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Special Olympics World Games

Lamere expects an uplifting experience

For many of the athletes competing at the Special Olympics World Games next week in Raleigh, N.C., simply being a part of the action will be the thrill of a lifetime.

But for Medford powerlifter Jason Lamere, anything short of a bronze medal will be a disappointment.

Lamere is one of five athletes from Jackson County who have been selected to participate in the event, which will feature some 7,000 athletes from 150 countries in 19 sports.

The games kick off today and run through July 4.

Special Olympics is a nonprofit program of sports training and competition for individuals with mental retardation.

This will be Lamere's first trip to the World Games, but he is hardly a newcomer to powerlifting or success. The 22-year-old has been lifting for the past eight years and has a wheelbarrow full of trophies to show for it, including a first-place showing at the American Drug Free Powerlifting Association Championships in 1996. Lamere set a state record for his age group and weight class (17-19 age group, 220 pounds) during that tournament when he dead-lifted 451 pounds. He also bench-pressed 270 pounds and hoisted 320 on the squat rack for a total of 1,041 pounds.

The record wasn't for Special Olympics athletes only; it included all of the lifters in the competition.

Jason is a talented lifter no matter who he's matched up against, says Chuck McFarland, who is Lamere's workout partner and coach. He works out religiously, and he gets stronger and stronger every year.

Lamere trains at the Rogue Valley Family YMCA three to four days per week and 60 to 90 minutes per session.

McFarland says Lamere will likely have to hoist 1,300 pounds in the three lifts at the World Games to medal, a formidable, yet surmountable, load. McFarland anticipates about 30 competitors in Lamere's 100-kilo (220 pounds) weight class.

I guarantee you there will be some very tough lifters there, McFarland says, but Jason should be in the thick of it. I'll be disappointed if he doesn't win at least one silver medal and finish in the top three.

You always shoot for the gold, but I'm not sure that's realistic -- the competition is that good.

Lamere is a graduate of North Medford High School, where he played football, wrestled and lifted weights. Black Tornado football coach Rod Rumrey remembers him as a good, hard worker that you could always count on to give his best.

Lamere was on the 1993 Tornado football team that won the state championship.

For the past 4 years, he has worked as a fruit packer at Bear Creek Corp., where fellow employees marvel at the ease with which he lifts 100-pound plus boxes.

Weightlifting has given Jason a sense of purpose and accomplishment, McFarland says. I think it has carried over to his job and other parts of his life.

Asked if he would be nervous when he arrives in North Carolina for the start of the Special Olympics World Games, Lamere said: Just a little.

In order to qualify for the World Games, Lamere had to prove himself at a training camp in Salem. He was also required to have a letter of recommendation from his employer and from Special Olympics Area Director Karen Parnell.

Other Rogue Valley athletes headed for the World Games are Robert Chaney, 14, gymnastics; Erin Parnell, 20, gymnastics; Jerry Pinkert, 32, soccer; and Robert Jenkins, 47, golf.

Oregon will send a total of 52 athletes to the competition.

Special Olympian Jason Lamere, 22, of Medford, has been lifting weights for eight years and regularly brings home trophies from competitions. - Photo by Bob Pennell