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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of December 10 - 16, 2003

Sports

Community School
grad grabs world title

Strong man Benji Hill lifts himself to the top


By MICHAEL AMES
Express Staff Writer

To the ever-growing list of world-class athletes living in the Wood River Valley, we can now add Benji Hill, World Powerlifting Champion.

At 29 years, Hill is still young for his sport. "The top guys in my weight class are 38," Hill says while pointing out that he has many years to continue improving.

Hill sets his goals one at a time. Winning the world championships for his 220-pound weight class didnít enter his mind until he was there on the podium, savoring his win.

When he was a Community School student, setting a school record for scoring on the boysí soccer team, could Hill have foreseen just how high his athletic career would go?

"I had a weight set in my room, and Iíve been watching and recording the Worldís Strongest Man Competitions since Iím a kid," he says.

From the East Fork home, Hill went to play Division I soccer for the University of Vermont while also ski racing and finishing up his college career racing for the Montana State University in Bozeman, his eventual alma mater.

November 29, 2003, the day of the World Powerlifting Championships in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was also Hillís 29th birthday.

"It was my golden birthday," he says he realized once he captured the top medal. "My mom got all sentimental about that."

Itís hard to ignore the serendipitous chain of events that led Hill to his title.

For weeks prior to Worlds, he was sidelined with a severe flu, causing weakness in an athlete who depends primarily on physical strength.

"I wasnít hungry, I didnít feel like training," he recalls.

In the dead lift, for instance, where the athlete must lift the bar straight off the ground, using mostly muscles in the back, Hill explains that there is little in the way of form.

"It is just painful and total" in its need for pure strength," he says.

With two weeks left to go before the world meet, Hill finally recovered and began to train for events that normally require months of preparation.

Those two weeks went well and on his birthday, Hill captured the world title with a personal best of 1972.75 pounds.

"It was a snowball effect in that I went to a national qualifier last year, then placed second at nationals to qualify for worlds and then I won at worlds," he says.

Powerlifting is a three-event sport.

At worlds, Hill squatted 776 pounds, bench-pressed 501 pounds and finished with a massive 705-pound dead lift.

In the world of weightlifting, every goal is set one at a time and the future is no different for the world champion than it has ever been.

"My goal is to continue to lift to push myself; each meet has been a stepping stone so that I can go higher each time," says Hill.

His current goal is to top 2000 pounds in the three events.

In the meantime, Hill fills his free time with bow-hunting and fishing while working full time in the winter as a J5-J3 ski coach for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation.

Hill is also a personal trainer of all disciplines at High Altitude gym, where he does his own training as well.

He remains modest and in the end, only wishes to thank those, like his personal lifting partner, Gary Tickner and the owners of High Altitude for their support and encouragement of his ambition.

Hillís next meet will be in Spokane sometime this coming spring.

 

 

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.