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Complicating matters is the wad of gauze swaddling his right index finger. "I was changing plates on the bar during warmups," Leonard explained before beginning the deadlift competition. "I caught my finger between two of them. It got smashed."
Leonard chalks his hands and adjusts the rawhide belt that is cinched tight around his tiny waist. On his feet are red and blue aquasocks. "They don't slip," he says. Around his neck is a gold charm, a barbell, on a chain. "Andy bought it for himself," says Richard. "He must have really liked it because Andy is tight with his money."
He grips the bar harshly, one fist facing him and the other facing the crowd. He ignores the pain of his mashed finger. Both feet are under the bar, shoulder width apart. The muscles of his body are taut. He blows out four short "huts," then one big one. His face reddens, and the veins on either side of his neck pop as Leonard strains against the weight. A voice in the crowd cries, "Do it, Andy!"
When Andy was in 11th grade, a teacher suggested that he enter a Special Olympics meet. Andy declined, saying that it would be unfair to compete against more severely handicapped athletes. The next year, however, he did compete in a local meet in some track events. He competed in 1986 in a county meet. That same year he qualified for the state championships, where he won the pentathlon—an event consisting of long jump, high jump, 100-meter dash, 400-meter run and Softball throw.
He joined a Special Olympics running program coached by Marie Doll. She, in turn, introduced Andy to her husband, Clyde, a powerlifter. "This wisp of a kid comes to me and says he wants to lift," says Clyde. "I smiled. He looked sturdy enough, so the first time I loaded the bar with 40 pounds and told him to do some presses. I thought he'd do like eight. He did 20. I raised it to 50, and he did 20 more." Doll, a bear of a man at six feet and 275 pounds, entered Andy in some local meets—standard powerlifting meets, not Special Olympics events. In one, Andy finished second to the perennial deadlift champion, Phil Hile.
There's a difference between powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting. The latter demands specialized technique as well as strength to get the bar overhead. Powerlifting features the squat, deadlift and bench press: exercises that measure brute strength.
In his five years of lifting Andy has competed most often in meets sponsored by the American Drug Free Powerlifting Association (ADFPA), a sanctioning body "violently against steroids," according to Doll. Andy finished fifth in the 1990 ADFPA national championships in Chicago, and second in the Lifetime Drug Free nationals this past February in Tempe, Ariz., losing by just 14 pounds. Andy is the reigning two-time ADFPA Pennsylvania state champion. His records coming into this year's Special Olympics were: bench press, 205 pounds; squat, 330 pounds; and deadlift, 400 pounds.
As Andy was gaining renown as a powerlifter, he was becoming increasingly self-sufficient. He graduated from high school in 1986 and got a job cleaning dishes at a pizza parlor. Two years ago he went to work at The Waffle Shop in State College, and he is still working there today, washing dishes and busing tables. Near the restaurant's door, patrons can find newspaper clips about Andy pinned to a corkboard.
In July, Richard took a position in Northumberland, 65 miles east of State College. When the family moved, Andy made the decision to stay put in the one-bedroom apartment that he shares with a cat named Ashley. "Andy does everything for himself now," says Richard. "The only thing I help him with are his income tax forms."
Frequently, Andy will hop in his blue Mitsubishi and drive to his parents' home for a home-cooked meal and some fishing with Joshua, a 10-year-old South Korean who is one of the Leonards' two newest children. Joshua was adopted in 1983, and then in 1988, Mary Ellen, a two-year-old neglected child from an adjacent county, came to live with the family as a foster child.