In 2017, USA Para Powerlifting [USAPP] needed a new home base. Chesterfield-based Logan University won that honor.
“We were at another [midwest] university for approximately 10 years and they helped our sport grow,” explained Mary Hodge, high performance manager for U.S. Paralymic Powerlifting. “[That university] kind of maximized [their] ability to help us and one of our then coaches was a faculty member at Logan University so we came to meet with Dr. [Clay] McDonald [Logan University president] and they opened their door to us,” Hodge said.
The move to Logan has become a major boon to the paralympic powerlifting program and a very logical one given the nature of the sport.
“It makes a lot of sense in relation to [Logan] being a chiropractic university,” Hodge said. “Our athletes can access those skills, which is tremendously helpful athletically. It’s just been a win-win all-around.”
Hodge added that the reception of the team by the Logan community-at-large has been nothing short of exceptional for the USAPP program.
Athletes, coaches and spectators from around the country experienced Logan spirit first-hand on Jan. 18 during the USAPP regional qualifier tournament, which was held at the school’s William M. Harris Wellness Center.
“The community is amazing,” Hodge said. “There’s just – from every part of the university – a willing and wanting to help the athletes and see them succeed, so that’s been really amazing.”
Hodge said that all of the program’s compliance and organizational structure is done through Logan University, making the school the primary and sole resource for USAPP’s day-to-day business and workings.
“Our executive director is housed there and our officers are based there, so is our equipment, our website, our compliance, all of that comes through Logan University,” Hodge said.
In addition to being the organizational hub for the USAPP, Logan serves the training, health and performance needs of all athletes, coaches and support staff within the sport.
According to Hodge, participation in paralympic powerlifting is designed for elite athletes.
Paralympic powerlifting competition is open to male and female athletes with physical disabilities such as dwarfism; amputation or limb loss; spinal cord injury and wheelchair-users; and cerebral palsy, brain injury or stroke. Athletes compete in 10 weight classes for men and 10 for women.
“That further defines who can compete in the sport, and then obviously you have to be the most elite to get to a world or regional championship,” Hodge said.
Butch Scovanovic, head coach of U.S. Paralympic Powerlifting, explained that when athletes are coming into the sport and looking to be on the team, he looks for those people who are driven to succeed.
“We look for that kid who is in their middle 20s to early 30s and who really want it,” Scovanovic said. “It takes a lot of hard work and grit [to succeed].”
Scovanovic descried the USAPP’s relationship with Logan as excellent and said he is hopeful the relationship will continue for many years to come.
“It’s been wonderful. Dr. McDonald and Dr. [Kelley] Humphries [executive director of Paralympic Operations] and the people at Logan, they all have a passion for the sport and they’ve helped out tremendously,” Scovanovic said. “The relationship has been great and I hope it never ends.”
Para powerlifting has been an Olympic sport for nearly 60 years. It was introduced at the 1964 Tokyo Paralympic Games as a weightlifting bench press event for men and women with spinal cord injuries. In recent years, increased exposure has been a major contributor to a rise in its popularity, Scovanovic said.
As for the future of para powerlifting, Hodge believes the sport will continue to flourish nationally and around the world.
“Within the country, it’s one of the fastest-growing sports and we expect it to continue that way,” Hodge said. “On the world stage [paralympic powerlifting is in 90 countries], we want to accrue more medals and [stand on] more podiums and see our athletes live their dreams. Even just representing your country at the highest level is incredible.”