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You're never too old to go for the Gold

You’re never too old to start something new and maybe even a bit unusual, just ask Ray Anderson.

The 62-year-old Soldiers Grove resident just won a gold medal in weightlifting last month at the Wisconsin Senior Olympics. Here’s the unusual part, Ray never started weightlifting until he went to the Vernon Memorial Fitness Center less than two years ago. Ray’s wife works at Vernon Memorial and the fitness center family membership is one of her benefits.

“I never lifted before going to the gym,” Ray said. He began going to the gym in 2012. A fitness center trainer approached him with the suggestion.

“Let’s try lifting weights,” the trainer said and Ray’s life changed a little bit.

With just a month-and-a-half of training, Ray Anderson signed up for the 2012 Wisconsin Senior Olympics in the 60 to 64-year-old age group for the dead lift. He lifted 325 pounds, while maintaining the proper form and holding the weight in front of him for “a few long seconds.” That lift earned him a bronze medal and the desire to try it again.

This year, he was back with a whole year of working out with the help of trainers Josh Brown and Sam Franke. Ray is unabashed in his praise for the trainers who he said were “a super help.” He also has plenty of nice things to say about the help and positive attitude of others he met at the gym.

Although he’d never lifted weights, Ray has plenty of experience cutting wood and carrying hay bales on the farm.

However, it was Josh and Sam who deserve the credit for helping him perfect his technique and form.

“With the right technique and form you can lift a lot more,” Ray explained. It is also necessary to follow proscribed forms for the lifts in order to have them count.

So, what made the 1969 North Crawford graduate decide he should pursue competitive weightlifting at the age of 60.

“I just wanted to see how far back a body could come,” Ray said.

That’s pretty far it would seem. This year, Ray dead lifted 340 pounds and won a Wisconsin Senior Olympics Gold Medal for the effort. He also won silver medals for lifting 260 pounds in the squat and 175 pounds in the bench press.

Actually, Ray, a substance abuse counselor at Villa Succes in Prairie du Chien, had some other reasons for seeing how far back a body could come. One was personal, Ray is a recovered alcoholic, who has been sober for the past eight years, prior to that he drank alcohol every day for 30 years. So, how far could a body come back?

That’s what got him to the gym. The positive attitude of the trainers and the other people at the gym kept him going. He also knows that in recovery you have to keep busy to stick with it. That means doing stuff you’ve been dreaming of doing. That could be weightlifting or gardening or a host of other activities.

Ray’s routine is lifting two nights per week until he gets closer to the event held the first weekend in September. So in July and August, he starts lifting four times per week. Then in the very last week before the competition, he lightens the weights and does lots of repetitions.

Well, that was the ideal training program and Ray would’ve done that this year, if a fellow worker at the Villa Succes hadn’t been injured. Short of personnel, Ray was pressed into service working 16 hours per day pretty much every day in the weeks prior to the competition. There simply was no time for the planned workouts.

Nevertheless, when the moment came to compete at the Brickyard Gym in Milwaukee, Ray was ready. Ray had three lifts. He lifted 330 pounds and 335 pounds. On the last lift, Ray lifted 340 pounds even though he had never lifted more than 335 pounds to that point.

What was the last lift like?

Ray can remember looking out and seeing his son-in-law and three grandchildren. Then, he remembers realizing he’d achieved a personal record. What he can’t remember is putting the bar down.

Ray Anderson has eight children and 17 grandchildren, who can all be proud of his accomplishments.

What about the future? Ray definitely plans to lift in next year’s Wisconsin Senior Olympics and noted there are people in their 80s competing in their age groups at the event.