One of the most successful powerlifting athletes at the AAU Junior Olympic Games during the past few years has been Taylorville, Illinois teenager Karter Brachear. A 17-year-old junior at Taylorville High School, Karter began doing the powerlifts at age 12 to get stronger for football and wrestling, and he set seven Illinois state records in his first meet nine months later.
To date, he has competed in multiple powerlifting federations -- AAU, WABDL, USAPL, USPA, and WUAP – and has broken records at nearly every meet in which he has competed – several hundred all told (52 World Records, 64 National Records and 200+ Illinois State Records).
Karter began competing in “single ply” powerlifting divisions, meaning he would compete with special suits, shirts and knee wraps to lift the maximum weight possible on each of the three lifts – squat, bench press and deadlift. “I competed mostly single ply in the past,” he says, “but have moved to both single ply and raw. I am more comfortable competing in single ply gear, as my first coaches all competed and trained in single ply gear, but I competed more in raw meets than equipped this past year.”
Raw powerlifters compete in only a singlet and a t-shirt, and weightlifting belts and wrist wraps are the only supportive devices allowed.
Karter trains with his dad at The Lock-Up gym in Taylorville on average three days a week, and in Springfield, Illinois with coach Steffen Smith at Max Barbell Gym once a week. “Training varies, depending on where I am in meet preparation,” Karter says. “On average, I usually train three days per week at my home gym, and I travel to train with my coach once per week.”
Karter has competed at nine national championships and five WABDL world championships, winning Best Teen Lifter in each of his five WABDL world championship appearances. He has also taken home 11 World, 23 National and 15 AAU Jr. Olympic Gold Medals, but he has not kept all of them.
In fact, Karter has gained publicity not only as a world champion and world record-breaking powerlifter, but also as an inspirational athlete who brings joy to others by giving away his championship medals.
“I was having difficulty motivating myself to train,” Karter says. “Medals for Mettle was having a treadmill marathon to raise money for charity, where they donate marathon finisher medals to patients in hospitals to inspire them, and I thought this was a great idea.
“I found that donating a medal inspired me to train harder,” Karter continues. “I now find one recipient each year to donate one of my AAU Jr. Olympic Gold Medals to help inspire them.”
Karter first presented a medal to Lauren Reuther on November 2, 2013. “Lauren is a remarkable girl who battles daily with brittle bone disease, or Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI),” Karter says.
Karter has given away five medals to ailing individuals – four JO Games gold medals and one world championship medal. Three of the recipients are living, while two have now passed away. The two individuals who died were buried with the medals Karter gave them, and Karter attended the funerals of those individuals at the request of their families.
Not only have Karter’s acts of kindness provided inspiration to child patients in Illinois, they have also inspired a movement. It began at the 50th AAU Junior Olympic Games in Houston this past summer, when Karter competed as a member of America’s top youth weightlifting and powerlifting team, Jets Barbell, based in Shreveport, Louisiana.
“Coach John Crofton of Jets Barbell became aware of my donations,” Karter says, “and he spoke to me about adopting this same sort of effort there locally in Shreveport. Jets Barbell is one of the most recognized lifting teams in the country, producing top level athletes in a variety of sports. They excel both athletically and as individuals. It was an honor to be asked to be part of their team, and an honor that they are conducting the same type of goodwill medal effort.”
“I overheard an interview with Karter, who was very humble about his donations, and I thought it was just a wonderful thing” Crofton says. “When I told everyone how cool that was, I was met with an overwhelming response from the Jets team, wanting to do that too. The idea and ground work was entirely Karter’s, and we’re thrilled to be included and involved.”
In December, 10 Jets team members visited the Shreveport’s United Health Children’s Hospital, walking through the child cancer ward and giving away Junior Olympic Games Medals of their own.
Karter and his dad have had many great memories during his record-setting career. “My most memorable was the WABDL Southern Nationals in Arkansas in 2014,” he says. “I broke the world bench press record, and won best lifter among teenagers. Eddie Morgan was the meet director, and he is also a special education teacher. He has a team of Special Olympics powerlifters who adopted me, and I them. I always try to make that meet, and I have developed friendships with some of his lifters.”
Karter plans to continue training hard, and he plans to pursue powerlifting in college. “I am working to become a member of the USAPL Sub-Junior national team,” Karter says. “I would also like to continue to add to my collection of world, national and Jr. Olympic championships, and follow in the footsteps of Evan Pittman and reach 100 world records as a teenager,” he says, referring to the Arizona high school senior who recently became the youngest competitive powerlifter to break more than 100 world records.
But Karter’s most powerful and lasting legacy may not be earned by breaking records and winning medals, but rather by giving away the gold he worked so hard to achieve to those who may never experience the glory of winning a world title or a breaking world record. Not only has Karter made an incredible personal impact, he has motivated an entire team to act in a similar manner.
“Most people will never remember my championships,” Karter concludes. “But the friendships my small donations create, and the inspiration they provide, will last for the lifetimes of those who receive them.”
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