You must first know this about Jerry Kluft He is 67 years old. He is retired and a grandfather. He has two hips made of titanium. He entered his first powerlifting competition seven years ago. Now consider this: Kluft can bench-press 360 pounds—or the equivalent of Warren Sapp holding a 50-pound boulder.
Having set two world records in his age group and won several local, state and national titles, Kluft a former real estate lawyer with three grown children, has proven that it's never too late in life to pick up something new. He first entered a gym when he was 48 years old and could barely bench-press 90 pounds. He lifted recreationally for years while living in Spring Valley, N.Y. When he and his wife, Wilma, retired to Boca Raton, Fla., in 1994, Kluft met Gregory Wright, now 40, a competitive lifter who, seeing a proverbial diamond in the rough, persuaded him to enter powerlifting contests. "I walked through the door at my first competition, and all I saw were people who looked like condominiums with teeth," remembers Kluft who's 5'11" and 220 pounds. "I started to walk out, and someone put a hand on my back and said, 'Pop, you're in the right place. Don't worry.' I competed and won."
Kluft has found a home among those condos. In '99 he benched 358.50 pounds to break an AAU age-group world record. But by then both his hips had deteriorated severely, a condition he attributes to years of playing basketball and softball, and soon he could barely walk. He had both hips replaced in late 2000, then spent three months exercising in a swimming pool two hours a day so that he could return to lifting. "The doctors said half an hour would be enough," he says, "but that's not my style."
Kluft came back last October and set a World Natural Power-lifting Federation age-group record with a bench press of 336 pounds. Last month he won the bench press in his group at the World Cup in Oklahoma City with a lift of 319.67 pounds. "I originally thought he was crazy for lifting competitively because it was so far-fetched," says Wilma. "But it has given him a wonderful sense of accomplishment."
There is still one goal that Kluft would like to achieve. "I would love to get 400 pounds at age 70," says Kluft whose 360-pound hoist occurred during practice. "I wouldn't care if it came in a gym with nobody watching. I'd be happy."