Jun. 19—Claude Welcome, the ageless strongman, powered his way to a national championship.
After more than a year of uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic and few competitions, the 69-year old won the weight class for his age group in the bench press in Daytona Beach, Florida, on Thursday at the USA Powerlifting National Championships.
Welcome, the founder and longtime coach of the Abington Heights powerlifting team, qualified for the World Championships and has his sights set on a world record.
In the championships, Welcome had a winning press of 303 pounds. Initially, there were three invitees for the Master IV (70-79 years old) division in the 205-pound weight class, but his reputation of lifting impressive weight totals preceded him, and the other athletes moved to different classes which left him only needing to do a successful lift to win.
He lifted 293 pounds and then 303 pounds before a failed attempt at a record weight of 308.5.
"I have been doing this for a long time and I thought this might be my last year competing, so I wanted to put a lot of emphasis on this year with the goal of beating the world record of 308 and go out with a bang, so to speak," said Welcome, who traveled two days by car to Florida and stayed in Virginia on Friday night on his way home.
"I had no pressure to win because the other athletes dropped out of my division. Now, we will see if I can get the record in October."
With his championship, Welcome qualified to compete in the World Championships which take place in October in Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic. He has another option, too, which is to compete in the North American Powerlifting Federation Championships, which are also in October and are in the Bahamas. Athletes can only set world records at international competitions.
After his victory, Welcome plans to take two to three weeks to rest and recover before starting his training with a timeline to peak for either of those meets. Normally, he does his bench press workouts twice a week.
"I have to be careful with my training because If I get injured, it's months to recover," Welcome said. "Up through the beginning of August, I will be doing more body conditioning with more reps and lighter weight. Later in August, I will focus on peaking out in October and when the meet gets closer, I will increase the weight gradually."
Welcome represented the United States at the World Championships in Tokyo, Japan, in 2019. He placed fourth in the Masters III division (60-69 years of age) at the 105 kilogram (231 pounds) class, which was a class higher than he normally competed that year.
To prepare for this championship meet, he worked out at home through the pandemic and then returned to the Abington Heights weight room in January. Welcome also competed in a few smaller bench press meets in New York and lifted 308 pounds, which earned him his invitation to the national competition.
Welcome, who turns 70 in August, started his weight lifting journey in the early 1970s when, as a student at Marietta College, he won a national championship at 198 pounds. He also competed for decades in the three lifts of powerlifting: the bench press, the deadlift and the squat. However, after having two knees replaced and a hip replacement procedure, he now specializes in the bench press.
"People say I am unique, because I am this old and can still do it," Welcome said. "I always say, there are a lot of other unique people all around the world who can do this. It's still good to compete."
Earlier this month, two of Welcome's pupils won national championships. Bodie LaCoe set an American record for his total lift of 480 kilograms (1,058 pounds) in the Men's Raw High School V Division in the 53 kilogram weight class and Christian Lezinski won the Men's Raw Teen II (16-17-year old) Division at 120 kilograms with a three-lift total of 597.5 kilograms (1,317 pounds) at the USA Powerlifting High School and Teen Championships in
Mann on deck
Clarks Summit's Steve Mann, also a former lifter for Welcome at Abington Heights and multi-time champion, competes in the three-lift USA Powerlifting Open National Championships today in Daytona Beach.
It is Mann's first Open National Championship competition since he won the title in 2015 when the then 40-year-old won the Open Division and the Masters Division overall crowns in the 264-pound weight class and set an American record in the squat.
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