RACINE — Gretchen Herrmann never considered herself an athlete.
When she started working with a personal trainer, it was for practical reasons.
“Just to get stronger, so I could pick myself up if I fell down or something like that,” said Gretchen, a 62-year-old Racine native.
Then she heard the national anthem waiting to compete at her first lifting competition.
“I couldn’t stand it. Tears were running down my eyes and I was like, 'Geez, get a grip.' But it was real. I was like, 'Shoot, I guess I am an athlete,' ” said Gretchen.
Gretchen came home with some hardware that day. No surprise to Ernie Zuberbuehler, her trainer and professional motivator.
“Once we realized how strong she was on the bench press she was told she was the second strongest female, and that didn’t sit well with her,” said Ernie, owner and operator of Balance Fitness Solutions.
From that moment, the “Racine Machine” was on a path, pressing her ticket to the 2019 Worlds in Tokyo.
“We’re gunning for it, and then I get a message one morning saying Tokyo is off because she lost her job,” said Ernie.
But like a true athlete, Gretchen found a way to compete. After meeting with a financial adviser, Tokyo was back on. The only thing in her way was Eva Speth, the world record holder in her category; that is until Gretchen got her turn at gold.
“It felt good to beat her, I’ll admit it,” said Gretchen.
What also felt good was hearing the song that made her realize she could be anything she wanted to be.
“There I was on the top one, and they played the national anthem, and it was crazy. It was nuts,” said Gretchen.
“There I was on the top one, and they played the national anthem, and it was crazy. It was nuts.” — Gretchen Herrmann
93.5 kilos put this Wisconsin native into the record books. Trying something new got her gold.
“Whether your 62, or 58, or 27, you got to try stuff. And if you don’t like it, you're no worse off for trying. Then who knows, it takes you halfway around the world, gives you a world record or a gold medal,” said Gretchen.