Raising the bar

Craig Special Olympian

Until Tuesday night, Grant Dalton had set a goal for himself -- to bench press 330 pounds at his next competition. That goal quickly changed when he put up the weight as if it were just the bar.

"Are you sure you didn't touch it?" he asked coach Billy Chase.

"Nope, not at all," Chase said.

"That was easy," Dalton said with a relieved look.

After putting up 340 pounds, Dalton readjusted his goal.

"I'm going after 350 now," he said with a slight smile of accomplishment.

Dalton is the current record holder in the bench press at Moffat County High School. But the MCHS alumnus as of Saturday never played a sport in high school.

"This is my sport," he said. "It makes up for not being able to play in high school."

On each side of the bench sits a crutch fitted for Dalton's hands and forearms. He was born with spina bifida, which, simplified, is a paralyzing condition in which the spinal cord doesn't send signals to parts of the body. Dalton is affected from the legs down. The Olympian believes his disadvantage gives him an advantage in weightlifting.

"I've been using crutches all my life," he said. "So my arms are naturally strengthened for the bench press."

Walking with crutches strengthens many of the same muscles used for bench press, including the triceps, shoulders and chest. Dalton said his biceps aren't that strong because he doesn't use them much.

"I'll see guys a lot littler than me doing a lot more reps than I can with biceps," he said. "I'm built for bench."

Dalton's condition makes him eligible for the Special Olympics, where he currently holds the regional record in the bench press. In addition to his Special Olympics training with Chase, Dalton has been a part of high school lifting classes.

"Coach (Lance) Scranton and coach (Gary) Tague have helped me a lot, too," he said. "Scranton is the one who told me I could get 350 and now I think I may be able to."

When he lifts in the high school class, Dalton notices who he's out lifting.

"It's pretty fun to know that I can lift more than all the athletes," he said. "I know I can't be out on the field, but it gives me something to be able to set goals for."

This weekend, Dalton and five teammates will compete in the Colorado State Special Olympics in Greeley. Dalton's starting weight (each competitor gets three progressions of weight) is 45 pounds more than his closest competitor last year. But Chase said one wouldn't be able to tell in the competition how much better his lifter is by

his attitude.

"What's great about the Special Olympics is that everyone is equal," he said. "There's no taunting or getting cocky. First and last place are celebrated the same."

Weight lifting has become a new sport in the last five years for the Colorado Special Olympics, but Chase said he thinks Dalton has, or at least will have, the state record in the bench press after this weekend.

"At state last year, he was nine weights above everyone else," Chase said. "We're still looking into the records."

After the competition, the bulging bench presser will turn his attention back to school. He will be attending Colorado Northwestern Community College with the hope of going to a tech school in the future. But for now, he wants to lift as much as he can.

"I want to get (my record) far enough that nobody will touch it," he said. "Then I'll look for something else to do, like shot put."

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