Professional Strongwoman Gabriele Burgholzer reveals energy in sport and repair

Imagine you are at the Arnold Sports Festival and you are among the best in the world in your sport and preparing to compete. Gabriele Burgholzer knows this feeling well. At the 2022 Arnold Pro Strongwoman competition, Burgholzer was one of the 10 Strongest Women in the World competing in Columbus, OH.

Burgholzer finished eighth, but the connection for Burgholzer goes much deeper than just being a contestant. Born in Austria, she feels connected to her host, fellow Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger - she is even known as the "Austrian Oak Woman".

"I would almost like to say that I followed in his footsteps a bit because he also left Austria to go overseas and make a name for himself," said Burgholzer.

Burgholzer spent her entire childhood in Austria. In their home country, men must join the military before moving on with the rest of their lives.

"In Austria it is compulsory for all men to serve in the military for a few months to gain experience," she said. "So, my two brothers, my father, grandfather, great-grandfather and so on all served in Austria."

Courtesy of Gabriele Burgholzer

GABRIELE BURGHOLZER HONORS BY SERVING

After graduating from high school, Burgholzer came to America in 2007 as an exchange student. Because she loved being in the United States so much, she decided to stay here permanently. However, she wanted more than just living here. She wanted to show her appreciation for the country she now calls home. So she enlisted in the US Army.

“I was offered a lot of opportunities here that I wouldn't have been given in Austria, in my opinion. I just wanted to give something back to the community. In a way, I wanted to thank the US for letting me be and stay here and for all the opportunities that have been given to me.”

Burgholzer has served in the US Army for nine years and her current rank is Staff Sergeant. Her travels have taken her from Fort Jackson, SC, where she performed in Basic Training, to Texas, rth Carolina and even Hawaii. She is currently based in Fort Knox, KY.

Honors she has received include the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, three Army Commendation Medals and more. In February 2019, she tried out for the US Army Warrior Fitness Team. As of August this year, she is the only strong competitor on the team. Burgholzer had nothing to do with fitness as a child, but she has developed a passion for strength and power.

"I tried bodybuilding, but I didn't think it was really my forte. I preferred lifting heavy to looking good on stage.”

Gabriele Burgholzer deadlifting truck tires on a barbellCourtesy of Gabriele Burgholzer

STRENGTH AND SERVICE IS THE KEY

The strong woman's sport proved to be the right choice for Burgholzer. She entered her first competition, a local competition, in 2019. As of 2020, she was crowned America's Strongest Woman.

“Being a strong woman and having big muscles used to be frowned upon. So (the cheers) got me going and pushed me in that direction, and I haven't stopped since.

Gabriele Burgholzer placed second at the 2021 America's Strongest Woman competition the following year. Her first international competition came when she competed at the Arnold in March 2022. Staff Sargeant Burgholzer explained the feeling of representing their new home country in an international competition under the bright lights of Columbus.

"It felt incredible. It was an incredible honor," she shared. "If you told me that I would compete with the best athletes in the world in my sport and represent both Austria and the USA on this stage, I would have thought you crazy. It's a memory I will cherish forever."

Burgholzer may not have won this competition, but more international competitions will surely follow and she will be ready. Aside from her dedication to education, her service and work in the army was an asset to prepare mentally as well.

"I think as soldiers or other service members, we're taught from day one to have discipline. I think that for any sport this is one of the basics that you have to have. You have to be disciplined throughout your training, your diet, your sleep, everything to be in peak condition," she explained. "I really thank the Army for helping me teach myself this discipline."

Gabriele Burgholzer wins America's Strongest Woman competitionCourtesy of Gabriele Burgholzer

DISCIPLINE ABOVE ALL

Gabriele Burgholzer made it clear that she was referring to discipline and not motivation because, as all athletes who compete know, motivation may not be there every day.

“Just like in the army there are some things you have to force yourself to do, there are days when you have to do that in the gym too. There are always good days and bad days.”

Burgholzer underwent several surgeries after the Arnold contest which have kept her from returning to strength for now, but she will come back and already has goals in mind. One of those goals actually lies in another sport - powerlifting.

“I want to set the world record in the bench press. I recently hit 325 pounds and have no technique at the moment. So I'm working on that and I'm hoping to break the record in my weight class, which I think is 380."

Gabriele Burgholzer owes much of her success in strength and life to the military, and she believes everyone should understand what it's like to serve this nation.

"Actually, I think everyone should serve in the military for a few years. It's really helped me learn more about myself, improve discipline and it's given me the opportunity to get a bigger perspective of what the military members are doing for this country," she explained, "it's helped me too." Appreciation given for the freedom I have we all must have. So, anyone considering joining, please do so. Of course, do some research to find out which branch is best for you.”

t only does she want to be one of the best in her sport, she wants to be one of the best in her sport. Burgholzer would like to encourage more women to do weight training in general so that they can become their strongest personality.

"To all the women out there, not just in service, but to all women, join a strength sport. Don't let society dictate how you should look or what you should or shouldn't lift. Come with me."

Follow Gabriele on Instagram: @gabi_theaustrianoaktress

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