2018-03-29 / Sports

Batko comes back with World Record

Text and photos by Thomas Reznich


HARD TO STOP Powerlifter Robert Batko, 72, of Houghton Lake, does a forward raise with five-pound dumbbells at Body and Soul Health Club in Prudenville March 23. Batko, who underwent a total replacement of his right shoulder joint in December, 2016, returned as a competitor March 17, when he set a World Record in his age group and 181-pound weight class by scoring a 440.75-pound deadlift at the ADFPF National Single Event Champion­ships at Evansville, IN. HARD TO STOP Powerlifter Robert Batko, 72, of Houghton Lake, does a forward raise with five-pound dumbbells at Body and Soul Health Club in Prudenville March 23. Batko, who underwent a total replacement of his right shoulder joint in December, 2016, returned as a competitor March 17, when he set a World Record in his age group and 181-pound weight class by scoring a 440.75-pound deadlift at the ADFPF National Single Event Champion­ships at Evansville, IN. Houghton Lake powerlifter Robert Batko has come back from injury before, but this time he did it by setting a new world record.

Batko, 72, who underwent a com­plete shoulder joint replacement in late December, 2016, scored a world record deadlift of 440.75 pounds during the American Drug Free Powerlifting Fed­eration’s National Single Event Cham­pionships at Evansville, IN March 17.

The day was not an easy one for Batko (competing in the 70- to 74-year-old age class at 181 pounds), who had to repeat his world record lift because too few international judges saw him do it the first time. But his real struggle occurred during the 14 and a half months leading up to the competi­tion. During that time, he worked his way from using a broom handle for his workouts to completing a world record deadlift in competition.


WORKING ON RANGE OF MOTION Batko uses a resistance band to hold his right shoulder joint in posi­tion as he works on his “external rotation.” Most of his post-competition workout is aimed at improving the range of motion in his right shoulder. WORKING ON RANGE OF MOTION Batko uses a resistance band to hold his right shoulder joint in posi­tion as he works on his “external rotation.” Most of his post-competition workout is aimed at improving the range of motion in his right shoulder. His recovery to competition strength took persistent work on his part, and a little bit of stubbornness in not accepting the limitations his therapists and doctors tried to hold him to. He said when they told him his powerlifting career was over, or that he couldn’t achieve a particular goal, he sought information from the internet on how professional athletes, including weightlifters, had overcome similar physical obstacles. “Therapy was tough,” said Batko.


FIRST COMPETITIVE SUCCESS Batko, 72, holds the first tro­phy he ever won in a weightlift­ing competition. He earned the second-place prize in his first competition, which took place in Garden Grove, CA in 1964, when he was 17 years old. Since then, he has earned eight World Champi­onships and has 12 World Record lifts. FIRST COMPETITIVE SUCCESS Batko, 72, holds the first tro­phy he ever won in a weightlift­ing competition. He earned the second-place prize in his first competition, which took place in Garden Grove, CA in 1964, when he was 17 years old. Since then, he has earned eight World Champi­onships and has 12 World Record lifts. Batko also said that chiropractor Dr. Alyssa Loney of Prudenville played a key role in getting him back into shape for competition. She “went above and beyond to get my shoulder flexible enough to lift.” He said Loney took videos of the movement of his shoulder and then “came up with a plan that got a lot of my mobility back.”

“I think what he’s been able to ac­complish is incredible,” said Loney. “It shows that hard work and determina­tion can take you places. His determi­nation not to slow down after surgery served him well, not only health-wise, but in what he’s been able to achieve” as an athlete.


LATEST AWARD Batko holds a hatchet which he was presented as the award for Best Master Deadlifter during the American Drug Free Powerlift­ing Federation’s National Single Event Championships in Evans­ville, IN March 17. The award is displayed with other national awards, as well as world record lift recognitions. LATEST AWARD Batko holds a hatchet which he was presented as the award for Best Master Deadlifter during the American Drug Free Powerlift­ing Federation’s National Single Event Championships in Evans­ville, IN March 17. The award is displayed with other national awards, as well as world record lift recognitions. Batko’s wife, Sue, 70, also got into the act (of weight lifting) during the beginning of her husband’s rehabilita­tion from surgery. She said that in the beginning, he couldn’t drive to Body and Soul Health Club in Prudenville, where he does part of his workouts each week. “Since I was there, I de­cided to give it a try.”


HOMEMADE SAFETY EQUIPMENT Batko works out with a home­made safety squat bar loaded to 185 pounds in his home gym/ garage. He said he adapted the bar using PVC pipe, steel clamps and tape, and that it “takes pres­sure off the shoulder” during the exercise. HOMEMADE SAFETY EQUIPMENT Batko works out with a home­made safety squat bar loaded to 185 pounds in his home gym/ garage. He said he adapted the bar using PVC pipe, steel clamps and tape, and that it “takes pres­sure off the shoulder” during the exercise. She said she had been looking for another form of exercise after her doctor told her she needed to find one when her hip joints began to hurt dur­ing her regular three-mile walk. So she began going with Robert to Body and Soul on a regular basis.

“Bob’s addicted, but I go because it’s good for me,” said Sue Batko, who added that the weightlifting workout has improved her energy level, strength and has resulted in her being able to “walk anywhere I want to.”

“He loves it so much. I’m glad he’s able to do it,” said Sue Batko of her husband’s comeback in the sport of powerlifting. “I was surprised because I heard two doctors say that he couldn’t (return to powerlifting), but he proved them wrong.”


DIFFERENT WORKOUTS Sue Batko, having completed her workout for the morning at Body and Soul, reads a magazine while her husband, Robert, continues his work­out last Friday. She said that she decided to begin using weights when she had to drive her husband to the gym after surgery, and has continued “because it is good for me.” DIFFERENT WORKOUTS Sue Batko, having completed her workout for the morning at Body and Soul, reads a magazine while her husband, Robert, continues his work­out last Friday. She said that she decided to begin using weights when she had to drive her husband to the gym after surgery, and has continued “because it is good for me.” Batko had “retired” from being a competitor in the sport of powerlift­ing a Oct., 29, 2016 meet. The day before that meet in Muskegon, where he set both state and American records in the deadlift, he became certified as a state and national powerlifting referee.

Seeing his work as a referee as his way of giving back to the sport, he plans to continue it while also continu­ing as a competitor. He said that with two years in, he could qualify as an in­ternational referee, although that would require him to work at least two events in foreign countries per year.

He said that if there are sufficient referees, it should not be a problem for him to both officiate and compete at the larger events. Two of those that he intends to compete in are the 2018 Full Power National Powerlifting Championship on Long Island, NY, this summer, and the World Single Event Powerlifting Championships in Orlando, FL, in fall of 2019.

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