October Featured Athlete: Preston Turner

October Featured Athlete: Preston Turner

Oct 1, 2012

POSTER: PRESTON TURNER

A Team Effort

By: Megan Zamora

Preston Turner, the world champion

Photos courtesy Cindy Kirn Photography (based in Bloomington MN)

 

The clock is winding down to the final round of lifts at the 2012 IPF Junior World Championship in Szczyrk, Poland. There is an electricity in the air that is almost tangent. Teams are shouting encouraging words to their fellow lifters, only to be drowned out by the cheers of the crowd. Onto the stage walks Preston Turner, who competes for the American team in the 120 kg (264 lb.) weight division. He mouths a prayer asking God for strength greater than his own—a ritual that is performed before every lift—and proceeds to begin his deadlift. A lifter from a rival team shouts, “Come on, Preston!” The audience joins in; clapping and screaming his name to further fuel the anticipation of the moment. Back in the United States, Turner’s family is huddled around a laptop at 5 A.M. in Rockport, Texas, feeding off the energy of the crowd. Later that day, Turner would stand on stage with an American flag spread across his back and two gold medals gleaming around his neck.

This isn’t Turner’s first powerlifting win or even his first world championship title. Since his freshman year at the University of Texas, he has won two USAPL collegiate national titles as well as a bench press title from the Arnold Sports Festival. In addition, he has competed in three world championships. In 2010, he brought a gold medal back from the Czech Republic championship and just last year he came home with a silver medal from Canada.

Turner was born in Victoria, Texas, on May 15, 1992. From a young age, he was playing sports and getting the feel for competition. He played baseball from 5th until 7th grade where, according to his mother, Lynette Turner, “he was always the hardest worker on the team.” Turner quickly learned that nothing was going to be handed to him and in order to be better than the rest he was going to have to work harder than everyone else. This determination and hard work are two ingrained traits that have helped enable him to become the best at what he does today. In 7th grade, Turner joined the football team because, “the culture of Texas boys is that you play football.” He succeeded in becoming a football superstar throughout junior high and into high school.

It appeared as if Turner had found his sport. That is, until he began to powerlift. “I’ve always had an obsession with wanting to get ripped,” Turner admits, “and powerlifting was my opportunity to get that way by lifting weights.” When he began lifting as a freshman in high school, he realized he was one of the strongest in the school, out lifting even the seniors. When he told his parents that lifting was a sport he wanted to pursue, his parents readily supported him. “He has the natural ability [to lift]” says mother, Lynette Turner, “We told him ‘it looks like you got the talent.’”

With the help of Dustin Meaux, his high school lifting coach and now good friend and occasional training partner, Turner began practicing for his first high school meet. Unfortunately, his first freshman meet in Port Lavaca, Texas, did not play out the way Turner had hoped. “I bombed out,” he said, smiling slightly in remembrance. “I couldn’t get a bench press in.” However, instead of becoming discouraged, he chose this opportunity to exemplify the traits that he had learned from his previous sports. “I got bit by the iron bug,” he said. After this first meet, he became determined to work hard in order to ensure that a disastrous meet would never happen again.

High school flew by quickly and soon, he was looking forward to a new chapter in his life: college. Turner was on his way to play football at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, though he confessed that he “was burned out of football.” It appeared as if his powerlifting career would soon be making a gracious bow out of his life. But, after his last high school state meet during his senior year, everything changed. After the meet, IPF referee and Junior World Team Coach, Curt St. Romain, contacted Turner with the exciting news that he had unofficially broken a record. “That would have been my last meet if not for him” Turner said. St. Romain helped Turner become a member of the USA World team. Chris Pappillion was another friend who aided Turner in continuing power lifting after high school by helping him with training and offering tremendous support to continue doing big things in the powerlifting world.

Turner then began searching for options other than playing football. During his senior year in high school he met Ian Bell, who was lifting for a rival school, at the state powerlifting meet. “I heard over the intercom that somebody was benching over 500 [lbs.]” Bell said, “So I ran over there to watch and was amazed.” Bell, who lifts in the 205 lb. weight division and whose best lifts include 765 lb. squat, 445 lb. bench press and an 810 lb. deadlift, was a big influencer on Turner’s decision to attend The University of Texas at Austin. “We could do special things together,” Turner claims was one of his initial thoughts. Now, Turner and Bell are roommates who know how to boost each other’s morale. “It is great to have somebody who knows exactly what you are going through and knows the right things to say when you’re not having your best training day,” Bell says. Additionally, they strengthen the bonds of their friendship through cooking together. “We’re accountability partners with our diets,” said Turner.

