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Joliet mom excels at ancient mixed martial art

LaurElder-Hill  poses Force Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Burr Ridge. l Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media

Laura Elder-Hill poses at Force Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Burr Ridge. l Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 9, 2011 8:17AM

She’s not your average suburban mom.

Laura Elder-Hill, a 41-year-old Joliet mother of three, is a mixed martial arts fighter who recently won a gold medal at the World Pankration Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

“Winning the gold was amazing. Even though there is a lot of people in the world who don’t really know what pankration is,” said Elder-Hill, a member of Team USA Pankration, which brought home the silver cup.

Pankration was first introduced in the 648 B.C. Greek Olympic Games. It’s a mixed martial art that is a free-fighting combat sport without hitting the face. It’s a combination of kicking, striking and submissions.

Elder-Hill is one of three women on the 12-member team.

“I think if more women understood the opportunities available to them — the opportunity to represent our country and compete against other women from all over the world ‹ we would have a full women’s team,” she said.

Such opportunities have taken Elder-Hill to competitions around the globe, and she also opened up her own business, Xtreme Gear, which supplies training competition gear and apparel.

In 2004, Laura enrolled her daughter in an after-school program that included martial arts training.

“During the summer they offered the kids to continue their training, and I thought I’d bring my boys as well as my daughter to learn self-defense,” she said.

Elder-Hill was watching her kids practice when she started paying more attention to what was happening on the mat.

“So I decided I wanted to try it,” she said. “I was 260 pounds, and I thought maybe I should lose weight first, and one day I was like, ‘I just don’t know what I’m waiting for, I’m 34 years old.’”

Edler-Hill started taking mixed martial arts and jiu jitsu classes, then began competing in those disciplines. In 2008 her coaches were selected as the officials for Team USA Pankration.

“We went to the trials to try out and I was one of the females selected for the team and we went to Albania that year,” she said. “In 2009 I tried out again and I went to Lithuania.”

She made the cut again this year, earning her the trip to Serbia.

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