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‘Powerlifting Pops’ hoping to break records at competition

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GRANDVILLE, Mich.-- At nearly 80 years old, one Kent county man is expected to set some world records when it comes to strength.

What's more, he's hoping to inspire athletes of all ages in the process.

Gus Thomas, 79, will be competing against some of the strongest men and women in the state at the 2018 Michigan APF State Meet in powerlifting, set for the weekend of March 10 and 11.

Thomas remembers the first time he stepped into a gym more than 60 years ago.

"I started when I was 18 years-old," Thomas said. "I was in the Air Force, stationed in Thule, Greenland. One workout is what it took and I was hooked.”

At just under six feet tall, 230 pounds and nearly 80 years-old, Thomas quickly caught the attention of a lot of gym members at Maximus Fitness in Grandville.

“The guys around here say, you bench enough, you can set a record," Thomas recalled when he was first approached about competing in powerlifting.

"I thought about it for a minute and thought, nah, and they kept talking to me and finally I decided, okay. I’m going to try it.”

According to his coach, John Pitsch, Thomas can bench press more than 300 pounds and deadlift over 400 pounds. Those are the two big lifts he'll be judged on during the meet.

While those numbers are impressive, it's taken a while to get to this point.

But, Thomas is proud of his journey. He's overcome several obstacles which included multiple lung and knee surgeries. Thomas said he also developed diabetes at one point during his time as a truck driver because the job demands kept him out of the gym.

But, Thomas never gave up and got back into the gym.

“I got on the elliptical and I started using the elliptical every time I came to the gym," Thomas said.

"The next time I went to the doctor, which was about a year later because I quit taking the drug and [the doctor] says, ‘Oh you don’t need drugs.’ My numbers were back in line and I haven’t taken the drug since," Thomas said proudly.

While Thomas credits his faith, his coach and the close-knit group of guys in the gym, he really hopes people realize their own potential.

“Do what you can do. And, don’t worry about those guys that are pressing four to five hundred pounds. You might not ever be able to do that. But, go at your own pace.”

Thomas feels if a person can get past their own self-doubt, then they are already on their way to success.

"That’s the beauty about lifting, if you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you probably can’t." Thomas said.

The 2018 Michigan APF State Meet is set for Saturday, March 10-11 at Devos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. For event details, click here.

Maximus Fitness is hosting a Military Mashup powerlifting meet to benefit the Military Muscle Foundation. It's planned for March 31st from 10am to 5pm at the gym, located at 3079 30th St. SW in Grandville.

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