Monday, December 7, 2015

Spotlight: Jonathan Stoklosa, a powerlifter who has Down syndrome

Jonathan Stoklosa can bench-press over 400 pounds.  He competes in powerlifting matches, and frequently places in the top three.  His parents say that he'll sometimes get strange looks at the gym or in competition, but those looks fade quickly once he starts lifting several hundred pounds.

Stoklosa was born with Down syndrome, but his parents Liz and Hank did not raise him any differently than they did their other boys.  The couple says they simply didn't expect anything less from him than from their two other sons, both of whom are adults now as well.  Though Stoklosa is now admired by many, Hank Stoklosa admits that wasn't exactly what he and and his wife were expecting when they were first told that their son had Down syndrome, and he says that Jonathan changed their lives.

Jonathan Stoklosa has a day job, too: a bag boy at a grocery store.  He collects carts left in the parking lot and gives out stickers to the kids.  Despite his immense strength, he's said to have a gentle touch at work.  A quiet man, interviewers have noted that he prefers to let his parents do the talking, though he's been know to yell and pound his chest after a successful lift.

Stoklosa started weightlifting when he was 12 years old.  A year later he could bench-press 185 pounds, and by the time he was 16 years old, that number had risen to 225 pounds.  But the road hasn't always been an easy one; Stoklosa ruptured his ACL in 2007.  His father notes that technique is a critical focus in Stoklosa's trainings, and greater attention is also put on injury prevention now.  Lately the gains in how much weight Stoklosa can lift are made slowly, increasing by about 5 pounds per year.

Stoklosa has competed successfully in the Special Olympics, and in more recent years, he's also competed in regular competitions that are not designed for people with different abilities.  His trainer, Brandon McGovern, has said that Stoklosa is a competitor and strives to be as good as he can be.  A few years ago Stoklosa bench-pressed his personal best at the time: 402.5 pounds, enough to win him third place in his age division in a powerlifting competition in upstate New York.  At the same competition he also received a "Most Inspirational" award, given to him through unanimous choice by fellow competitors.

You can learn more about Jonathan Stoklosa from Delaware Online, CBS News, and the Huffington Post.

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