Powerlifter competes on world stage as he eyes a future in physical therapy

By Diane Smith

Charles Okpoko Unt Health Science Center Physical Therapy Student Web

Charles Okpoko’s 2020 goals are taking him to England where he hopes to earn a Champion of Champions title in powerlifting – a sport that has him hoisting hundreds of pounds for fun.

Okpoko juggles life, training and his studies as a first-year physical therapy student at the UNT Health Science Center. He has been setting records and hitting personal bests as a higher education student, first as an undergraduate student in Austin, and now as a student at the School of Health Professions.

“I’m making sure I’m balancing school, social life and powerlifting,” said the 24-year-old, who was drawn to physical therapy because of his passion for fitness and medicine.

In March, Okpoko is competing in the Sheffield 2020 Powerlifting Championships organized by the International Powerlifting Federation and SBD Apparel. The event is described as a first of its kind, and it promises to produce a powerlifting champion of the world.

In his quest for Champion of Champions, Okpoko will have to perform three lifts – squat, bench press and deadlift – while lifting more than 300 pounds for each event. Competitors have their eyes on a cash prize of 250,000 euros or $275,275.

Okpoko competed in collegiate powerlifting while earning his undergraduate degree in exercise science at The University of Texas at Austin.  He has earned several accolades, including three Collegiate National Championship titles, two Junior National Championship titles and two Junior World Championship titles.

Okpoko, who is his own coach, trains 12 to 15 hours spread across four days a week at a gym in North Richland Hills. He also works as a personal trainer offering coaching online. During a recent work out, the 145-pound Okpoko lifted 363 pounds.

Okpoko said he likes the rush of emotions that come with competition.

“Very few things compare to walking out on the platform – the stage – and just having bright lights, cameras and the audience yelling your name and cheering you on,” Okpoko said. “That’s a great rush. That’s a great exciting feeling.”

Okpoko, who played football in high school in Wylie, Texas, said the excitement he feels powerlifting is similar to the thrill of competition he felt while playing football.

Powerlifting is also somewhat similar to being a performer, and he doesn’t like to disappoint audiences.

“I feed off of the crowd,” Okpoko said. “There is some showmanship to it.”

Sometimes, there is even a little crying in powerlifting.

“Tears of joy. Tears of sadness – either or – but usually tears of joy on my part,” Okpoko said with a laugh.

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