Powerlifter Ben Wahlstrand celebrates his gold medal on the podium after the competition.
Photo and story by: Emily Sallach, UNL
The only thing bigger than Ben Wahlstrand’s fan following was the smile on his face.
Wahlstrand, from Grand Forks, N.D., had 16 fans with him on Tuesday morning at Kimball Hall. These fans were friends and family from five different states. Some family members traveled all the way from California and Arizona to watch him compete this week, and many other fans watched him from the live online stream.
Wahlstrand has been involved with the Special Olympics for eight years but competed at a national level this year for the first time. He started out in Special Olympics playing basketball and in the past three years found his talent for power lifting.
Wahlstrand’s family members could barely find the words to express how proud they are of him. They talked about how he was an over-achiever and is always pushing to do better. He holds two jobs and was the keynote speaker at his high school graduation.
When Wahlstrand was asked to compete at the 2010 Special Olympic USA National Games, he said he “humbly accepted” the opportunity.
He said he likes power lifting because “it makes me feel good inside, but family is what really makes me a success here. They give me something to believe in …”
Wahlstrand will travel back to North Dakota with not just one gold medal but two. He collected a gold medal in bench press and dead lift, while his teammate Shale Erickson was right behind him with a silver in the same events. This also meant Walhstrand took home the gold for the combined bench and dead lift, raising his total to three on the day.
Wahlstrand said he enjoyed his week in Lincoln at the USA National Games and loved getting to watch the other athletes compete and, in his words, “do amazing things.”
He credits his trainer Adam Sorum for getting him started in power lifting and Will Kuslerr for coaching him at the state-level games.
Tags: Adam Sorum, Ben Wahlstrand, North Dakota, Photo, powerlifting, Shale Erickson, Stories, Will Kuslerr