Post story of 14-year-old Wonder Kid powerlifter prompts reaction worldwide

 


Jake Schellenschlager, then 13, poses for the judges of the 2013 Musclemania Capitol Tournament of Champions in Silver Spring last May. Jake was the youngest competitor in the show. ( Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Jake Schellenschlager, the 14-year-old Wonder Kid powerlifter who can lift twice his weight, has received a ton of attention since he was featured in The Washington Post this week.

His family has received calls from “Fox News,” “20/20,” “Inside Edition,” an Australian talk show and a German magazine show. Jake’s story has run in USA Today, Britain’s Daily Mail and Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald and on Yahoo! Sports blog.

“Jake’s name has been printed in every language you can imagine,” said his mother, Brandy Schellenschlager. “It is viral everywhere. On Facebook, it has been shared thousands of times, literally. It is awesome. We wanted this. I didn’t realize it would be a major hit over night.”

Brandy Schellenschlager said that Jake, an 8th-grade honor-roll student and star powerlifter, is a bit overwhelmed by the media requests for interviews.

“I told him to let me talk to them,” his mother said. “I want him to go on with his normal life. Right now, he’s at the gym, which is where he likes to be.”

Brandy Schellenschlager said she had read many of the hundreds of comments attached to the articles, many of which questioned whether a 14-year-old is too young to powerlift.


Jake Schellenschlager, then 13, breaks the world squat record for his age and weight during the 2013 IPA Strength Spectacular Powerliftng Bench Press Championships in York, Pa., last June. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

“Most of the comments are negative,” Jake’s mother said. “To me, it’s jealousy. And jealousy is the root of all evil. My son is exercising and eating healthy. There is nothing wrong with that. He is an honor-roll student. In addition to all of this, he is doing well in school. Academically, he is in all advanced classes.”

In addition, Brandy Schellenschlager said, Jake is well supervised in his training and his pediatrician is well aware that he is taking part in competitive powerlifting.

“We told him our goal is for Jake to be in the 2016 Olympics,” she said. “He knows Jake lifts. Jake’s not home in his bedroom lifting. He is being watched and trained. There is always someone there if he can’t lift. Safety is an issue, and it’s dealt with.”

Other online comments focused on the question of whether heavy lifting could stunt the growth of a teenager.

Although the American Academy of Pediatrics supports strength training for teenage athletes, it cautions against teens powerlifting while their bodies are still growing.

“Powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting sports are different because they usually are involving maximum lifts — the squat, bench press and the dead lift,” said Paul Stricker, a youth sports medicine specialist at the Scripps Health Clinic in San Diego and a fellow at the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“We don’t want that trend to translate to the general population … to say, ‘All kids can do this like this kid who has been training under supervision,’ ” said Stricker, a former president of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and one of eight physicians for the Olympic team in Sydney.

Stricker said reports of teenagers sustaining injuries while powerlifting do not distinguish between those who were lifting while supervised and those who were lifting unsupervised.

“We know there is a lot of a risk,” Stricker said. “In general, we make the statement apply to the general population. We don’t think it is safe to do this until they go through their maximum growth spurt.”

Brandy Schellenschlager, who is 5 foot 2, said that during the past month, Jake, who is 5 foot 3, has experienced a growth spurt. “It’s obviously done the opposite of what everybody says,” she said. “It has not stunted his growth.”

DeNeen L. Brown is an award-winning staff writer at The Washington Post who has covered night police, education, courts, politics and culture.
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