Jan Todd

Women’s Hall of Fame – 2004

Name: Janice (Jan) Todd, Ph.D.
Date of Birth: 5-22-1952
Hometown: Lock #4, Penna (Birthplace); Graduated high school in Plant City, Fla.
Current Residence: 10001 Wild Dunes Drive; Austin, Texas
Current Pursuits: Founder and Director of the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas at Austin; Professor, Department of Kinesiology & Health Education, The University of Texas at Austin; Co-editor of Iron Game History: The Journal of Physical Culture. I also work as co-director of the Arnold Strongest Man Contest held each year in conjunction with the Arnold Classic.

Lifting History

When did you get involved with powerlifting and what got you interested in the sport? I began lifting in 1973 shortly after marrying Terry Todd who was powerlifting’s first superheavyweight champion for men. I didn’t compete in a contest, however, until May of 1975 when I lifted at the Chatanooga Open and broke my first record.

Powerlifting Accomplishments

1981     First woman inducted into International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) Hall of Fame

1975     Broke 49 year old Guinness record in the two-hand deadlift with a lift of 394.5 pounds in first competition. Chattanooga, Tennessee.

1976     First woman to officially exceed 400 pounds in any powerlift with a deadlift of 412 pounds, Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada.

1977     First Place, All American Women’s Open, Nashua, New Hampshire. (This was the first sanctioned national meet for women.)

1978     First woman to total over 1, 000 pounds in the three powerlifts (squat, bench press and deadlift), Stephenville Crossing, Newfoundland, Canada.

1977     First woman to officially squat more than 400 pounds.

1978     First woman to total over 1100 pounds in the three powerlifts, Stephenville Crossing, Newfoundland, Canada.

1979     Lifted the highest total of any woman in the First IPF Women’s World Championships, Billerica, Massachusetts.

1979     First and, as far as I know still the only woman to lift the famous Dinnie Stones in Scotland. [In the highlands of Scotland, lifting boulders was one of the rites of passage into manhood, thus they are called “manhood stones.] The Dinnie Stones, at 780 pounds, are the heaviest such stones in Scotland and have been lifted by only a few men over the centuries.

1981     First woman to exceed 500 pounds in any powerlift: 507-pound squat, Memphis, Tennessee.

1981     Established my highest world records in the heavyweight division: world record squat of 545.5 pounds, world record deadlift of 479 pounds, and world record total of 1229.5 pounds. Columbus, GA.

1982     First woman to total over 1200 pounds in the three powerlifts, Atlanta, Georgia.

1982     First athlete (male or female) to establish a world record in the newly formed American Drug Free Powerlifting Association: 446-pound deadlift at a bodyweight of 148 pounds, Mobile, Alabama.

1983     World record deadlift of 474.5 pounds at a bodyweight of 146 pounds (USPF nationals)

1984     American Drug Free National Powerlifting Championships–Gold Medal.

1984     American Record deadlift: 463.5 pounds at a bodyweight of 163.

1996     American Master’s (40-44) Record in deadlift of 425 pounds. American Drug Free Powerlifting Association, Austin, Texas.

In ten years of competition, I lifted in only one meet in which I did not exceed at least one national or world record. I may also be the only lifter who has set records in five bodyweight divisions. In front of witnesses in Austin, Texas, in 1980, I lifted 1230 pounds [with straps] in a partial deadlift while training to lift the Dinnie Stones. My Guinness recognized record in this lift is 925 pounds. With former men’s world champion, Larry Pacifico, I also held the man-woman deadlift record at 1100 pounds. From 1975 to 1986, I was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having lifted more weight than any other woman in history and was called by Sports Illustrated “The Strongest Woman in the World.” (November 1977)

Coaching & Sport Administration

I was directly involved in the development of the sport of women’s powerlifting. Cindy Reinhoudt and I drafted the first rules to govern women’s competitions and I helped Joe Zarella organize the first national women’s meet in 1977. When I moved back to the United States from Canada, in 1979, I became Chairwoman of the United States Powerlifting Federation’s Women’s Committee, a post I held until 1984. I wrote the first constitution for the Women’s Committee of the USPF; lobbied for and ultimately achieved autonomy for the women’s committee; but finally abandoned the USPF when I could not convince the organization to institute a steroid testing program for women lifters. I was elected to the USPF Executive Committee [for men and women] in 1979, the first woman to serve in that post. In addition, I served from 1979 to 1984 as Chairwoman of the International Powerlifting Federation’s Women’s Committee and helped to draft the international rules for women. I was also on the IPF drug testing committee for several years.

