Powerlifter Bobby Body Feeling Confident Heading Into First Parapan Am Games
by Stephen Hunt
Bobby Body has heard many jokes about his name. The funniest came during a rugby tryout.
“The coach says, ‘Who’s Bob the Body?’” he recalled. “The guys that knew me were cracking up. I (said), ‘It’s actually Bob Body.’ He (said), ‘Are you serious?’”
Yes, that’s his real last name. You can even check the birth certificate.
“As a powerlifter, everyone thought it was my gym name and stage name,” Body said. “The looks on people’s faces (are priceless) when they see Body (is my name).”
All kidding aside, Body, 49, is enjoying one of his strongest year as a Para powerlifting, which includes his first trip to the Parapan American Games, which began Friday in Santiago, Chile. The powerlifting competition continues through Tuesday, with Body scheduled to compete in the men’s 107 kg. weight class on Sunday.
“I would have never guessed that (I’d be here),” said Body, of Fremont, Michigan. “The Pan Am and Parapan Games are like the Western Hemisphere Olympic Games. It’s only held the year before the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. I’d always watch it on TV but never imagined being there.”
Body discovered powerlifting around a decade ago, after an IED struck a Humvee he was in while deployed to Iraq with the Army. The injury required multiple surgeries before he had his left leg being amputated above the knee in 2013. Powerlifting has since become a passion for Body, who spent his childhood living in military orphanages before enlisting himself, first with the Marines and then the Army.
Body enjoyed success in able-bodied competitions, then competed in his first Para powerlifting events in 2021. Upon joining U.S. Paralympics Powerlifting, he quickly realized he would fare well because of his focus and dedication to his new sport.
“When my ranking started going so high, that’s when I started to believe that I have a shot at going to the Parapan Games and even the Paralympic Games,” Body said. “Now I’m in full belief that’s going to happen.”
After a strong showing at the 2023 world championships in August in Dubai, UAE, where he earned two silver medals in the legends division (for age 45+) after successfully lifting 210 kg., he has good reason to like his chances in the 107 kg. weight class.
“Mentally, I’m in a good place because of the new type of training and nutrition I’d been doing leading up to the Parapan Games,” Body said. “My lift had gone up over the last nine weeks by 13 kilograms. That’s almost 30 pounds. That’s something my biggest competitor does not know.
“He’s expecting one number, but I’m going to be so far ahead of that, it’s going to throw him off. I’m ranked No. 2, and Jose Castillo from Mexico is No. 1 in the Americas. I’m super excited for this one. This is probably the most prepared I’ve been for any of my competitions.”
In addition to earning some hardware in Santiago, Body and the other U.S. powerlifters are hoping to use this competition to boost their world ranking. To qualify for the Paralympic Games Paris 2024, a powerlifter’s best lift must be among the top eight in the world in their weight class. Body is the top American right now, currently ranking 10th, but just 3 kg. away from the top eight.
So far, the experience in Santiago has been positive. Body was particularly blown away by the athletes’ village.
“These are like huge apartment complexes built for the athletes,” Body said. “It’s all fenced in. There’s no media, civilians or family members allowed. They have shops — barber shop, manicure salon, body massage. The cafeteria seats hundreds. They have six different food booths. You choose what you want to eat. The athletes were given a pin of their country, so the athletes are exchanging pins. They’ve also given us gear, a whole wardrobe of stuff. It’s been a fantastic experience.”
And getting to share this competition with his five U.S. teammates only makes the entire experience extra meaningful.
Joining him on Team USA is Ashley Dyce, who will be returning from injury and competing for the first time in over a year; Jake Herbert and Garrison Redd, who also competed in Dubai; David Horvath, who at 23 is the youngest member of the team and making his debut on the international stage; and Ahmed Shafik, the squad veteran who is competing in his third Parapan Am Games,
“We’re very close to each other. We look out for each other. We take care of each other,” Body said. “We always send each other videos and ask for suggestions, critiques. We’re a pretty close-knit group. We all come from different backgrounds, but when we come together for an international event, we come together. We’re brothers and sisters. That’s how we look at each other and treat each other.”
Body will also have his wife, Erin, cheering him on in person at his first Parapan Am Games. She’s long been his biggest supporter, he said.
“For this kind of event, she can’t be with me because she’s not allowed in the athlete village,” Body said. “The only time she’ll see me is when I compete. That doesn’t bother her at all. She’s in full support of everything and she’s been my biggest supporter.”
Performing well at his first Parapan Am Games would cap what has already been a big year. Several months ago, Bobby, Erin and their children moved into a mortgage-free home on Lake Huron in Michigan provided by an organization started by a former NFL star Jared Allen and his Homes for Wounded Warriors charity.
“We’re living in a small town, that’s what we were hoping for and looking for,” said Body. “Everything worked out for the best.”