KINGSTON, R.I. – August 25, 2008 – As the newest member of the Department of Kinesiology, Disa Hatfield should not have any trouble carrying her weight at the University of Rhode Island.
Hired in July as an assistant professor, Hatfield is one of the world’s strongest women. A three-time USA Powerlifting national champion, she is ranked No. 2 nationally in her weight class, and is the fourth-ranked competitor worldwide.
Though highly competitive, lifting is a hobby for Hatfield. Teaching and research are her profession, and URI provided the right blend of the two.
“At smaller schools, you can teach, but you don’t have the resources that allow for research. Some bigger schools are more research driven, but you may miss out on that interaction with the students,” Hatfield said. “I wanted both that interaction and the chance to pursue research, and URI provided that opportunity.”
With a doctoral degree in exercise science from the University of Connecticut (’08) and a master’s degree in psychology from Antioch University (’01), Hatfield brings a unique blend of expertise.
“My interest in young people comes from a desire to help stem osteoporosis,” Hatfield said. “If young women start lifting at 16 years old, it helps prevent health issues later in life. At the same time, it can be difficult to help a 16-year-old girl understand that resistance training now will prevent her from breaking her hip when she is older.”
With her bloodlines in the sport, powerlifting was a natural fit for Hatfield. Her father is Fred Hatfield, better known in the lifting world as Dr. Squat. Inducted into the Powerlifting Hall of Fame in 2000, Fred Hatfield earned his moniker in 1987 when – at 45 years old and 255 pounds – he lifted a world-record 1,014 pounds in the squat.
“I have good genes in the sport, but I didn’t really lift until after I was out of college,” said Hatfield, who graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in 1997. “I weighed 200 pounds before I started lifting, and I thought, ‘What can I do to change that?’ I knew how to lift and I have grown up with it, so that’s what I turned to. Now I’ve been lifting competitively for the last eight and a half years.”
In powerlifting, competitors test their shear physical strength in three techniques: the squat, bench press and the dead lift, with overall rankings determined by total weight.
At the 2008 national championships in Killeen, Tex., she placed second overall in the 75-kilogram weight class with a total weight of 1,190 pounds. She squatted 457 pounds, bench-pressed 292 pounds and dead lifted 440 pounds, getting second place in both the squat and the bench press.
In November, Hatfield will compete at the International Powerlifting Federation World Championships in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. In 2007, she finished fourth overall in the 75-kg weight class, including a second-place finish in the bench press with a lift of 142.5 kg.
This year, Hatfield will drop to the middleweight class (56-60 kg), where she hopes to earn one of two spots on the U.S. team for the 2009 World Games in Kaohshing City, Taiwan. The national team consists of six members, two each in the lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight divisions.
Held one year after each Olympics, the World Games are the equivalent for sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee, but not included in the Olympics.
When she is not on campus or competing, Hatfield works at Next Level Fitness Center in Scituate, where she serves as a strength coach for young athletes. She also trains with former URI field hockey player Jennifer Perry of Woonsocket.
“By working outside of the school environment, it gives me ideas for research,” Hatfield said. “In the research setting, you work in a controlled environment, but there are more variables when you work with people in an outside setting. I want to combine practical application and the controlled setting to learn more about how the body can work.”
Disa Hatfield, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Rhode Island, competes in the squat lift competition at the International Powerlifting Federation World Championships in Austria last November.