Unexpected Super-Strength: N.H. Powerlifters Defy Stereotypes, Set Records

May 8, 2015

Inside the huge hangar of the Great Bay Athletic Center, a small crowd watches as an elderly man in a sporty black singlet approaches the lifting platform.

"We are gonna load the bar to 135 pounds for Peter Aptakin."

That's not a lot of weight, but Peter Aptakin is not your average powerlifter.  

"And that is a good lift."

91 year old Peter Aptakin after deadlifting 135 pounds.

Aptakin, from Hanover, is 91 years old and lighter than the 135 pounds he's just deadlifted.  Before I can talk to him, he pulls on a white wool sweater, grabs the golden trophy he alone could win, and slips out the door with his wife.

Fellow elder strongman Peter Hubbard is 76. He's competed in Revolution Power Syndicate's last three federation championships and holds two powerlifting world records for his age bracket.

"I break my own every time I come out."

Hubbard says he got into powerlifting at age 64 after hurting his shoulder. Getting injured it seems is a common gateway to lifting. 

"I was in a car accident in 1995 and I broke my ankle very badly."

59 year old Lindy Falconer owns the Lin-Jo craft shop in Colebrook.

"I have fabrics and yarns and paints and everything and now I'm doing this!"

Lindy & John Falconer before her lifts.
Credit Sean Hurley

As Falconer gets ready for her next deadlift, her husband John gets up from his seat to watch.  

"I never saw her lift until today. You know, she did it just so she could walk.
With a world record attempt by first time lifter, Lindy Falconer, load the bar at 205..."

The craft shop owner lowers and grips the bar like a swimmer at the edge of the pool. The judge drops his hand and Falconer slowly lifts the bar up and along her thighs.

"And that's a new world record..."

Lindy Falconer's record setting lift.
Credit Sean Hurley

World records seem to be falling like rain so I approach event director James Matta to find out what's going on.

"Revolution Power Syndicate has only been around for five years.  So the records broken are the records only within that federation. So that's why you hear a lot of world records.
Bar is going to 280.  PR attempt for Alan Williams. On deck, Bryan Williams."

Alan Williams from Pittsburg, like Falconer and Hubbard, came to powerlifting because of an injury.  Five years ago a hunting accident cost him most of his right foot.

Through powerlifting, Alan Williams now walks without a cane.
Credit Sean Hurley

"I was bird hunting and I got out of the boat, slipped and when I did I used my gun to catch my balance and it went off and I ended up with a half dollar hole in the top of my foot from the shotgun and ended up having to amputate it cause there was so much damage done.
 Not to be upstaged by his father we're gonna load the bar to 285, PR attempt for Bryan Williams.  He is 16 years old benching 285."

As Bryan Williams approaches the bench, his mother Tanya informs me that whole Williams family are powerlifters.  

"Something fun and interesting that we're all interested in doing together. . It's something good to do together as a family.  Something different. How many families say we're going to go to a powerlifting meet?"

After his lift, Alan returns with an update.

"That's a state record for my weight class.  Same thing with Bryan, he's got it too."

While a sore elbow means Tanya has to ease off, she still gets close to the state records, deadlifting 390, squatting 250 and benching 140.

Injured, Tanya Williams had to ease off.
Credit Sean Hurley

"Ten years ago you would have told me I would be powerlifting I would have laughed."

Lindy Falconer still can't believe she's a powerlifter.

"I never thought I'd do anything like this.  I got a world record! And everyone's gonna say, "Noooo!" I'll have to make a t-shirt with it on it."

That shouldn't be hard for Falconer, possibly the strongest 59 year old craft shop owner in the world.