AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --
Sweat has built up from her palms to her feet. A drop trickles down her forehead as the veins project from the sides of her neck and arms. Her body is saying “stop,” but her mind tells her “one more rep.”
Gathering all the strength she has left, she pushes through to perform that final repetition. And it is complete. A new personal record is set.
Growing up in Honduras, Staff Sgt. Ana Villacorta, 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron production log manager, always knew she was stronger than the rest. She set out 12 years ago to put that strength to good use.
“Growing up my dad was the strongest person I knew,” said Villacorta. “I was always so amazed by him. As I got older, people would always tell me ‘Ana you’re really strong’ and I didn’t really think anything of it, but one day my friend convinced me to try powerlifting and I was better than I expected.”
Though powerlifting requires a certain amount of strength, Villacorta emphasized the importance of patience and the discipline needed to excel.
“When I first started, I was discouraged considering I was only lifting a small amount,” said Villacorta. “I didn’t realize it took time and effort. But once I figured out proper techniques, I had it down. I started really competing and taking it seriously. Now I can do a combined powerlift of 1,000 pounds, which is really impressive for someone my size.”
Through her hard work and perseverance, Villacorta has left her mark throughout the U.S. Not only does she hold powerlifting records in Texas and Nevada, her outstanding performance earned her a qualifying spot at the powerlifting world championship.
Villacorta is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. Before joining the U.S. Air Force, she was enlisted in the Honduran military. She recalled her primary job there was more combative, which differs tremendously from her current duties.
“It is not like this military where you have different career fields,” said Villacorta. “We were constantly in combat mode. I think that’s how I focused all my strength: being able to do all the different types of physical activities.”
Villacorta has had to put her resiliency skills to good use throughout her life and has done it with a smile on her face. One of the early obstacles she encountered in her U.S. Air Force career was due to the fact that Spanish was her primary language.
“While I was at basic training, that was when I learned a good amount of English,” said Villacorta. “That was another hurdle I had to overcome on top of moving from one military to another. I was always singled out since my English wasn’t very good. I would always get my facing movements wrong; when they would call left, I would go right. Of course, they would yell at me, but I would go back and laugh about it because I really didn’t know.”
Prior to deploying to Al Dhafra, Villacorta had already solidified her role in the powerlifting community. She wanted to share her knowledge with people who have the same interests, so she initiated a new powerlifting club on the installation. Alongside her, Master Sgt. Shawn McCarther, 380th EFSS Roy’s Dining Facility manager, oversees the lifting club and provides a different perspective.
“It’s amazing to be able to partner with her,” said McCarther. “She has such a high level of knowledge and experience under her belt. Her experience and point of view combined with mine allows us to bounce ideas and techniques off each other, resulting in a flawless program.”
As someone who exudes confidence and faces even the most unfamiliar situations with tenacity, Villacorta has a strong determination which is reflected in her day-to-day life as well as her powerlifting hobby.
“Powerlifting has opened so many doors and given me opportunities I never knew were possible,” said Villacorta. “If you would’ve asked me 12 years ago if I thought I’d be competing in powerlifting world championships or even hold state records I’d never believe it. But I have accomplishments that I am so proud of. I genuinely love powerlifting and that’s the reason I wanted to start a club over this deployment. I want to connect with other people who have common interests and set goals together.”
The Al Dhafra Air Base powerlifting club meets every Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1800 at the CrossFit gym.