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76-year-old Mayville lifter chasing world records

MAYVILLE, N.D. -- Bob Andre is at an age where many of his cohorts have retired and taken up hobbies such as traveling, fishing and golf. Not the 76-year-old Andre, however. He continues to do carpentry work full time as a private contractor. And...

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Bob Andre, 76, holds two trophies that he won for setting world records in the deadlift competition. Andre, a Mayville carpenter, took up weightlifting nearly 20 years ago to stay in shape. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

MAYVILLE, N.D. -- Bob Andre is at an age where many of his cohorts have retired and taken up hobbies such as traveling, fishing and golf.

Not the 76-year-old Andre, however. He continues to do carpentry work full time as a private contractor. And, as for hobbies, Andre has taken up winning state weight-lifting titles and setting world records.

In the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters, Andre holds all of the association's North Dakota deadlift records in the masters men's age 61-67 and masters men's age 68-74  divisions.

Last August, he set a WABDL world deadlift record in the masters 198-pound class (424.2 pounds), only to see another lifter break Andre's record last November at nationals. The new record, Andre said, is less than two pounds more than his former record.

“I set it at the regional meet,’’ Andre said. “I sprained my ankle and couldn’t compete at nationals. If I’d been there, I’d still have that record. No way I would have let somebody beat me. I’ll get it back.’’

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The achievements are more impressive considering that Andre didn't begin lifting until he was 58 years old. He didn't begin competing until he was 63.

"I wish I would have started doing this when I was younger,'' Andre said. "I wonder sometimes what I could have done, what I could have lifted.''

A late start

Athletics have not been a big part of Andre’s life.

He played a year of football at Mayville State College after graduating from Hope High School in 1957. His football career ended because of an injury. Then it was three years in the Army and on to various jobs - farming, working in a factory, working as a contractor, finishing his college degree. “I was always busy,’’ he said. “Work kept me out of sports.’’

Work also gave Andre a reason to become involved in weightlifting.

It was 18 years ago. Andre was working for a contractor and was laid off for the winter. The 5-foot-7 Andre’s weight was up to 240 pounds.

“I felt I had to do something, some kind of conditioning,’’ Andre said. “I started lifting and the more I did it, the more I got into it.’’

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Andre began reading magazines on the sport. He bought used equipment and built his own lifting station in his Mayville home. He joined the competitive lifting ranks when he was 63. His first competition was at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot.

“I wondered if I was going to make a fool of myself,’’ Andre said. “But I wound up lifting 400 pounds. And I was the only one in my age classification. I talked to other lifters and found out about other competition coming up. I liked the training. I liked the competition. It’s a challenge, and it’s fun.

“There’s an excitement (in competing) that I don’t find anywhere else.’’

State domination

The WABDL lists the association’s record holders in every state on its website. There are five  master men’s deadlift divisions in North Dakota. Andre is the record holder in all five.

Andre laughs at that domination.

“There’s not a lot of competition in my weight group in North Dakota,’’ he said. “I enjoy the regional meets more. Everybody, the whole crowd, really gets into it. And you get to know the people there. The nationals, those are too big.’’

Still, Andre has had success at both levels.

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On a wall in his home hangs a framed certificate recognizing the world record he set. Sitting atop the kitchen cabinets is a line of swords, trophy cups and statues, nine awards Andre has taken home for winning lifting competitions.

The tallest is approximately a foot high, with a Hercules-type figurine. He won it for being named best overall lifter in the masters division at a national meet.

“That one surprised me,’’ Andre said, smiling. “thought it was a mistake when they gave it to me. I figured I better get out of town fast before they took it back.’’

Across the room from the row of awards is Andre’s lifting area. Andre lifts at least once a week.

“There are days when I look forward to lifting, but I hate the thought of the day after,’’ he said. “If you work hard, you know you’ll feel it the next day. You get sore.

“But I know the consequences if I don’t work out. And there’s the motivation that you don’t want other guys at the construction site thinking you’re too old for the job. I like to show that I’m not too old. I want to push the stereotypes aside.’’

No end in sight

Art was Andre’s passion at one time. Hanging on the wall near his lifting equipment are two of his paintings. In another room is a large carved wooden rocking horse.

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“They’re not on the same page; they’re not even in the same book,’’ Andre said of lifting and art. “I expected to be an artist when I was younger. I didn’t achieve great things doing it. I don’t know if I’ve achieved great things as a lifter. I look at it as achieving what I was capable of doing.’’

Andre is training now for his next competition, the WABDL in the Twin Cities in August. He plans to compete at nationals in Las Vegas in November.

And he’s not done. There’s that world record that he wants to reclaim and others to set.

“I’d like to go out and set world records in the 80-to-84 age class,’’ Andre said. “I think I can do that if I can stay healthy.’’


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Mayville, ND, weightlifter Bob Andre deadlifts 405 lbs. during a recent training session at his home. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

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