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Kenneth Rice sets world record at first ever powerlifting event

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"Before every lift I pray for a safe lift but I always say and it would be nice if I got a win." Kenneth Rice

Kenneth Rice of Rutherfordton had never participated in a United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) event until last month when he competed in the Blue Ridge event in Hendersonville.

Not only did Rice participate in the first ever event for him at Strong Hand Fitness in Hendersonville, the 64-year-old Rice broke five national records.

"It was the first event ever," he said from the gym recently where he was doing his daily routine.

Rice set four National Records for his age group (men age 60-64) in Bench Press (385.5 lbs), Deadlift (578.7 lbs), Squat (551.2 lbs) and Overall Powerlifting Weight Lifted (1515.7 lbs).

Kenny also received the "Best Lifter" award for the Blue Ridge Classic above all other lifters in all of the weight groups and ages that competed in the contest.

He even surpassed the World Records set for his division.

Weightlifting/Powerlifting has been a lifelong passion for Kenny and he has remained dedicated to it to this day, said his friend Travis Walker.

"It is incredible at his age of 64 that he was able to set these kinds of achievements and lift such Hercules kind of weight for his age," Walker said.

The two became friends about 29 years ago powerlifting together.

"I can still see my now 20-year-old son going with us every day to work out while he watched us in his playpen back 18 years ago," Walker continues.

"Kenny is an inspiration to everyone who knows him and keeps pursuing his passion today," Walker said.

Approximately two and a half years ago, Kenny had to retire from his work due to health issues. He said some things could be fixed, while others is a balancing act with medicine and just being careful.

Kenny works out 90 minutes a day, five days a week.

"I also talk about 45 minutes a day. The social interaction is just as important to your health," Kenny said.

In 2022 Kenny actually entered a Blue Ridge Classic but couldn't go for health reasons. He began to train for 2023.

"Finally I made it to the day of the contest and to say I was nervous is an understatement," he said.

"To have broken four national records in my first USPA contest came with a lot of tears of joy. I had a lot of support or this would not have happened," he continued.

Regarding his influence on others, Kenny said he and his granddaughter Rhianna Head, a high school freshman, did a strongman/strongwoman contest together at Matthew's gym in Forest City some years ago.

"She was the youngest and I was the oldest. She did great and it was probably the most fun thing I have ever done," Kenny said.

He hopes any influence he has on others has come from the example of what hard work can do.

"The love of helping and sharing what you have learned over the years and watching out and keeping each other safe is what it is about," he said.

"Never give up trying to build the world you can see, even if others can't see it," Kenny said.

Following his successful December competition at the USPA Blue Ridge Classic, Kenny said, "This is proof. Never give in or give up. Love playing sports in school but was average at best. Started weight training in 1979 to stay healthy and get a little bigger. Over the years working out was not first on my list. Family and work had to be taken care of first. Two and a half years ago my body gave up. I had to get some things taken care of. Some things we could fix others is a balancing act with medicine and just being careful. So instead of feeling sorry for myself I started the process. After two surgeries and a few setbacks, I finally got eight months with no bad luck and good training. I entered the contest at the 2023 USPA Blue Ridge Classic at Strong Hand Fitness.

Chris Morgan has been Kenny's workout partner for the past 10 years.

"He has put in a lot of time as my trainer. He went to the contest and handled everything so I could just lift," Kenny said.

Kenny is a lifelong Rutherford County man and graduated in 1977 from Chase High School.

Married to Shirley Rice, the couple has a daughter Beth Head and granddaughter, Rhianna Head.

He is the son of Ralph Rice and Ida Mae Rice; has a sister Tanya Violett and a brother Ray Rice.

Kenny spent his career in textiles working at Stonecutter, Mastercraft and Cone Jacquard.

"His wife Shirley has seen Kenny's growth in their 46 years of marriage and always been his solid-rock support," Walker said. "I am just so proud of him and wanted to share this incredible achievement with the rest of Rutherford County so everyone could share in this amazing accomplishment."

When he's not weightlifting, Kenny enjoys bass fishing.

Kenny said he's had a lot of support over the years.

"My wife has always supported me in lifting. Has always given me the time to go and has never said a word."

For anyone interested in weightlifting, he says, "Do it safe. I have never gotten hurt. When training others, safety is first," Kenny said.

He also said before he begins a lift, he looks up and says a prayer for safety during the lift. "And if I win, well that's good too."

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