Husband, wife lift more than spirits SPECIAL OLYMPICS


Athletes often find inspiration from many different places.

For Joe Burke, it was his wife Faith who pushed him to a power-lifting plateau that had never been reached in Maryland.

Burke, 49, set a Maryland Special Olympics state record in his age group yesterday at Towson State by lifting 200 pounds in the dead-lift competition. Even more remarkable was the fact that the Elkton resident never tried dead-lifting before. He was in the bench-press competition when his coaches and wife encouraged him to enter the dead lift.

"She's the one that tells him to keep going," said Burke's trainer, Mark Welch. "He never did dead-lift until 15 minutes before the competition, and he lifted a state record. This was like practice for him."

Faith, 38, not only inspired Joe with her encouragement but also by example. She competed in the bench press and set a 35-40 age group record by lifting 50 pounds. Impressive, considering Faith and Joe were introduced to the sport six weeks ago.

"Just doing it together as husband and wife and having the competition is great," said Faith, who uses a wheelchair. "I love it."

The enthusiasm and sportsmanship of the Burkes, who are developmentally disabled, never ceases to amaze people who work with them.

"There are a lot of people who don't have the adversities Faith has," said Fred Vanderveen, state director of Special Olympics power lifting. "She has done such a turnaround. She doesn't want to miss a workout. She's changed her hair and dress. She has a lot of pride because she has confidence. She's succeeded."

One of Vanderveen's proteges had a spectacular day as well. James Walters, 38, of Salisbury started off the day by tying his 1994 dead-lift state record of 350 pounds in his 275-pound weight class. Walters then went on to lift 395 pounds and, on his final lift, shattered the old record with a 420-pound lift.

"I was impressed with myself," said Walters, who will be heading to the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Connecticut next month. "I didn't think I had it in me. That's when I cried."

Said Vanderveen: "He's not near his potential yet. The sky's the limit and he's on target to be pulling the big five [500 pounds] soon."

As for the Burkes, they started power lifting too late to qualify for this year's World Games, but 1999 is already on Faith's mind.

"When Joe goes to the World Games in '99, I'll go too," Faith said. "Where he goes, I go to support. Nothing is stopping us now."


Where: Towson State University

When: Concludes today. Competition is 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Events: Aquatics, power lifting, equestrian, track and field, softball, volleyball.

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