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Not broken bones, shrapnel, age

Nothing stops these weightlifters from bringing home the gold in a summer competition

BY NICK PATTERSON

OCTOBER 22, 2021

1:06 PM

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Photos courtesy of Terry Grisham.

Members of Team Chalk pose for a photo with Chalk Gym owner Terry Grisham, center front, during the United States Powerlifting Association Club One Classic in Oxford.

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Photos courtesy of Terry Grisham.

Caroline Moore took part in the event.

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Photos courtesy of Terry Grisham.

Sandy Moore took part in the event.PrevNext

One day early in July, Sandy Moore of Trussville did something pretty remarkable: at the age of 75, he went to a weightlifting competition and walked away with a first place trophy/medal/award.

His wife, Carolyn, also did the same thing at the same competition. The Trussville couple were part of a diverse, all-ages team which trained together at Chalk Gym, a facility off U.S. 280.

“Every single person in that group kind of has a story,” said Owen Ross, a medical student from Mountain Brook who also competed with Team Chalk.

The story of Sandy Moore, who retired from the Homewood Fire and Rescue Service 16 years ago, is made even more remarkable when you know something about his history.

Sandy served in the Marines during the Vietnam war and has carried a piece of it with him every day since – including into that weightlifting competition.

“I got wounded. It wasn’t critical wounded, but it was a pretty scary incident. I took, I don’t know how many, pieces of shrapnel from a grenade,” he said. “Was in a firefight close enough to throw grenades at each other. And one of them happened to land within just a foot or two of me. And I didn’t see it. My buddy saw it, and if he hadn’t hollered, I probably wouldn’t have survived it.

“I had a flak jacket on, which is good for shrapnel, and it took the brunt of the blast,” Sandy said. “I got pieces in my rear end, my hands, my arms, and the piece I still got is in my head. It’s kind of above my right temple. They said it would work its way out, but it never did. So I just leave it alone…I just live with it.”

For the Moores and the rest of Team Chalk, Terry Grisham, the owner of Chalk Gym, uses what he’s learned in training and coaching college and professional athletes to encourage and develop a diverse group of ordinary people into powerlifting champions.

All nine lifters from Team Chalk participated July 10 in the United States Powerlifting Association Club One Classic in Oxford and earned gold medals – and several state records – in their weight and age classes.

Besides the Moores and Ross, Team Chalk included Doan Huynh, a 17-year-old Spain Park High School student, Noah Kim, a 23-year-old CEO of a startup tech company from Liberty Park; Ali Priest, a 32-year-old employee of a trucking software company from Birmingham; Roy Jackson, a 37-year-old construction supervisor from Pinson; Tyler McGill, a 44-year-old Altec marketing employee from Vestavia Hills; and Betty Petro, a 63-year-old retired nurse from Mt Laurel.

“None of these people are professional athletes but they’re in here getting better, overcoming obstacles and doing things way into their older years which is something that everybody doesn’t think they could do. But they really could if they believed they could,” Grisham said.

Chalk Gym – so named because of the chalk weightlifters often put on their hands to enhance their grip – began in 2016, after Grisham had already spent a career in coaching.

“I was a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Oklahoma. I started in 1984,” Grisham said. After that he became a strength coach at LSU.

“In 1991, I worked with the baseball team when they won their first national championship, and then that got the attention of the Chicago White Sox, and I got a job there,” he said. During the Major League Baseball Strike in 1995, he wound up remaining in Birmingham, working at an orthopedic group office.

It was during that phase of his career that he first met Carolyn Moore, who is a patient coordinator at Outpatient Services East. First, she was just working with him to get stronger, or in her words, “to be a better person and basically to do the best I can and feel good.”

But five years ago, something happened that made Grisham’s training even more important: “I was in a very severe car accident,” Carolyn said. “My car malfunctioned. I had no brakes. I hit an embankment.”

The accident broke her back in three places and left her with broken ribs, facial bones and other bones, Sandy said. The doctors were unsure at first if she would be able to walk again. It was a miracle, that she survived, one suggested..

“She was wheelchair bound for quite a while,” but eventually, Carolyn recovered enough to go back to working with Grisham, Sandy said. “He made all the difference in the world in her recovery. He really pushed her. There were times she wouldn’t have done what she did if it hadn’t been for him… Terry has really been a force as far as her recovery.”

Carolyn said, “God had other things for me. And Terry helped me through extensive training and working with me and working with me and getting me to the point where I don’t fall down when I walk now. And so you can see why I’m so excited because I even got to participate in that meet.”

The competition in July was Carolyn’s first weightlifting competition. “I have never been a real competitive person. And Terry has brought that out in me,” she said. “Terry worked diligently with me and got me to the point where he felt comfortable and I felt comfortable doing this. I can’t tell you, and can’t stress enough, how phenomenal a coach Terry is.”

Carolyn, at 73, lifted a total of 30 kilograms.

She remembers the standing ovation the other weightlifters gave her and how “when I received my medal and I was walking up to get it, to me that was the best feeling in the world.”

Seeing what Grisham was able to do for his wife – even before the competition – is what convinced Sandy to join her at Chalk Gym. Sandy said he started going to Chalk Gym just for the sake of his health, but Grisham talked him into the powerlifting competition. “I didn’t think I would ever do anything like that at my age,” he said.

“It was a good experience,” Sandy said, laughing a bit at the notion that he now holds a state record. “In my age group,” he said by way of qualification. “You have to put an asterisk by it. There wasn’t anybody in my age group competing against me.”

Still, he admits, “ I thought I did pretty good.” At the age of 75, Sandy lifted a total of 240 kilograms.

He gives the credit to Grisham. “He writes your program and just by observing he knows what you’re capable of,” Sandy said. “He’s a good mentor to any age group. He’s made a lot of difference in a lot of lives.”

Grisham said the same kind of motivation that benefited pro athletes also works for people with more basic needs for weight training. “When people come in here to work out, it’s my job to help them perform better in any regard that they want.” Grisham said. “So some people do want to compete. Some people just want to do rehab, some people want to lose weight, some people just want to get stronger.”

When he realized there were no state powerlifting records in several age and weight categories, Grisham encouraged the whole group to challenge themselves.

“There were no records for young 17-year-old girls. There were no records for female 60-year-olds, no records for female 70-year-olds and there were no records for any guys over 75.

“So I said, ‘Alright guys. We’re going to go set records, and you guys are going to show people that you can do it’.”

After that, it was a matter of giving them individually the support they needed.

“I always tell my lifters I’m never going to put anything on the bar you can’t lift,” he said. “Number two, I’m always going to be behind you. If you ever have a problem, I’ll be there. …They have the confidence knowing I’m behind them that I’ve got my hands on the bar in case anything happens.

“As a coach you come up with whatever button for each individual that you need to push,” Grisham said. “And when you push it the right way, everybody gets inspired and they get motivated and they’ll do things that they never thought they could.”