Former powerlifting champion looks to lift hearts
by Donell Maxie
Jun 02, 2013 | 4404 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sylvester Anderson is a former powerlifting champion and body builder.
Sylvester Anderson is a former powerlifting champion and body builder.
At age 55, Sylvester Anderson's body is a shell of what it used to be, but these days his spirit and compassion for others are just as big as the muscled-bound physique he walked around in when he was younger.

To talk to this mild mannered, soft spoken man you would never guess he is a retired Marine, former world champion power lifter and former body builder.

In fact he is all of that and then some when you consider that since retiring from the Marines nearly 24 years ago, the Shelby native has been into restoring classic muscle cars and now a days he is also a motivational speaker.

"One of the things that I have always wanted to do is give back. I think it's important that we reach back and help our young sisters and brothers with our story. A lot of successful people don’t come back to the community and talk with the kids and motivate them to be better," said Anderson.

Currently Anderson lives in Waxahachie, Texas with his new wife Tajuana who is expecting Anderson's seventh child. In addition to the one on the way, Anderson has six sons: Sylvester Jr., Booker T., Sampson, Marvell, Semorris and Terrell.

"Family is very important to me. They have always been an inspiration for me and every thing I've done and everything I do it is to inspire them to be the best that they can be," a teary eyed Anderson said. I am also very thankful to my parents Willie and Eva Lean Anderson for everything they taught me and how they showed me how to work hard," he added.

The road for Anderson began in the hallways of Broad Street High School where he graduated in 1976. While a student at Broad Street Anderson participated in track and field as well as football.

"At Broad Street I was so thankful to have such caring teachers and coached who cared about me and supported me and helped shaped me. Emma Jean Bland was real good to me. She worked in the cafeteria when I was in school. Each time I come home she takes good care of me," Anderson pointed out.

After graduating from Broad Street, Anderson attended the Job Corp Center in Bethelridge, Kentucky studying welding and after six months there he enlisted into the Marine Corp.

In the Marines, Anderson worked in food service and mobile transport, but by happenstance he was working out in the gym one day and the powerlifting coach, Herb Gallon, came by saw him lifting and asked Anderson to join his team.

The rest, as they say, is history.

His first powerlifting competition came in 1983 when he was on the all-marine powerlifting team and stationed in California. And he only got better from there as he set a Marine record in squat (805 pounds), bench (460 pounds) and deadlift (770 pounds).

In 1987 Anderson was the USPF National and IPW World Powerlifting Champion in and in 1988 Anderson was selected as the Marine Corps Athlete of the Year.

Anderson began powerlifting while at the job corp center. Once he started in the Marines he found that he was already prepared for the work.

Anderson said he and his family grew up poor in Mississippi in fact he credits his brother Willie for getting him started with weightlifting.

"I saw how everyone was impressed with his physique so I wanted to be just like that," said Anderson. We worked on the farm a lot and raised what we ate and all of that taught me about hard work early," he said.

Growing up Anderson faced a lot of challenges. He survived high school, but remembered having a hard time as a student in school.

"Back then I never understood why I saw things different, but when I made it to the military I was informed that I had a learning disability," said Anderson.

This learning disability for Anderson wasn't discovered until he was preparing to retire," said Anderson.

That challenge was one that Anderson credits God's grace for keeping him all those years as he struggled to go through life. He was also grateful for God for showing him the path to weightlifting that brought him so much fulfillment and joy.

"I thank God for everything he has done for me. I have lived a blessed life and with everything I have accomplished I thank God and my family.

In addition to surviving his learning disability, Anderson had to also overcome another physical obstacle that he considered one of his biggest challenges.

One day while mowing his lawn, Anderson fell short of breath and described a feeling in his chest that was extremely tight.

"I was a farm boy so I was used to cutting acres of land. This little piece of land should not have had me feeling like that so I knew something was wrong,"

Anderson was rushed to the hospital where a stress test was performed and it was discovered that he had a blockage in his heart that required a triple by pass surgery.

"This news was shocking for me. I had never drank nor smoked in my life so I was confused as to why I had heart problems. They told me that it was genetics and there was nothing I could have done to stop it. I lost a brother at 54 and another at 39 to heart attacks so I look at this as God giving me second chance."

With his second chance, Anderson is going around telling anyone who will listen about his life in hopes of motivating some young man to pull his pants up and walk with his head held high.

"I want to be an inspiration to my family, friends and community. Too many young people are going through life thinking they can't do something, but they never take the time to try. I want to be that voice that says look at me and what I've gone through and accomplished and tell me you can do it to," Anderson added.