A quarter-ton, lifted by a teenager with a strong heart and eyes on a world record

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — A calf, a male tiger, three average-sized men and $900 in pennies all tip the scale at about 500 pounds.

If you could position any of those masses on a bar, Spencer Creamer could more than likely dead-lift it. And he’s about to use that strength at an international competition where he expects to set a world record.

As you watch the 17-year-old bend over nearly a dozen 45-pound plates, and then with a deep breath and a thrust of power, lift the heavy metal until he’s standing straight, you’d never guess how his life started.

The Cumberland High School senior was born with an alphabet soup of heart defects, including VSD and ASD, and has been examined by doctors his entire life to make sure his most important muscle is functioning properly.

“It never really affected me,” Creamer said during one of his recent workouts. “I know I have a heart problem and I don’t try to think about that every day.”

He was focused on wrestling around first grade, before he could even spell grown-up words like Ventrical Sepal Defect, also known as VSD.

But right before the first day of middle school practice, his short wrestling career was over.

“That’s what I loved doing,” Creamer said. “And then when I was told I couldn’t do that it, it hurt a lot.”

It took some time for Creamer to become arguably one of the strongest people in the world. The superlative doesn’t even require a “pound for pound” reference since he is now poised to set a world dead-lift record for his age and weight division.

While contact sports were out, the short bursts of powerlifting were okay, although his parents admit it made them a little nervous.

As a freshman who weighed about 100 pounds soaking wet, Creamer entered the Central Falls garage training program of coach and power-lifting champion Jimmy Bourgault.

Bourgault, who’s broken a few power-lifting records himself, could tell right away that Creamer had potential.

“He was a natural,” Bourgault said.

The teenager wasn’t so sure.

“My first year lifting I could only do 225 for dead lift,” Creamer said, agreeing that it was more than twice his weight at the time. “Yes, but that’s not a lot of weight.”

Over the next few years, his personal best kept climbing.

Past 300 pounds. North of 400.

Then, this year, there he was, now 140 pounds, standing over a dead lift with five 45-pound plates and more on each side of the bar.

With relative ease, he dead-lifted the 510 pounds, a total that would shatter the world record for his division by about 60 pounds.

“I was wicked pumped,” he said . “It was a goal I finally achieved. It hasn’t sunk in, but it does feel good.”

And if you think heavy lifting is too much physical stress for someone with a heart defect, here’s his answer Creamer would offer to anyone who might ask why.

“Why not?” he said. “I have a chance to do it, why not prove myself?”

In June, Creamer won a U.S. Powerlifting Federation title in the 16- and 17-year-old, 148-pound division, and set national records in the dead-lift, squat and combination categories.

This weekend he will be in London for the World Powerlifting Federation British Open for dead lift and bench press. Bourgault will compete in the masters division bench press.

The door on Bourgault’s garage where Creamer honed his power includes the names and best lifts of other champions who trained there. Creamer expects to add to his total soon.

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