Two Montana athletes will test their abilities on a national level when they head to Seattle next week to compete in powerlifting.
Chandler Krahn and Sylvester Vermillion will compete in the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle on July 1-6.
Krahn, of Charlo, is a member of the Charlo Vikings and Vermillion, of Columbia Falls, competes with the Whitefish Thunder team.
At the state Montana Special Olympics Summer Games in Great Falls in May, Krahn and Vermillion both earned gold in powerlifting in their respective weight classes.
Krahn finished with a combined weight total of 850 pounds and Vermillion lifted a combined 1,100 pounds. Weight lifted for the bench press, deadlift and squat individual events are combined into a total powerlifting score.
Both have been training at least four times per week in preparation for the USA Games.
Vermillion says he has some nerves headed into the national games knowing he is facing off against such a large number competitors, but once in Seattle he knows he will be focused on the task in front of him.
“I like it because it’s about competing against yourself,” he said of powerlifting. “It’s thinking about how you did last year and seeing what you can do this year.”
Vermillion began lifting weight on the job doing furniture delivery while living in Chicago. Lifting couches, beds and dressers up narrow flights of stairs proved to be the right preparation for competition. He has been training in powerlifting for about five years.
“About three years ago I thought I had maxed out where I could go, but I keep working,” he said.
Krahn was an offensive and defensive lineman for the Charlo Vikings football team before graduating this spring. He’s been doing powerlifting for three years and says it was a natural transition after weightlifting for sports while in school.
“My dad got me started lifting, but this is my first year in Special Olympics,” he said.
During a recent practice session at The Wave, the athletes took turns lifting on the bench press. Between reps they talked strategy with coaches Mark Kuhr and Rock Henderson, while the coaches made adjustments to their technique.
Henderson recently started working with the athletes and is fairly new to powerlifting himself. He says it’s a sport that is growing around the state and he is having fun watching Krahn and Vermillion improve.
“I see a lot of good progress from them,” he said. “The neat thing about powerlifting is that it’s about you and the weight. Everybody is excited and they’re all out there trying to get a personal record.”
Coach Mark Kuhr praised both athletes for their accomplishment so far just in qualifying for the USA Games.
“This is the first time for two people from Montana have qualified for powerlifting since 2006,” Kuhr said.
More than 4,000 participants representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia are set to compete in 14 Olympic-type team and individual sports during the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.