RUMFORD — What does someone do after they’ve won countless championships and broken numerous world records over several decades of lifting weights competitively?
If you’re Richard “Dick” G. Austin, 81, of Rumford, you go to Las Vegas and win another championship.
Competing in the World Bench Press and Dead Lift Championships in Las Vegas at Bally’s Resort and Casino, Austin won his eighth world title last Tuesday in the 220-pound class Master Division, for powerlifters ranging in age from 80 to 84. In addition to his first place win, Austin also broke the world record for bench pressing in his age category by benching 363 pounds.
Austin, who just returned from Las Vegas, laughed and brushed off the accolades.
“It was my own record I broke,” Austin said. “Last year, I benched 352. This year, I benched 363. To me, it just feels like another day.”
After the competition, Austin was inducted into the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters Hall of Fame.
Austin wasn’t the only local who entered the competition. He also went with his friend and weight-lifting partner John Westleigh, of Norway, as well as Alan Cayer, assistant principal of Mountain Valley High School and Russ Barlow, of Turner, another acclaimed powerlifter. Both Austin and Westleigh train together for two hours on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“When you’re weightlifting, it’s something you can’t do by yourself,” Austin said. “You need somebody to help you do the right thing so you don’t hurt yourself. Westleigh is a huge help. He’s a good man Friday.”
Even though Austin is nonchalant about his new world record, he does say that there is nobody around who can compete against him.
“I hate to put it that way,” said Austin, who was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Rumford Wall of Fame in 2009. “I come into these competitions year-in and year-out and come in first place.”
Austin, a Korean War veteran with the 82nd Airborne Division and an employee with the local paper mill for 40 years before he retired, said his weightlifting career began nearly 70 years ago, after he won his first competition in 1947. For Austin, weight-lifting is his life.
“When I introduce myself to people, I say, ‘Hi, I’m Richard Austin, weightlifter,’” Austin said. “I love lifting weights. I’m so totally addicted to it, and every year, I love going out there and competing again.”
Austin admits, however, that because of his age, he has had to eliminate certain exercises from his routine, including squats.
“Little by little, I’ve eliminated squats,” Austin explained. “My knees aren’t the same as they used to be, so next, I’m eliminating the dead-lift.”
With an eighth world title under his belt, Austin said he still has his sights set on competitions, even though he turns 82 in March. He plans on competing Feb. 2 in Portland and again next June as part of a national competition, and despite being back from the Vegas competition for only a day, he has plans to work out over the course of the week. His current goal is to bench-press 402 pounds in time for the competition in June.
“I used to be able to easily bench press 402 pounds,” Austin said. “I know I could’ve done it in Vegas. I just bought a new bench shirt, so I’m planning on practicing in time for nationals.”
Following the competition, Austin’s son, Richard “Dicky” Austin, called his father “an incredible man” and added that his father ought to be sponsored the way other power-lifters are.
“Who wouldn’t want him as a representative,” said Dicky Austin. “He’s lived clean, never took any dope in his lie. He’s Mr. Clean.”
Although Austin said that his knees hurt a little more now than they used to and that “his left shoulder will definitely need surgery soon,” quitting doesn’t seem to be on the horizon for him.
“I’ve been ‘quitting’ since 1980,” Austin said with a laugh. “I say through one side of my mouth that I’m retiring and through the next side of my mouth, I’m letting people know the date of my next competition. I’m doing this until I can’t anymore.”