R.J. Gardner will compete in powerlifting in the Special Olympics Florida State Games next month.
Weightlifting was new to R.J. Gardner when he took it up for Special Olympics several months ago, but the track and field star took to it quickly. Competing in the bench press and deadlift, Gardner placed first overall at both the county and area games and will try and three-peat at the Special Olympics Florida State Games from Nov. 15-17. When Gardner’s not pumping iron, he’s helping out the Plant City Dolphins Varsity football team as a member of its coaching staff.
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You’re going to states pretty soon, are you excited?
What made you want to try powerlifting?
My coach, Charlie Timmons, inspired me.
Have you ever lifted before?
This was my first time.
What was it like when you first started? Did you feel good about it?
Yeah, I felt good.
Which lifts do you do?
Bench press and deadlifting.
What are you maxing out at?
My bench press is 80 pounds and my deadlift is 140.
What was it like competing this season?
It was fun and exciting. Stressful sometimes.
What was the most stressful thing about it?
My coach was pushing me harder.
When did you get more confident with lifting?
After my first competition. I got first place at counties.
How did you stay calm out there?
I took deep breaths and pretended no one was there.
What’s the best advice your coach gave you for lifting?
Before every lift, take a deep breath.
What do you for training besides your competition lifts?
I do push-ups and work out with dumbbells. I can do 25 push-ups.
How long do you plan to keep powerlifting?
For a really long time.
Are you trying any new sports soon?
Basketball is soon, I’m bowling this weekend and I want to try flag football.
For anybody else who wants to try powerlifting, what advice would you give them for getting started?
Eat healthy and practice, practice, practice.