By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Westborough resident Harmesh Sharma is 77 years old and a power lifting champion.
Indeed, Sharma recently won his age division in the 2021 Massachusetts/Rhode Island USA Power Lifting Championship, deadlifting more than twice his own weight for what was his personal record (PR).
A milestone for any athlete, that achievement carries extra weight for Sharma.
“At my age, it’s not just linear,” he said in a recent interview. “The effort needed [to maintain a level of performance] is tenfold.”
Career intertwines with distance running, weight lifting story
Sharma led a long career in biochemistry before retiring in 2018. That included nearly a decade spent on the faculty of SUNY Buffalo as well as time with the companies Bayer and Genzyme.
“I’ve always been a hard worker whether it was in my work as a scientist or in my fitness. I want to work hard and earn everything I have,” he said in a previous conversation with the Fifty Plus Advocate in 2019.
Championship marks return to competition after COVID-19
Over the years, Sharma spent decades in the world of distance running, completing marathons and tracking his progress towards a goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
He eventually changed course, however, joining a gym to improve his weight lifting chops.
Sharma connected with established powerlifter and mentor Mark Knowles, who recognized a unique intensity and helped Sharma optimize his training regime for maximum growth.
Such work paid dividends as Sharma earned a ticket to the national powerlifting championships back in 2019. Success in that competition then had Sharma destined for the international championships in South Africa before COVID-19 disrupted plans.
There were no state championships in 2020 due to the pandemic, making Sharma’s recent performance a return to form of sorts.
“There were not many people competing in my [age] class,” Sharma said.
Sharma deadlifted 260 pounds, setting his PR.
He recorded a 121.3 pound lift on the bench press and topped off the showing with a 182 pound squat.
All this came after scheduling confusion led Sharma to miss his first lift of the day.
“That had me rattled,” he said.
Weightlifter looks to continue inspiring others
Sharma is pushing forward, wearing his powerlifting medals with pride as he eyes future success.
Along the way, he’s meticulously tracking everything from his food and drink to his blood pressure and lifts.
He etches that information into a well worn composition notebook which he carries with him, cracking open its ink-stained pages to reveal precise handwritten notes on every line.
His current notebook dates back to 2017. Ever the scientist, though, he said he’s always been doing this. Sharma has notebooks in his possession full of data from his college days.
Sharma is honored and driven by the way his personal fitness inspires those close to him.
He does not plan on stopping soon.
“The competitions are wonderful,” he said in 2019. “But my ultimate goal is to inspire others to reach for their fitness goals. If someone sees that an athlete of my size and age can reach their goals, then they should know it’s possible for them as well.”