An old advertising slogan used to claim, “you’re not getting older, you’re getting better.”
The same could be said for Darshan Singh Gill. The View Royal resident, who won world powerlifting gold in 2008 and owns multiple B.C. and national age group titles, just turned 77.
He indirectly marked the occasion in the weight room at West Shore Parks and Recreation by leg pressing 1,100 pounds, an all-time personal best.
The successful attempt, which saw Gill load up the machine with nine 45-pound plates on each side, had a somewhat theatrical flair, as a fellow lifting enthusiast sat atop the apparatus to add 235 pounds of weight. Gill pulled off five repetitions to show he could do it.
“Even 50-year-old guys can’t do that. Even young kids can’t do that,” the usually modest Gill said afterward in an interview.
Standing just under five-eight and carrying 206 well-toned pounds on his frame, the long-retired mill worker looks closer to 60 than 80. He’s been a regular at the Juan de Fuca gym for 20 years and works out five or six times a week, on average.
He doesn’t think much about age, he said, although some days his body tells him he’s overdone it a bit. A rotator cuff injury sustained a while back is healing nicely, but will keep him out of this month’s provincial championships in Vancouver. “You have to just think positive. I think when I’m 90 I’ll still be lifting.”
Gill has competed 30-plus years in powerlifting, which combines squats, bench press and deadlift, and usually includes a bench-press only competition. He broke his hip and knee in 1986 and was told at the time by his doctor he would be lucky to walk normally again, never mind powerlifting.
Having worked hard on his physical conditioning, he largely ignored the doctor’s dim prognosis and was back competing after a couple of years.
These days, fellow lifters marvel at Gill’s longevity and relative durability. “People ask me, ‘when you were young, were you stronger then?’ I say no,” he said. “In 1975, my squat was 350 pounds. When I was 65 (in 2002) my squat was over 500.”
With the help of regular leg presses, which work a similar muscle group, he still squats more than 400 pounds. He also deadlifts at least 400 and the other day bench pressed 275, the same amount he lifted in winning his category at the 2013 B.C. championships last June.
Gill, who hopes to be ready to compete again by the Fall Classic this November, enjoys the people he works out with at the rec centre and enjoys inspiring them to do more.
“I love it. When you go there and you meet people, and you’re lifting, then lifting more, you see them and they’re happy,” he said.