Brady Tanner has more than 550 pounds of weight on his back.
That’s not his struggle, though. He’s got to dip down and touch a medicine ball so his hips are lower than his knees. That’s what the judges will look for in June when he’s competing against athletes from around the world in Athens, Greece.
He’s pushing himself for a reason.
“I want to win four gold medals,” he said.
Tanner, 31, is one of three Kansans nominated by the state to become members of Team USA for the Special Olympics World Games this summer. He’s joining 316 other athletes from around the country to compete June 25 through July 4, and he will go up against other powerlifters in three different lifts and an overall competition.
Before going to Greece, he’s heading to San Diego for training camp with Team USA. When he gets there Sunday, it will be the first time he’s met his coaches for the games, and the first time they will have a chance to evaluate him.
Brady has been ramping up his training in preparation for camp, lifting one more day than normal with his father and trainer, Gary Tanner.
“He goes as hard as he can as long as he can,” Gary said. “He has no boundaries, no limits.”
Brady has been a fixture in Douglas County and Kansas Special Olympics competitions since 2000, but he wasn’t always able to do shrugs with 100-pound barbells.
Brady was born prematurely, barely over 4 pounds, and Gary cupped his palms to show how tiny he was. Brady also had Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, which impaired his speech and delayed his mental growth. But it also meant he was unable to think negatively, so for his whole life, he’s only been positive and happy.
The older brother of two sisters, Brady was skinny in high school and started bulking up only when he hung out with Haskell Indian Nations University’s football team in the off-season.
“He just took off. He hasn’t stopped yet,” said Gary, who is the interim athletic director and head golf coach at the school.
That enthusiasm is what has taken Brady to where he is today: Preparing for the biggest competition available to Special Olympians.
“He understands that this is the highest level,” Gary said. “He really wants to do well. He wants four gold medals.”
Gary is helping Brady to push himself in preparation for that contest. They are focused on getting Brady used to large amounts of weight and squatting lower than normal, which is what the world judges will look for. The low squat means having the hip joint lower than the knee joint, which they practiced by having him squat down to a medicine ball on the ground.
“It makes it harder when I have to touch that thing,” said Brady, who competes in the 242-pound weight class. ““He wants to push me harder.”
Trip is a milestone
The training trip to San Diego will have Brady traveling with his Kansan teammates, Natasha Leininger, a track and field athlete from Manhattan, and Brian Stauffer, a swimmer from Newton.
He’s most looking forward to one thing in particular: “Meeting my coaches.”
For Gary, the trip symbolizes something different. Brady won’t be traveling with the family, but instead with teammates and coaches.
“It’s kind of the next step of him growing up,” Gary said. “With normal children, it’s, ‘You were out too late’ or ‘You wrecked the car.’ We’ll never have that. It’s kind of neat.”
The trip to San Diego won’t be all work and no play, though. The team will bond together at a baseball game, a beach party and a dance, for which Brady is particularly excited.
“I’m going to go boogie,” he said.
After the trip, Brady and Gary have about two months of training before he heads to Athens for the world games. Brady’s mother, Janie, and his sisters, Jamie Davis and Jennifer Morris, often pitch in to help him train at Haskell, where Brady is enrolled in a racquetball class.
“It’s kept our family tight,” Gary said.
Brady’s positive attitude shows through while training, and he won’t give up until he’s achieved his goals. Long-term, that’s four World Games gold medals. In training, though, it’s just squatting down low enough to touch the medicine ball.
“That’s no good at all. I’m going to get that,” Brady said.