JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Months of training and years of experience were put to the test March 15, as more than 40 powerlifting contenders during 2014 Military National Championships in Kileen, Texas.
One Airman, a powerlifting veteran of nearly 30 years, approached the stage, chalked up his hands, and made his second attempt at breaking the military national and American powerlifting record.
Within a matter of seconds, the Airman broke the five-year record with a colossal 633-pound deadlift.
"The lift was good," said Chief Master Sgt. Troy Saunders, the Pacific Air Forces vehicle management functional manager. "I feel extremely fortunate to be able to keep doing what I do as I close in on 30 years of competing."
Saunders broke nine new powerlifting records while competing in March. His lifts for the squat, bench press and deadlift totaled 1,526 pounds, earning him 11 gold medals, five military national and four American records. These consecutive wins allowed him to wrest the Overall Best Raw Lifter title from lifters two decades younger.
"I'm a lot older and there are others stronger than me who compete in the sport," he said. "I'm ecstatic simply to continue to lift and give it my personal best."
Saunders credits his achievements not only to hard work and dedication, but to those who have helped him along in his career.
"I owe a lot of my success to inspirational people and mentors throughout my time in sports," he said. "I think these people are invaluable to one's success in sports and life."
Saunders has been powerlifting for most of his life and said the lessons and skills learned through the sport have helped him to excel in his personal and professional goals. At the same time Saunders has been coaching nine Air Force lifters who made multiple first place finishes and a Military National 2nd place team award.
Airmen have a duty to maintain their Air Force physical training standards, but can supplement their fitness with other activities such as hiking, swimming, surfing or running, Saunders said. For him, the key to improving physical fitness, he said, is to find and engage in activities that are enjoyable and to have more than a desire for medals.
Saunders also recommends that Airmen explore ways to incorporate their families into fitness and health endeavors.
"Encourage your family and friends to get involved and get active," he said. "Physical activity allows people to spend time as a family unit and improve family resiliency through support and motivation."