By: Gage Axford
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Kendrick Farris has always been a fighter. Throughout, his career he has shown one quality that has set him apart from his other competitors – persistence.
Rewind back to eleven years ago and Farris’ longtime coach and father figure Kyle Pierce will tell you, Farris wasn’t originally the top lifter in his hometown gym in Shreveport, Louisiana.
“When he first came in, he did pretty well, but we actually had another kid [Joshua Johnson] that came in after him that was in the same age group and body weight category that passed him up,” Pierce said.
At the age of 14, Farris finished third place at the National Junior Championships, two spots below Johnson. The next year, he placed second. He continued this upward trend, until he eventually found himself competing in the 2008 Olympic Games. He was projected to finish around 20th - he finished 8th.
It was his work ethic and commitment that eventually pushed him to become the best male lifter in the United States and to land him his second spot at the Olympic Games this summer in London.
“I think the thing that separated him from the rest of them was he had more heart, more drive, more persistence,” Pierce said.
Today, if you look at his right arm and you will see a bracelet with the inscription “Bless the Gym”, a phrase Farris came up with himself to supply a consistent source of inspiration. He rarely takes it off, especially with the upcoming London Games.
“When you go to the gym, I want you to bless the gym with your time, your presence and your talents,” Farris said. “You may not be feeling that talent one day, but you are there so you can bless it with your time, you can bless it with your presence, if you have teammates, you give encouragement to them.”
In his training this year, Farris has pushed himself to further limits, at one point lifting 162 kg (356 pounds) in the snatch. Normally, his training max is 145 kg (319 pounds). Even further, Farris claims to have made further advancements in the clean and jerk.
“I’ve done the clean and jerk 211 kilos [466 pounds], I’ve cleaned 218 kg.[480 1/2 pounds] and I’ve done a jerk with 225 kg. [496 pounds] and that’s seven kilos over the world record,” Farris said. “I think I can put the two together as far as being able to clean and jerk 219 kg. [482 3/4 pounds].”
Currently, Farris is beginning to enter the high intensity and low volume cycle of his periodized training. This means he will be lifting fewer reps, more weight and will be starting to do more Olympic style lifts in his training.
“He’s starting initially into sort of a competition phase, where we’re doing a few more lifts than we have in the past several weeks,” said Pierce.
For the London Olympic Games, Farris enters Team USA’s only male weightlifter representative, but he feels no pressure.
“No sir,” Farris said. “There’s no pressure at all. I just have to go in and do what I’ve been doing. I’ve been competing for over 13 years, so it’s just another competition.”
If anything, Farris goes into the Games as the most experienced member of USA’s 2012 Olympic Team. He is the current American record holder for the Clean and Jerk (203 kg or 447 1/2 pounds) and total weight (362 kg or 798 pounds), both of which he set at the 2010 Senior Pan American Championships, and five-time USA Weightlifting Senior National Champion in the 85 kg weight division.
As the only returning American weightlifter that competed in the 2008 Beijing Games, Farris feels his past Olympic experience will better prepare him for what to expect for the Games this time around.
“I think the biggest part is just knowing the media attention and even past that, just with the competition, knowing the way they have the competition set up and knowing the competitors and some of the lifters will help.”
Even off the platform, Farris has remained busy. While training, Farris has been selling t-shirts, hoodies and wristbands with his trademarked phrases “Bless the Gym” and “King of the Platform” to help raise funds for himself.
“I do t-shirts and all different kinds of things,” Farris said. “I just wanted to develop a brand that I could grow and then potentially sponsor some other weightlifters.”
One of Farris’ current goals is to raise enough money to bring his family, his wife Katrina and his five-year-old son Khalil, out with him to the Games.
“We’re trying to raise money right now,” Farris said. “I’m seeking donations through my site, a lot of people are buying apparel, that helps, I [set up] a fund raiser at Buffalo Wild Wings on June 25th and my brother is setting up a fundraiser. “
Last March, Katrina and Khalil were able to travel out to Columbus, Ohio to see Farris compete at the 2012 USA Weightlifting Senior Nationals.
“That just calms the soul,” Farris said. “You just kind of get up there and relax a little bit more and you know that those people are going to love you regardless. Having them there [in London], I can’t even put it to words, it would just be an awesome feeling.”
Whether Farris’ family will be able to attend or not, his coach Kyle Pierce, will be one of USA Weighting’s three coaches traveling to the Games this year. It will be a special trip for both Farris and Pierce, especially considering how close they are.
“He really is like a son to me,” Pierce said. “When he got married a couple of years ago, I was listed as a parent in the program and I sat up front there with this mom. It’s been really neat to have coached somebody that long.”
With his coach and possibly family there to cheer him on, Farris hopes to put himself in position for a chance at a medal.
“I’ve been able to do some pretty big lifts in training, so if I’m healthy the day of the lighting - we go in, get a snatch, get a clean and jerk; then I know it can happen.”
In less than a month, Farris returns to his second Games bringing in that same “fighter” attitude that has helped him succeed in the sport for the last 14 years. Well-knowing of the atmosphere he is about to step into, he is determined to rise above expectations.