And it’s not just his fellow teammates who Turner is establishing life-long friendships with. In 2010 at the World Junior Championship in Plzen, Czech Republic, Turner became friends with Andy Spiers. Spiers, who competes for the Great Britain world’s team in the 93 kg (205 lb.) weight division, lifts a 287.5 (634 lb.) kg squat, 215 kg (474 lb.) bench press and a 305 kg (672 lb.) deadlift. They keep in touch through Facebook (Andy’s profile picture is him and Preston at the World Championship in Poland) and over the summer Spiers flew out to Austin to visit Turner. Both Turner and Spiers agree that it’s incredibly important to maintain a relationship with international lifters. “[I]t’s a great way for the sport to develop,” says Spiers, “learning how things are different…you can take ideas back home to change or help the sport in your own country, which is always fantastic.” No matter where in the world competitors lift, they tend to click very well because of the mutual understanding of the difficulty in the sport. “Everyone takes care of each other,” Turner said.

Turner has become a role model not only in his home state, but internationally as well. With his personal best lifts coming from his past meet in Poland, he boasts a 380 kg (838 lb.) squat, 310.5 kg (684.5 lb.) bench press, which he chipped from his own world record of 683 lbs., set in 2011, and a 300 kg (661 lb.) deadlift for an astonishing total of 990.5 kg (2183.5 lbs.). With records like that, it isn’t difficult to see how he has become an inspirational figure. “It’s definitely encouraging when a world champion tells me my lifting is going well, you know?” said Spiers. One of the most important aspects of lifting for Turner is staying drug free. “Everything I have achieved has been by my own physical and individual capabilities,” Turner says. In a sport filled with steroid usage, Turner realizes the importance of competing the honest way, especially when his younger brother, Clayton, is an aspiring lifter as well. “He gives me tips and helps me improve on my technique,” said Clayton. “Every minute I’m with him is something special.”

Not only is his pledge to be drug free a reason to call him an excellent role model, when you ask his friends and family what makes him a role model, the answer across the board is his humbleness. “Not only does he succeed, he does it in a humble way,” says older brother, Justin. Turner’s roommate and fellow lifter, Bell, agrees. “You’ll never hear him brag or boast about his multiple world championships and world records,” he says. He is also loyal to his several local sponsors, along with Georgia based company Quest Nutrition, who according to Turner are “really great people who take care of [him]. They make the best supplements for drug free athletes on the market.” He doesn’t even claim to be an accomplished athlete by himself. “I am the result of a lot of different people’s time, effort, and investments. I wouldn’t be the lifter I am today without them.”

At 5’11, Turner may appear intimidating to those who don’t know him, but his gentle voice and easy going demeanor make him immediately likeable. He has made friends from countries around the world who cheer for him at the world championships. “He thinks more about others than himself,” says close friend and roommate, Seth Gonzalez. “He lives by biblical principles and lives a life of significance.”

When he isn’t in the weight room or at competitions, Turner enjoys composing and playing music—he plays six instruments—as well as playing disc golf and wakeboarding. An inspirational quote that he lives by is that “if you want to be the best, you have to train harder and smarter than the rest.”

 

Turner’s next meet is the Collegiate Nationals next April in Killeen, Texas, but he is considering a local level meet around Christmas just for fun. His current coach, David Hammers, will be helping him prepare for both. “He’s a genius,” said Turner. “He knows so much about lifting and…form.”

As for Turner’s future, he plans to stay in lifting for as long as he can. “My goal is to squat over 1,000 lb. bench and deadlift over 800 lb. before I’m done,” he says. His friends and family are confident that he can succeed as far as he wants to when it comes to powerlifting. “I know he is going to make such a huge name for himself,” predicts Spiers. “He would make a fantastic ambassador for the sport, and I’m sure he will have an impact on it in many ways!” After graduating college, Turner will attend a physical therapy school and become a practicing physical therapist. “Hopefully, one day people will see me as one of the best lifters of all time,” he says. Judging by his hard work, ethic, and dedication to the sport, it will only be a matter of time until people around the world will know him as such.

 

THANKS PRESTON!!!

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