Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2007

Laing packs power into small frame

KU student doesn’t look the part of competitive strongman

April 19, 2007


If you saw Chris Laing at a local gym, chances are you wouldn't take particular notice of the Kansas University junior.

It'd be easy to overlook the 5-foot-6, 180-pound Laing - until he put the squat bar on his shoulders.

O.K., with the foreshadowing of Laing being able to squat a good amount, venture a guess as to how much the bar weighs. Have a ballpark number in mind?

If you guessed 360 pounds (double his weight), your response would be common, but off target. Try tripling Laing's weight, then adding 10 pounds for good measure. No calculators needed - that's 550 pounds.

"I surprise people at the gym all the time," said Laing, who just returned from the USA Powerlifting Collegiate Nationals in Killeen, Texas. "My friends always say if they just saw me on the street, they'd never know how strong I am."

To add to the impressiveness of such weight, Laing said powertlifting squats differed from the more widely known squats of football players.

"On our squat, you have to go down past the kneecap," Laing said. "Then, I explode back up as fast as I can to get back to a normal stance. Your knee caps have to be locked and your shoulders have to be square."

Laing said he maintained friendships with current and former KU football players such as Brandon McAnderson, Brian Seymour and Nick Reid. Joking around is commonplace when they catch up.

"In football, we call what they do half squats," Laing said, laughing.

Strength runs in the Laing family. Laing's father grew up playing football. Furthermore, one of Laing's distant relatives is Bill Kazmaier, three-time World's Strongest Man champion from 1980-1982.

Laing attended Lawrence High, but didn't play sports for the Lions. He occasionally worked out in high school. It was about three years ago at what's now called Studio Alpha when the private workout facility's owner noticed Laing in the gym.

"Chris can really zero in and block everything out," said Marty Tuley, Studio Alpha owner and Laing's personal trainer/coach. "It's all business when he gets to the bar."

In fact, Laing has so much focus at meets that he doesn't even talk to his family leading up to the time of competition.

Laing usually competes in a meet every one to three months around the Midwest. Powerlifters participate in three events: Squat, bench press and the dead lift. Laing said he competed in 10 meets since the summer of 2004 and placed first in seven of them. Two other times he placed second.

Laing's lone setback occurred at Collegiate Nationals last weekend when he fouled out for the first time in his career.

"I was just off that day," Laing said. "My balance was off. I fouled out because when I stood up with the squat after the lift, I wasn't able to hold the bar steady."

Laing's 181-pound weight class fielded 27 competitors at nationals. More than 350 athletes competed in the annual event.

Tuley's situation added to the disappointment last weekend. He couldn't get a plane to Texas to coach Laing because his flight got canceled.

Laing will look to improve upon his nationals record next year in Denver.

After he graduates, Laing said he might pursue an avenue in economics, which is his major at KU. He likely won't make a living competing in powerlifting. But it will likely be his primary hobby.

"Marty invited me to come see if I wanted to powerlift when he first saw me at the gym. After the first day, I was hooked," Laing said. "It's one of those sports that no matter how strong or weak a person is, everyone's always there to encourage each person on. It's really one of those feel-good sports."


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