- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

DETROIT (AP) - Ray Fougnier was nearing retirement from the Detroit Public Schools, spending his last year at Detroit Osborn, and he wanted to stay healthy.

His dad, Alexander, retired at 65, got sick and a year later died of cancer. His mother, Lena, also retired at 65 and due to complications from diabetes, died when she was 72.

At 70, Fougnier decided to take up weight lifting - and he was serious.

Now 74, he’s one of the best power lifters in his age group.

In early April, he set four world records at the 2017 Amateur Athletic Union North American Powerlifting Championships in Laughlin, Nevada. He managed 286 in the squat, 201 in the bench press and 419 in the deadlift for a total weight in the three categories of 906.

The Detroit Free Press (https://on.freep.com/2qylDtp ) reports that the Plymouth Township resident eclipsed the mark he had set a year earlier in Las Vegas. Last year, he set just three records.

“You reach 30 and people say you are over the hill. You reach 40 and you are way over the hill, and then things start to go. I started out at age 70 doing this and I’ve been going up ever since,” he said.

Fougnier said he only he gets sore when he goes too many days without lifting.

His advice to people who want to stay healthy: Motivation.

“When I retired I made the commitment so it wouldn’t be short-lived or I’d be sick. All people really have to do is stay active. It doesn’t matter what you do, but stay active, watch your diet and don’t be a couch potato.”

The retired teacher and former head of the American Indian program at Cornell University grew up on the Oneida Indian Nation’s homeland in central New York. He now splits time between Michigan and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

“I was living in Tennessee at the time when I got started,” he said. “I was working out in a community center.

“I wasn’t really interested in lifting at first. I thought I was too old. I dismissed it for a while, then I went online and looked some of the lifting organizations. I didn’t want to get into anything that was drug related; no performance-enhancing drugs. I looked into it and I saw what the people at my level were doing and I said, ‘I could be competitive.’”

His first meet in Tennessee was a successful one in 2013.

“I won the event; it was the Tennessee State Championships,” he said. “That was the year I turned 70. That qualified me for the national championships in Orlando. I signed up for that, went down and won that. As a result of winning that competition I was eligible for the world championships.”

That event was in South Africa. His sponsor, the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, helped pay his expenses.

His success hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“It has been good for the family, too,” said Renee Romeo, his daughter.

“He has been working out since I can remember. He has always had a consistent workout routine; just power lifting, but just being on a health kick. Always eating an apple a day.

“My grandparents never really focused on exercise or even eating well. He has been a great example for me, my husband. … Working out consistently and watching what we eat. Honestly, we just had a high school reunion and everyone was talking about their parents. My husband’s father is in a nursing home. He’s only four years older than my father. He was saying, ‘What did I do wrong?’ He didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe it’s more of maybe what he didn’t do right.”

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, https://www.freep.com


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