Lifter Gets Invite to Russia, Needs Financial Lift From Community By MARTY QUEEN
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Joey Smithís powerlifting career has taken him quite a few places. Now, itís taking him to the other side of the world.
Smith is one of only three lifters in the United States in his age and weight class to be invited to compete in the 2007 World Powerlifting Congress World Championships in Togliatti, Russia this fall.
The invitation may well be the most prestigious in the world of competitive weightlifting; athletes must qualify by winning either the Arnold Classic or APF Senior Nationals, and/or be invited based on their consistently solid performances in other meets. Even winning one of those two meets doesnít guarantee an invitation.
Thatís why Smith got a bit emotional when he received the letter informing him of his selection.
"It tore me up," said the 275-pounder, who earlier this year nailed the 24th-best bench press of all-time at 730 pounds.
"When I opened that letter, it was like everything Iíve worked for came full circle and slammed me in the face. I was invited to represent my country, and thereís no bigger honor than that. For a boy from Nebo, that doesnít happen every day."
But Smith isnít your average boy from Nebo. In his relatively brief career as a bench-press specialist, he has eight first-place finishes, five second-place finishes, three best lifter awards and two Senior Nationals appearances. That kind of consistency is no doubt the key to his selection for the U.S. team.
"They want consistent lifters," said Smith, "not guys who make one big lift every three years."
Smith competes primarily in equipped meets, meaning he wears a bench-press shirt which helps competitors press more weight. Heís only been competing in equipped meets for 18 months, and his progress has been phenomenal.
He never envisioned such quick success.
"If you had told me two years ago that I would have an opportunity to do this, Iíd have laughed at you," said the 33-year-old Smith, a district circulation manager at The McDowell News.
But Smithís determination to improve is no laughing matter.
"This has never been a hobby for me," said Smith. "Itís a part of my life, just like raising my daughter or going to work or paying my bills. Every day, Iím thinking about going to the gym, what I need to eat, what kind of supplements I need to take, how much water to drink. Itís a heavy part of my life and I take it very seriously.
"Itís the only thing Iíve ever been good at athletics-wise, and when you have a talent for something, I think you should pursue it, go headfirst into it and try to be the best at it."
To be the best in Russia the week of Oct. 30 through Nov. 4, Smith needs some help from the community; it will cost between $2,000 and $2,300 per person for Smith and training partner/coach Rodney Coates to attend the meet. He must respond to the WPC by Aug. 15 in order to compete.
"I hope I can get some support from the community," said Smith. "I hope people can look at me and say they remember Joey Smith when he was a 150-pound stick. Who would have ever thought he could do something like this?"
Anyone interested in sponsoring Smithís trip to Russia should contact him at 828-442-8379, 828-652-3313, ext. 3340, or e-mail him at email@example.com.