Ron Garofalo cannot get away.
For 31 years, the Colorado native has been obsessed with powerlifting. Since being introduced to the sport, he traveled the globe for competitions, won countless gold medals, set world records and pushed his physical limits.
One thing he cannot do, however, is quit.
“There is a standing joke at my house,” the 55-year-old said, “because after every big meet I say, ‘I’m done. I’m retiring.’
“Then, my wife and three daughters laugh at me, because they know that is not going to be the outcome. They know I’ll be back, and I’m going to do it again.”
So far, they have always been right.
On Monday, Garofalo lifted a total of 1,488.12 pounds en route to winning the 183-pound weight class title in the Masters 2 division at the International Powerlifting Federation’s 2016 Raw World Classic Powerlifting Championships.
Along the way, he produced international records in the squat (523.6 pounds) and deadlift (639.3) inside the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, while also proving a point to himself.
“It’s great to be here,” Garofalo said, “and obviously, I’m honored to be here, but my goal over the past few years was just to see if I can still be better than ever as I get older.
“And I got very close, because my total was about five pounds off my best showing ever.”
Garofalo is not the only competitor unable to escape the sport’s grasp, though.
Fellow lifters Anthony Harris and David Ricks, who also reside in the Masters 2 division consisting of 50- to 59-year-olds, had opportunities to exit, but regardless of circumstance, neither could walk away.
“One year ago,” Ricks said, “I had basically semiretired from the high-level competitions. My body was beat up, so I just wanted to relax for a while, but I got the fever to get back in shape.
“So, I began a unique journey, and my performance was the culmination of that.”
Ricks won the 205-pound weight class with a total of 1,741.65 pounds, including the heaviest squat (683.4 pounds) by anyone his size in the history of powerlifting.
Harris faced a much graver situation.
Approximately one year ago, the 265-pounder underwent prostate cancer surgery, but the procedure did little to detour his passion or his production.
“I never let it get me down,” Harris said. “I was out for eight weeks and couldn’t train, but as soon as they gave me the green light, I was back.
“Six weeks before nationals, I sent in the entry form, and my training partner thought I was crazy because I just had surgery, but the doctor said I could do it, so I did.”
Harris set personal records in the bench press, deadlift, squat and for total weight, lifting 1,907 pounds to produce the best showing of any competitor in the Masters 2 division, narrowly edging Ricks for the honor.
While every participant has their own personal motivation for dedicating themselves to powerlifting, Ryan J. Stills believes camaraderie is a major reason.
Stills competed in the sport when he was younger before embarking on a semipro football career, but the toll on his body pushed him back toward powerlifting. Admittedly, the choice was partially fueled by friendships.
“There is just a community among lifters,” said Stills, who won the 265-pound, Masters 1 championship Tuesday morning. “We are very much a family, so once I hinted I was coming back, I was just inundated by people who remembered me from years ago.”
In the end, for whatever reason, powerlifting is simply a sport few can walk away from, including Garofalo.
“Any time I think about retiring,” he said, “after a few months, I start looking at the weights again, and I just think, ‘Dang it.’
“You get sucked back in, and that’s good as long as the love is still there.”
2016 IPF RAW WORLD CLASSIC CHAMPIONSHIPS
- WHEN: Today through Sunday, beginning at 9 a.m. each day.
- WHERE: Killeen Civic and Conference Center.
- ADMISSION: $5 each day.