna “Flychanelle” Śledź during the Slap Fighting Championships on the festival's third day. Photo: Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

The big picture: It's easy to define the Arnold by its extremes: impossibly large biceps, tanned physiques, testosterone-fueled playlists.

  • But after a day spent witnessing breathtaking feats of power, it's easier to notice much quieter moments of personal strength, like moms pushing strollers through the crowded expo or lunch booth workers keeping up with an endless line of customers.
  • Limited in 2020 and canceled altogether in 2021, this year's Arnold — held during what was expected to be the final days of Columbus' mask mandate — felt like a harbinger of a post-pandemic city.

One moment stuck out. Just off the main hallway, teens at a jump rope fitness exhibition coaxed a young girl on stage.

  • They taught her a double dutch trick of slapping the ground in between jumps that requires difficult combination of timing and coordination.
  • After failing a few attempts, the kid nailed it and was rewarded with cheers from the older jumpers.
  • She left the stage a little taller. A little stronger.
A man poses next to a bronze statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A line of people waited to pose with the Arnold statue outside the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Photo: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

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