Lorraine Lewis, 55, San Tan Valley, Arizona
People tell 55 year old Lorraine Lewis she should write a book about her life. After all, it’s not everyone who has been an American Gladiators champion. She’s started the book, but is too busy living life to finish it. Her latest chapter is this year’s triumphant return to athletic competition by qualifying in triathlon for the 2015 National Senior Games Presented by Humana.
As a gifted athletic youth in San Gabriel, California, Lorraine competed in multiple sports. “But when I got to high school there was no girls’ track and cross country, so the coach let me onto the boys’ teams. While I was running with them people would say I should try out for the Olympics, but my mom wasn’t into sports and told me I was on my own.” She kept the dream alive by joining the Montebello Track Club and racing in AAU events. When she got married and began building an eventual family of seven children, sports were put on hold. “But I never got that desire to compete out of my head.”
18 years ago, the desire resurfaced when she decided to get back in shape and was accepted to be in the iconic CBS TV series American Gladiators. Given the circumstances the day she competed, Lorraine wonders how she managed to win. “I was at my mother’s house and had just put dye on my hair. But they gave me the wrong time to report and I got a call that I was already supposed to be there. I threw myself together and rushed out with my kids and my mom following behind. It was crazy with bumper to bumper traffic and people crowding around the studio. A crew member ran up and took care of my car and the kids and said ‘grab your gear and follow that guy!’ They ran me all the way into the arena.”
Not only did she compose herself and win, she was asked to return two years later with then 12 year old son Jason for a special American Gladiators show pitting them against another mother and son team. “We won that one – it was special to share that experience with him.”
In the passing years Lorraine, now a real estate agent residing in San Tan Valley, Arizona, strayed off the athletic track again and narrowly survived a bout with cervical cancer and radical surgery in 2003. When a screening revealed it came back four years ago, she chose a new path. “Instead of going mainstream medicine, I did a lot of research and changed everything – my stress level, my eating habits, exercise and so on. When I went back in eight months later, they couldn’t find the cancer, and I’ve been clean ever since.
“After I watched a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, I went on a plant based diet and it changed the way my whole family eats. My son had high blood pressure and other problems and doesn’t have them anymore.” Lorraine now does speaking engagements and hosts groups in her home to demonstrate how to prepare healthy meals. “It’s taken me years to gather great recipes that taste out of this world, and that will make you-and even your kids-want to transition away from the ‘garbage food’ and eat all the time. It doesn’t have to be all carrots and celery to eat healthy.”
When she heard about the National Senior Games, Lorraine decided it was time to set new goals. With regular exercise and training, she lost 70 pounds and regained her form. The reward was a Silver Medal in the Idaho Senior Games triathlon qualifier and a ticket to Minnesota and national competition next year.
“I hadn’t done a triathlon in nearly 20 years. For me it’s life changing. I could have stayed on the road I was on. To get healthy and back in shape -there’s just no other feeling like it!”