In the spirit of encouraging and celebrating other athletes, weight lifter and trainer Todd Elliott wanted “to do something different” downtown during the International Bar-B-Q Festival. Now in its 10th year, the International Bar-B-Q Festival Bench Press & Deadlift Competition attracts some of the strongest individuals in and beyond the Owensboro area.
“I’ve been weight lifting and bodybuilding since I was 14 years old — now I’m 57,” Elliott said. “I started training a lot of these guys. It’s a real blessing to watch how they progress. This sport here, it’s not a team sport — it’s an individual effort.”
The effort displayed by the diverse group of male and female competitors Saturday morning at the Owensboro Convention Center was awe-inspiring. From 62-year-old Jeff Hughart, whose final deadlift was 560 pounds, to 18-year-old Steven DiGiorgio who set a goal of breaking the national deadlift record for his age with 700 pounds. DiGiorgio’s highest weight in deadlift last year during the competition was 555 pounds.
While each competitor did set and hope to attain their own individual goals, it was evident from the parents and children in the crowd, as well as the gym-sponsored T-shirts, that this was not solely an individual event.
DiGiorgio’s father Paul spoke of the amount of work the DCHS senior had put in over the last two years, setting new goals along the way. He also shared how Steven and his Apollo High School rival D.C. Boone worked out together and pushed each other at the gym, each specializing in their own event.
“The gym family is pretty strong,” Paul said, adding that, after attaining his goal today, Steven was planning on pursuing the national record for his age group in the fall in an officially sanctioned meet.
Another member of Steven’s “gym family,” aside from Boone, is world record holder Julius Maddox. Maddox was in attendance at the competition to support his cousin Chavez Wimsatt and the high school athletes he mentors, both at Iron Edge Gym and as an Owensboro High School character coach.
“I love to encourage people and support people to pursue their dreams,” Maddox said. “This is kind of where my career kickstarted at. This was my first competition.”
Maddox first participated in the Bar-B-Q Festival bench press competition in 2013, just one year after being incarcerated for drug trafficking.
“The Lord has used this [weight lifting],” Maddox said. “He’s given me this to help combat the problems I struggle with — something to put my energy towards. It helps me to be the man he created me to be. [The Lord] and my gym family — which is a big reason why I’m here today.”
Maddox said he began channeling the energy he once put toward using and selling drugs into something more positive.
“I started out lifting in the basement of rehab,” Maddox told the crowd. “I decided instead of the world imposing its will on me, I would start imposing my will on the world. My goal was to be the best lifter I could be. Weight lifting is such a huge part of who I am today. I wouldn’t change my life for anything.”