IWAKUNI, Japan - Station residents and local Japanese took part in testing their power and strength in the 2012 Summer Slam Bench Press competition here at the IronWorks sports courts June 2.
“It’s a powerlifting event which is solely specialized for the bench press itself,” said John R. Baltazar III, Marine Corps Community Service acting athletic director.
Approximately 28 individuals took part in the competition, which consisted of male and female competitors in ten divisions.
The number of participants in this year’s competition was surprisingly greater than in previous iterations.
“I was pretty impressed,” said Baltazar. “We actually tripled the amount of names and bodies we had last bench press competition.”
Though Japanese who live off base made up the majority of competitors, station residents and servicemembers who competed were excited about the opportunity to compete and perform.
“This is my second competition so far,” said Donyale Young, 165-pound weight class competitor. “It’s always good to compete with those of the Japanese community. It’s good to interact with them because you learn a lot.”
Participants may be motivated by more than competition against contemporaries. They're also competing against themselves. The possibility of breaking personal records or accomplishments motivated some weight lifters at this year’s event.
“It’s not about coming in first place,” said Young. “It’s about going against yourself. When you come out here for the first time, it’s just about seeing where you are at.”
For some, self-motivation may not be enough when entering the ring of such an egocentric sport.
“A lot of Marines don’t want to get embarrassed,” said Young. “I try to encourage them to come out and compete because they’re going against themselves. It’s not working out too well but I’m going to keep trying to get them to come out.”
For others, the issue was not necessarily with the number of servicemembers, but the absence of women athletes.
“I thought it would be better if we had more female (competitors),” said Sayaka Takabayashi, 132-pound competitor and first
Takabayashi said she felt there were not as many females competitors to men because some women are more comfortable using a machine to train their muscles as opposed to free weights.
“They don’t even know how much they can do because they never use the bar,” said Takabayashi.
Bench pressing is one of the primary ways some people gauge strength. The question of how much one can bench can often come up whenever people are in casual conversation discussing weightlifting. For competitors, this is a question they continue to ask themselves but also push to find out.