Lifting spirits

The four powerlifters who attended the world championships (from

The denizens of Planet Fitness earn trophies and friends
An oral surgeon and a 73-year-old retiree.

Not only are they members of the party of five that recently traveled from the Planet Fitness in Gilroy to the World Powerlifting Championships in Reno, Nev, but they also represent the diversity of a sport commonly viewed by outsiders as a haven for ultra-competitive steroid-pumpers who live at the gym.

Sure, Joe McMurray is a 41-year-old who begins each and every weekday with a 5am workout at the downtown Gilroy gym. But it’s just a warmup for the surgeries he performs later in the morning.

“It’s an interesting transition,” McMurray laughs.

Sure, Jack Peters is in his 70s and still works out three times a week. But it’s just because he thinks golf is way too slow and says lifting “gives you something to strive for.”

“You come in and you feel good when you come out,” says Peters, who lifted 210 pounds in his third trip to Nevada and won his first world title in the 71-75 age bracket.

The good feeling, though, doesn’t just come from topping a personal best, he adds. It doesn’t come from feeling like you could move a train when you walk out of the gym.

It comes from the camaraderie the group enjoys at Planet Fitness’ new Monterey Street location. It comes from the “little help” that’s always there among a group of lifters looking out for each other.

“At my age, I need a little help, especially coming off the bench,” Peters says. “Here any one of these guys will help out without me asking. Without them, I’d be nothing.

“That’s what I like about this place. Nobody’s jealous of anybody. It’s just regular guys helping me out because they know I need help.”

That’s just how it is in powerlifting, says McMurray, who in his third trip to the Worlds bench pressed a personal-best 435 pounds in the open division.

“The first year (at Worlds) I was so nervous and I ran into this big ol’ lifter that had all these awards,” he recalls. “The guy went on to give me a bunch of tips and that really helped cool my nerves. You just don’t see that in other sports.

“It’s a competitive but friendly atmosphere. Everyone is just rooting for everybody to do their best.”

At the four-day competition in Reno, the two Gilroy natives were accompanied by three other gym mates: first-place winners Lorenzo Nino and Adolfo Davila, and Al Tortorelli, who finished third after dead-lifting a California state record of 584 pounds.

The five locals competed against over 700 lifters from around the globe. Some were from as far away as Europe and South America. Some were from the plains of Texas and Oklahoma.

“They were just a bunch of big farm boys,” McMurray says of the latter group, “but they were nice as hell. Absolutely great guys.”

That’s typical, adds Davila, who lifted 407 pounds despite weighing just 157.

The 38-year-old Hollister native just started lifting this past summer, but says he’s already picked up on the down-home feel of the sport.

“It was very exciting to go to something like that and meet everyone else and see some of the people you’ve seen in magazines and stuff,” Davila says.

“But you also find out there’s really good people doing this thing. It’s totally different from most sports. There’s no putting down. It’s just doing your best and helping each other out.”

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