'Shocked': Portsmouth's Dele Atoro a national-level powerlifter. He didn't see it coming.

·3 min read
Portsmouth resident Dele Atoro shows off a few medals from a United States Powerlifting Association competition.
Portsmouth resident Dele Atoro shows off a few medals from a United States Powerlifting Association competition.

PORTSMOUTH — A regular part of Dele Atoro's lifestyle is working out, training and staying in the best shape possible, but he never thought it would lead to national powerlifting competitions.

Atoro, 33, who was a high school athlete, plays in a local rugby league. His new passion began last year, when he reached a personal goal to bench press 315 pounds. He was pleased, and the milestone was also impressive to one of his friends who saw Atoro's post about it on social media.

"It was an amazing milestone, and I posted about it just to be like it was something I had worked on," he said. "And that's when my friend reached out about powerlifting."

Atoro is headed to the United States Powerlifting Association's national championships July 7 to 9 in Las Vegas. It will be his fourth time competing in powerlifting since August 2021, when he took part in his first USPA event.

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How Atoro developed as competitor

Portsmouth resident Dele Atoro has been making steady progress as he prepares for the United States Powerlifting Association national championships in Las Vegas.
Portsmouth resident Dele Atoro has been making steady progress as he prepares for the United States Powerlifting Association national championships in Las Vegas.

Atoro reached that goal of 315 pounds in late 2020 at Seacoast Sports Club in Portsmouth.

When his friend suggested competing, he said, "I thought, 'Sure, I'll look it up.'"

"I just thought it would be a cool thing to try out," Atoro added. "Upon going to my first meet in August, it was just a different environment, it was something I didn't expect and it was just cool to see so many other people basically turning moving weight into an escape for whatever they had, or whatever adversity they were going through, and turning it into a competitive sport."

Atoro's first meet was Aug. 14, 2021 in Manchester in the Greater Boston/New Hampshire championships, where he competed in the bench press.

The bench press competition is slightly different from regular reps. Competitors hold the bar on their chest until the official gives the command to press, and Atoro hit 286 pounds, which qualified him for nationals and set the state record for the 165-pound men's weight class.

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Atoro said after seeing other athletes do the Full Power competition, which combines the bench press, squatting and the deadlift, he decided to expand his areas of competition.

Atoro competed in two more events in February and April this year.

At the meet in February, Atoro squatted 330 pounds, and improved his bench to 292 and his deadlift to 457 pounds. The deadlifting number surprised him.

"I was shocked, I didn't realize I could deadlift that much," he said. "I'd been practicing and training throughout the winter at the gym, and had gotten up to 405 at the gym."

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Atoro said his deadlift would have been a state record, but he failed to tell the officials he intended to attempt a state record, which is required.

"That's when I said, 'OK, I really want to do my third meet and I kind of want to have this established and in the record books,'" Atoro said.

Pursuing higher goals

Portsmouth resident Dele Atoro competing in the deadlift competition in a United States Powerlifting Association meet. He has deadlifted 479 pounds to qualify for nationals.
Portsmouth resident Dele Atoro competing in the deadlift competition in a United States Powerlifting Association meet. He has deadlifted 479 pounds to qualify for nationals.

In the meet in April, in Portland, Maine, Atoro got his squat up to 347 pounds and attempted to bench press 297 but couldn't do it, so his personal record stands at 292.

Atoro said he shocked himself again in the deadlift when he hit 479 pounds, qualifying him for the national-level deadlift.

Atoro has another goal in mind he wants to attain.

"My goal is to have 300 be officially in the record books and I'm still chasing that right now, just because the bench press is different," he said. "It's pausing on your chest and then listening to the command rather than the standard touch and go that you would do by yourself in the gym."

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Portsmouth NH's Dele Atoro in US Powerlifting Association nationals