Body builder believer in power of sport for women
Maria Oliphant-O’Donnell is a champion body builder and passionate believer in the power of sport for women.
My name is Maria Oliphant-O’Donnell.
I’m 53yrs old, married to the wonderful Shane O’Donnell (dairy farmer) and have two beautiful children Giovanna (13yrs old) and Fabian (11yrs old).
I am originally from Cape Town, South Africa, and I am a retired secondary teacher and current owner-operator of two dairy farms.
My sport is Figure Body Building. I am the first ever Southland Overall Figure Champion.
I am passionate about health in all forms; physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – as well as fitness and exercise. I also love helping people. I love my family and I love people.
My friend Fen (may she rest in peace) was a spiritual healer from South Africa. She taught me to find my own light, nurture it and let it shine bright. This light will attract like minded people and together we can all make a difference to others seeking that light.
I come from a very sporty family. My older brothers all played soccer and other sports at a high level. Growing up in South Africa under an apartheid regime we adopted the All Blacks as our rugby team because the Springboks at the time did not represent all the cultures in the sport. Our family went mad when the All Blacks came to South Africa. As a 7-year-old I thought they were gods.
They will always be my No.1 team no matter what! I also spent every Saturday and Sunday on the soccer and netball fields, cheering on my brothers and friends and playing netball. As a teenager I also started competing at home with my brothers with weightlifting. We would crank out 1000 sit-ups in one go to see who is the fittest. I always won!
I was invited to represent New Zealand in body building at the Worlds in the Philippines for the first time. It was amazing! I placed 3rd in the world. I was the first ever overall Southland Figure Champion and I won Sportswoman of the year twice in a row for body building back in South Africa when I was at university.
Sport gives you an opportunity to test your limits, get to know your strengths and weaknesses, and make you a better person physical and mentally. You also get the opportunity to inspire and help others. I am very grateful to my wonderful friend Precious McKenzie (NZ Powerlifting legend) for all the support he gave me over the years and the inspiration he gave me to do my best, no matter the origins of your circumstances. His personal story truly inspired me.
Watching my daughter, who is immensely talented at most sports, win her events, races etc, inspired me to keep at my sport because being part of my journey inspired her to be her best. I decided early on in my body building journey to be a positive role model every day. I eat a healthy plate of food with the family, explain to them what is on the plate and how it helps the body and, when I have tough days regarding training or am low on energy, I make the best decision possible - either take the day off, listen to your body or change your mindset and go for it!
Women and girls are an integral part of our society. We are all someone’s mother, spouse, daughter, friend, aunty, sister and perform many other roles in our daily lives. We need to be valued because we put ourselves out there every day to help inspire and support others – whether it be our own families or friends or strangers.
We do this by being positive and healthy role models. Women and girls have great ideas on how to help or improve society, or help the less fortunate through sport and sporting connections.
Women help to create a “team” culture, and a caring culture through volunteering and organising and being part of speaking events.
When I am around other sportswomen I tend to enjoy myself more, I get really inspired by peoples’ stories and end up laughing a lot!