2019 Strength and Power HoF inductee Linda Jo Belsito




Linda Jo Belsito Biography

By Strength and Power Hall of Fame


My journey into strength sports started early on as an athlete in junior high school, and high school. As a female athlete in 1969 wanting to play sports was sometimes frowned upon, however through my Junior High school, High School years I was a 4 sport student, Volleyball, basketball, Softball and Field Hockey. 

Each year my performance was stronger in Volleyball, and Softball, than the others but felt that I wanted to be doing something athletic, and each end of year was nominated, and voted Athlete of the year at an early age. 

I always dreamed of being on an Olympic Team, I always dreamed of being a champion but as a teenager, had no idea how that could happen, and thought maybe volleyball may be the sport to get me there. 

While in HS a friend and I would sneak into the weight room which at that time was a universal. We would do bench press, pull downs, leg press and shoulder presses 3 rounds and go shower. 


Through HS I also wanted to change the way my body looked and felt and started to run, follow better eating plan, and started to feel better as I weaned my self from sugar, and junk food. 

Then entering community college, I tried out for the Volley ball team realizing at 5’7” I probably was not going to be the best, but gave it my all. I was ultimately cut from the team, but took up a weight lifting course for phys-ed credits in 1975 to learn technique. My goals never left me, I still wanted to compete at something, and al through junior college, lifted and swam, ran, kept active, doing what I felt was helping me stay healthy. 

1977-1980 In Nursing School, I joined a Nautilus club, swam and lifted for stress management between classes, and continued this until I met a Pro Football player

 introduced me to BP in a rack, and BS out of a rack. 

He and the owner of this Nautilus club said I think you may have potential in Powerlifting, and directed me to club close to my home, Olympic Health Club. 

The owner of that club, took me in and introduced me to many of the lifters, 

And others and I knew I was sin the right place. After a few years of training some of the athletes, asked me if I wanted to lift in a meet, and at that time there was only USPF. We did a few contests, and got some experience locally. 

In 1982 I met Dr. Ken Leistner, as a chiropractor and meet director at a local meet. 

He thought I was Bev Francis, and quickly told me I had potential and offered me training at his home, and said he could help me get stronger. At that meet I believe I BS 214 lbs, BP 154, and DL 275. WOOO HOOOO New state records at a body weight of 154 lbs. 

From 1982-1985 trained with Ken, and competed with the newly formed ADFPA the only Drug Free PL Organization doing testing at the time. 

I qualified for my first Nationals in 1985 and took silver, I know I almost won as the first place female in my class, Jan Todd, J missed her first 2 DL, and I would have won first time out if she didn’t pull her third. She did. What an experience this was. 

I can not remember the exact lifts but I did set BP National record at 198 lbs, and took silver. I was so excited. 

It took me 5 more years, and took silver each time, but in 1990 won Nationals, and went to my first Open Worlds, in Paris, as a 154 lb class, and took Gold. 

I thought I had achieved my goal, but met so many great people, athletes, and the travel was awesome, so got home and started planning for next year. 

At the time, 1978-1987 was also doing Body building contests, locally, and took 6th at the Gold’s Classic and won the NPC Ms. Big Apple &    Most Muscular.

But had to make a decision as to which sport I was going to commit to. 

I chose PL, Kenny offered cheesecake. J

My PL career continued until 2001, I continued to compete in the open, and represented the USA at the worlds 8 times, I won 7 Master World PL titles, and 

Held most of the NY State Records, in 154, 176 weight classes. 

I was the first female to break the 1000 lb total, and continued to strive to be the best lifter I could be. It took years to learn how to lift, hold the weight, and once I understood that Ken continued to help me with programming, and mush of my sponsor ship came from corporate / private funding. 

In1998 after winning my 7th Master World Powerlifting Championship in Canada, BS 430, BP 231, and DL 450 lbs, Totaling over 1100 lbs in the year

I felt it may be time to take a rest, but heard women OL was being brought to the Olympics. I started to inquire, and one of my PL coaches took me to Lost Battalion Hall in Queens, and introduced me to Artie Dreschler, and Naum, and Karen Marshall. They were very kind, and introduced me to OL, by giving me a stick, and wooden plates, this was very humbling, but understood this may be uphill quest, but wanted to try. I began training with Artie, and qualified at a local meet for Masters Nationals, at the age of 44 starting a new sport, but felt it was a new challenge, and I wanted to try to see if I could make the Olympic Team. 

In 1999 I went to Masters National, won gold, reset all records, I believe I did a 55 KG snatch, and 80 KG CJ. I was 75 kg lifter and stayed that weight since I also continued to do PL< and Nationals and Worlds. 

In 1999 went to Scotland lifted and won gold and then 6 weeks later went to South Africa, and won Gold in Masters IPF Worlds, and believe I was the first female, master athlete to ever win 2 Worlds in the time line I had. 

To say that my journey over the years, has allowed me to travel compete, and represent the USA over 15 Times, and win Gold, hear the National Anthem, and realize my dream, once the reality hit that there would be no chance for me to be on the Olympic Team learning how the selections were made, and being at the Olympic Trials in MD in 2000 watching the females, and sitting amongst them was an experience I will never forget. 

I knew we were making history as women in the sport and was so proud to be a part as an athlete. 

My career in Olympic Weightlifting has been a journey and I have many titles, National, World, Have won three Master World Games, Won the first Masters World Cup, back in 2014?, was one of the first Masters Athletes offered an opportunity to come to the OTC for a training camp, in 2014, and also have had the honor of meeting many Olympians, training with them, and had Tommy Kono as my coach at my first Maters Nationals in Baton Rouge, and have been coached by Michael Cohen who both have always been instrumental in my success over the years. I have trained with Cheryl Cohen, Carissa Gump, Oscar Chaplain, Cara Heads, and others over the years, and tried to learn from each of them as they have transitioned to the coaching role. 

I have been blessed, with many awards, titles, and have tried to give back over the years, and feel as though I have been one of the females in the PL, and OL sports who paved the way for many who today do not realize how far we have come. 

I was inducted into the USA Powerlfiting Hall of Fame, 1996, and talked into lifting one more time, I BS 380 lbs, BP 165 no shirt, and DL 413 lbs, with 4 weeks of training. 

I was inducted into the Maters Hall of Fame after winning my 10th National title, and it has been an honor. 

I still want to pay it forward and after going active Duty 2001, June, I have had to focus my energies on career, and serving our Nation. 

I continue to coach, train athletes and more recently have started a program at my small facility in Rockville training wounded warriors, who are in program at Walter Reed Medical Treatment Facility, who have returned from war, injured and ill all services have their participants come through my program which is run 

 by volunteer coaches. This program has grown, and as of 2018, I have been selected as the Head PL coach for the USMC. I have been training, coaching, and running trials, and event for them and was again the 2019 Head coach for the USMC, Our athletes keep getting stronger, healthier, and we have taken home, Silver Bronze medals in 2018, and in 2019, 4Golds, 3Silver, and 1 bronze. Our program continues to grow, and we have started a Non profit to help support the program and grow this to be able to offer more time, and classes to the returning wounded and ill. 

My 40 plus years has certainly paid off and led me to this point in my life today.

I feel I have found my WHY in life, coaching, lifting, and paying it forward. 

Will I compete again, sure at some point but for now, and trying to do what I can to Protect, Promote and Advance the Health of our Nation as a CAPT RN, serving in the United States Public Health Service. 


Author: By Strength and Power Hall of Fame | Created: Sun Nov 10 17:52:55 GMT 2019 | Last Updated: Thu Aug 13 20:13:47 GMT 2020