Teen powerlifter overcomes odds, works out with Eagles

January 25, 2013 8:07:53 AM PST
A high school powerlifter is beating the odds - and his competition - and some of his heroes are taking notice.

This is a story about strength: physical, but mental as well.

John Hess, a 16-year-old Pennridge High School sophomore, recently came in first in his weight class in his first competition, despite the fact that he has no use of legs.

John recounted to Action News how Coach C.P. Pattison got him into powerlifting.

"I flexed for him one day, and he asked me if I wanted to join the powerlifting team," Hess said.

"I saw the look in his face and said, 'I'll make him a lifter.' It's been great ever since," Coach Pattison said.

John was born with spina bifida, and life's been heavy from the get-go.

"He was not going to live. The spina bifida was very bad, and they didn't expect him to make it," said John's mother, Christie Chapman.

Looking at him now, his mother says, "Not only has he beat all odds, but he continues to do so."

In just 6 months on the bench, the 90 pounder can now lift one and a half times his body weight. Even more impressive is how lifting weights has lifted his spirits.

"My confidence has grown from 'I THINK I can do this' to 'I KNOW I can do this,'" said John.

Well, we had a surprise for John, who is a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan

How about a workout at the team complex with some special spotters: Eagles Center Jason Kelce and Tight End Clay Harbor?

"It's inspirational, especially for someone like me to come in and look at that," said Kelce. "Any time you've seen somebody work that hard and is still upbeat about everything, it's great to watch."

"He really has a great attitude, loves to work out, and loves the Eagles and is really an inspiration," Harbor said.

"I've been through so much," said John. "Doctors said I wasn't going to make it, and to be here is a dream come true for me."

It may also be furrther proof that the strongest muscle in the body is the heart.