SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - The duties and responsibilities of military spouses can be a heavy load to carry for anyone. One military spouse, however, has been able to lift much more than most (and earn many medals while doing it).

Jonna "JoJo" Ocampo is a military spouse and a three-time Team USA gold medalist in powerlifting. Standing only five feet tall and weighing 105 pounds, Ocampo was ranked sixth in the world for her weight class at the Open World Powerlifting Championships in New Delhi, India, in Nov. 2009.

Before she started competing in powerlifting, Ocampo was an amateur fitness and figure competitor. She won several competitions, including twice winning the title of "Miss Figure America," and was ranked in the top eighteen women in the world.

Ocampo got her start in powerlifting when she and her husband moved to Fort Hood, Texas. There she joined the Army Phantom Warriors Powerlifting Team and started competing with other service members and spouses in 1998.

While training and competing with this team, Ocampo was nicknamed "JoJo," by her coach and has been known by this name in the powerlifting circuit ever since.

"No matter where I go in the world," says Ocampo, smiling, "People always remember (the name) 'JoJo.'"

Ocampo's dedication earned her a spot on the Army powerlifting team. The team is predominantly females of all shapes and sizes, with weight classes ranging from 105 to 200 pounds.

The sport involves three events: performing the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. "Powerlifting is understanding how your body works and what type of technique works for your body. There is nobody that can lift the same way as you," said Ocampo. "People use different techniques like squatting with a narrow or a wide stance when they train and compete."

"In a competition whoever lifts the most weight technically correct wins," continued Ocampo.

Ocampo can lift close to three times her own body weight in deadlifting, which is 292 pounds; she squat lifts 286 pounds; and she can bench press 154 pounds, which is world-class material for female powerlifters, and enough to make some men feel inadequate.

A powerhouse in a small package, Ocampo believes part of her appeal to the powerlifting community is the image of someone so small being so strong.

According to Ocampo, audiences abroad tend to react positively to her form and sometimes unusual lifting mannerisms.

"I have some martial arts background," stated Ocampo. "Crowds in Asia love it when I lift with a 'Kyah!' It's just how I lift, but they love it."

After winning specific powerlifting events, Ocampo advanced to world and international level competitions. "International competitions are the best part of the sport," Ocampo said. "It is not just about the competition, but the whole experience of meeting people all over the world, making friends and visiting new places." So far she's competed in the U.S., Norway, Brazil, and India.

Ocampo is the first powerlifter in America to be invited to train abroad by the Chinese Taipei (or Taiwan) powerlifting team, one of the strongest performing teams in the world. It was not because she was the strongest lifter, but what the Chinese team saw within her which led the team's coach to invite her to train with them. She plans to train with them to prepare for the World Championships in South Africa later this year.

According to Ocampo, powerlifting gives her the strength and drive she needs to push herself to do better and to keep going.

"The sport is not about what the person looks like, (physical appearance) but is about lifting the most weight that the person possibly can the day of the competition," said Ocampo.

The experience of powerlifting around the world is more to her than just a personal experience, Ocampo admitted. She shares her performances and successes with her team and her country as her contribution to the Nation.

Even with her incredible success, the result of years of training and sacrifice, Ocampo feels her contribution is small in comparison to the hardship which spouses endure during the deployments of their loved ones, and the sacrifices her husband, and Soldiers like him, endure as part of their service to the country.

"It is harder to be an Army spouse than to compete in powerlifting -- especially during deployment -- but the sport has been a positive influence on me," said Mrs. Ocampo. "It has been my stress release, a way of bettering myself, a way for me to achieve my goals ... Before I get out on the stage I am thinking 'boy this hurts, but what my husband is doing is a hundred times harder."

Ocampo is married to Maj. Lou Ocampo, Assistant to the Chief of Information Operations, Division G3 at Headquarters, 25th Infantry Division. He supports his wife's athletic career by contributing to her sponsorship.

"My husband is in the military; he fights for his country. That is the way he serves his country. Powerlifting is a way I can fight for my country," explained Ocampo. "On the platform I feel a sense of pride, a sense of personal accomplishment that nobody can ever take away from me."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16