"I transitioned into powerlifting aged 17."
Iconic TV show Gladiators made a return to screens on January 13, 2024, with Bradley and Barney Walsh presenting the show on BBC One.
It features a mix of new and old events, including the Eliminator finale, which sees the contenders go head-to-head.
When it comes to the show’s Gladiators, Karenjeet Kaur Bains is the first Sikh one.
On the show, she is Athena, the Greek goddess of war.
But away from Gladiators, who is she?
From Warwick, Karenjeet is a champion powerlifter with an impressive array of accolades.
She first represented Team GB at the 2015 Commonwealth Games, breaking two British records at the event and finishing fifth overall.
However, Karenjeet then suffered an injury which meant she could not take part in competitive powerlifting for several years.
She made a comeback and in 2019, Karenjeet became Commonwealth Champion, winning three gold medals and two silver medals.
Five times an All-England Powerlifting Champion and British Powerlifting Champion, the 27-year-old athlete has represented Great Britain at World and European Championships.
Karenjeet even holds the Guinness World Record for “Most Bodyweight Squats in a minute”.
Karanjeet was initially a sprinter before switching to powerlifting at 17, telling Women’s Health:
“I transitioned into powerlifting aged 17.
“Initially, I was curious to get stronger and for my athletics and sprinting to get more explosive.
“I’d never lifted a weight before in my life. But my dad always knew that I was naturally quite strong.
“I started learning how to squat, bench press and deadlift.
“Within three months, he entered me into my first competition. I was still in my PE kit, a sixth-form girl doing A-Levels! I won that competition.
“And then, within six months of having never picked up a weight, I became British champion.”
As Athena, Karenjeet says:
“With wisdom, it’s about outsmarting the contenders and I love bringing that.”
“But she’s also got that speed and agility, she’ll always be thinking ahead and playing fair but she won’t make it easy for them (contenders) either.”
She also wants to prove to women from diverse backgrounds that they can pursue their sporting dreams:
“I represent all those from diverse and minority backgrounds, especially women, that have ever been denied the opportunity to pursue their dreams in sport.
“I hope I can be a role model and show the levels a female can achieve if she is given the opportunity to follow her passion and given the wings to fly.”
On top of her sporting achievements, Karenjeet is also a qualified chartered accountant.
“Outside of Athena, I’m an accountant as well so sky is the limit.
“I think it’s about pushing the boundaries and smashing those stereotypes.
“The thing about being a gladiator is facing your fears, really being up for the challenge.
“It’s an iconic TV programme I’ve heard so much from my parents and my brothers about how incredible it was, so this is a dream come true.”