In 1981 [Calcutta, India] and in 1984 [Dallas, Texas] I was chosen as the coach of the USPF’s Men’s World Championship Team. Both teams won first place in the world championships. I believe I’m the only woman in to have ever served as head coach of a men’s team at the World Powerlifting Championships. I was also head coach in 1991 and 1984 of the USPF Women’s World Championships teams, both of which won their respective championships.

At the collegiate level, I coached the University of Texas Longhorns to numerous ADFPA Men’s and Women’s National Collegiate Championships between 1986 and 1996. (I then retired as the UT coach.) I also coached the men’s women’s team at Auburn University and produced many collegiate and national champions.

In 1982 my husband, Terry, and I promoted the USPF Women’s National Championships at Auburn University.

Most memorable lifters? in you career: If I could, I’d like to qualify this a bit.

In terms of athleticism—sheer raw talent for lifting—the two women who impressed me the most back when I was lifting were Majik Jones who did an over 400 pound deadlift in the 105 pound class (clean) and Terri Ptomey (also clean—and who I coached) who beat Jennifer Weyland at the 1982 women’s nationals. Both these women were extraordinarily gifted and sadly, both faded very quickly from the scene. However, the person I believe should be considered the most significant lifter of my generation is Judy Gedney. When you look at all her accomplishments—her dozens of records, her numerous world and national championships—and all her years of service as a coach, administrator, referee, etc., there is no one who has contributed in so many ways to the sport. And, when you consider that she didn’t really begin lifting until she was about 40—what she’s achieved is truly remarkable. She is without equal.

As for men—Mark Henry would top my list. I first saw Mark lift at the state high school meet here in Texas where he squatted over 800 pounds back in 1990. Although his powerlifting career has been brief because of his involvement with Olympic lifting and pro-wrestling, I’ve never been around anyone who possessed his level of natural strength. I’d also have to list Bill Kazmaier, who trained with me in the early 1980s. I will never forget the meet in Columbus, GA in 1981 when be both broke the men’s total record and I broke the women’s total on the same day. And, finally, I’d have to list Terry Todd, my husband. Terry not only had a great influence on my lifting career but encouraged and supported me in my work as an administrator and on behalf of drug testing. He’s also had a profound influence on many other male and female lifters as a coach and as a promoter. As your name goes down in history, what would you like to be most remembered for: I would hope I’d be remembered as a pioneer, of course, someone who both as a lifter and as an administrator helped made it possible for women’s lifting to first be accepted and then to grow in popularity. Of all the things I did in those early days, however, the thing I’m most proud of is the stance that I (and my husband Terry) took on the drug issue. I tried to demonstrate as a lifter that women could be very strong and still be clean, and I did my best to work for meaningful drug testing in both the USPF and, later, the ADFPA.

What words of wisdom would you like to pass down to the future female powerlifters:

  1. Try to think of strength as an aspect of humanity and not something that’s gendered. I think a lot of women—even now—are limited in their pursuit of strength by our cultural identification with strength as “masculine” and weakness as “feminine.” But strength is no more masculine than is speed, and I can’t imagine anyone anymore who believes that women should not run as fast as they can.
  2. Get involved with the administration of powerlifting. For women’s powerlifting to continue to grow, more women need to become involved as referees, state chairpersons, and to serve in a variety of other administrative capacities. Women can only have a meaningful voice in running their own affairs if they take the time to get involved in administration as well as lifting.
  3. Thank your coaches for the hundreds of hours they devote to your training and success. Coaches are the unsung heroes of the powerlifting world and I know I would never have achieved even a fraction of what I did if it wasn’t for my coach, Terry Todd, who showed me the way.