FORT KNOX, Ky. -- At 4 feet 10 inches tall and poised to compete on the world's stage in powerlifting, U.S. Army Human Resources Command (HRC) Sgt. 1st Class Celina Flores is an inspiration to other Soldiers and civilians.
Placing first in the Drug-Tested Tennessee State Championship, she qualified to compete in the 56 kilogram weight class at the International Powerlifting League World Championship in Ireland. She will have three attempts to lift the maximum weight she can on a squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Flores said she looks forward to competing. "I'm proud that I'll be representing both the U.S. and the Army. I'm looking forward to meeting powerlifters from around the world and to making my colleagues and family proud."
Flores began powerlifting to relieve stress during her first deployment to Iraq, but didn't become serious about competing until January 2016.
"I saw other women who were super strong and that inspired me to improve," she said.
In three short years she has progressed to a 225-pound back squat, a 160-pound bench press, and a 259-pound deadlift.
The goal in competing, she said, is not a certain score or medal hanging around your neck but setting a personal record by lifting heavier than the time before.
"I do what I do for the love of the sport, but I also love showing other women that it's okay to enjoy lifting weights. I feel powerful when I'm lifting."
Prior to her win in Tennessee, Flores set the Drug-Tested Kentucky State Bench Press Record, her fifth record in the state. She also holds the current military national bench press record.
Flores, who has four months to prep for the world competition in October, regularly works with an online fitness coach. She practices squats and bench presses three to four times per week and deadlifts two to three times per week. She shares videos with her coach who analyzes her form and helps plan her training regimen. Her online coach will travel with her to Ireland for the world competition later this fall.
"Powerlifting is obviously not my full time job," she said. "I'm a Soldier and a single parent so fitting training in before or after work is hard. I just try to stay focused on my goal - to lift heavier than ever before at the world championship."
Flores balances this training with taking care of her biggest fan, 9-year-old Damien; her regular physical fitness schedule; and her work as a Senior Human Resources Sergeant. Flores and her colleagues on the Recruiter Team in the Nominations Branch place Soldiers in recruiting school and on assignments.
Her team was recognized earlier in the year by the U.S. Army Recruiting Command for helping meet the Chief of Staff of the Army's 100% manning requirements, directly contributing to Army readiness.
Whether she's lifting more than double her body weight in the gym or at HRC helping meet the Army's recruiting and retention goals, Flores is a force to be reckoned with."Sometimes people are surprised to learn I'm a powerlifter," she said. "I like showing them that strength comes in all sizes and hopefully inspire them to try different sports to discover what they are capable of."