OSSIPEE — Wayne Grenier can add world champion to his resume.
Grenier, 69, of West Ossipee, was a member of Team USA at the 29th World Powerlifting Alliance Championship in Ukraine, where he brought home a silver and five gold medals, part of the U.S. team’s 40-medal haul. Aside from the medals, Grenier also has a ton of memories and his teammates and a few opponents have quickly become good friends.
More than 725 competitors from 23 countries took part in the four-day championships.
Just getting to Ukraine is an adventure, according to Grenier.
“From Portland, Maine, to the venue in the host city took 21 hours,” he said, laughing and explained he took a two-hour flight from Portland to JFK Airport in New York City. From there, it was an 11-hour flight to Istanbul, Turkey, followed by a two-hour flight to Kiev and capped off by a six-hour car ride to Lusk for the championships.
Grenier’s good friend Ted Sares of North Conway also qualified to represent the United States, but he declined, in part because of the travel logistics.
“Looking back, it was all well worth it,” Grenier said. “I loved it. The people over there treated everyone so friendly. There’s a perception that people over there don’t like Americans. I didn’t see any of that. Every team wanted to have its photos taken with the Americans.”
Grenier, who is the assistant manager of Indian Mound Golf Club in Ossipee, punched his ticket to the championships on Dec. 1 by turning in a qualifying performance at an event in West Boylston, Massachusetts.
Team USA was made up of seven powerlifters from across the United States (New York, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana and the Granite State. The team won 40 medals — 31 were gold, four were silver and five were bronze. The U.S. finished third overall in the medal standings.
“I won five golds and a silver,” Grenier said, “but the silver means an awful lot to me.”
Grenier medalled in full power (combines bench press, squat and deadlift); individual deadlift, bench and squad; the push-pull (combines bench and deadlift), and strict curl (with your back against a wall).
The silver medal was a surprise as Grenier didn’t learn until after competing that medals were being awarded to the best of the best on deadlift for all of the master competitors, which pitted him against lifters aged 60 and older.
“To get a silver medal against those muscular guys than me means was special,” he said.
Grenier recorded a deadlift weight of 336 pounds.
“That’s not even close to my best,” he said, which is 375 pounds. “This was an international competition where your nerves can get to you. When you’re there against 23 countries and 725 competitors, it can be a little intimidating.”
Another of the highlights for Grenier was seeing all of the competitors listed on the giant scoreboard, along with where they were from.
“You see all of the different places around the world and you scroll down and see Paris, France and then Ossipee, New Hampshire,” he said. “It amazes me that I was able to compete on a (world) stage like state.”
Weightlifting is sport Grenier still considers himself to be relatively new at. Diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and operate on in 2013, Grenier said he was down to 175 pounds and felt his strength had been zapped.
“It was then that I hired a personal trainer and built a gym,” he said. “A couple of years later, I was in Maui (Hawaii) and they were having a powerlifting competition. At the time, I was 65, and I thought I might go watch.”
Grenier was convinced to enter the competition. To this day, he holds three state records in Hawaii for the 65-and-up age group.
Turns out he had a knack for the sport. Grenier currently holds three New Hampshire records and has won the national championships twice in his age group.
“What I like about the sport is the camaraderie,” he said. “You make friends. It’s nice to hear someone say, ‘Hi Wayne, nice to see you again.’ I was never a person who could be in front of people. Having all eyes on you when you do three attempts at the squat, bench press and deadlift, it can be a little scary. At first, I would just focus on a painting on the wall above or pick out an item to focus on. Now, I focus on my teammates and hearing them say, ‘Go Wayne!’”
Team USA was dubbed, “a bunch of misfits” by Coach Phil Carr.
“Our team was a cross-section of the United States,” Grenier said. “I can tell you, I’ve made friends for life from this trip. For us to have the opportunity to represent this country and have USA across our backs, it’s a feeling I can’t describe. We had some long, long days, but it was the experience of my life. I still pinch myself that I was part of this. I get a kick out of people stopping me and asking to see my gold medal. I keep one with me to show folks.”
Laughing, he added: “Athletes can bring the world together better than politicians.”
Grenier has his sights set on a few competitions later this years, including one in Portland at the end of September, but his really eyeing the World Cup in Washington Oct. 12-13.
“I’m going,” he said. “It’s open to world champions, 120 competitors, it should be great.”