John Holmes is not the most gregarious athlete on the Hamilton County (Ohio) Special Olympics powerlifting team, but before the competition began at the Ohio Games in Columbus last June, he was pumped up. "This is how we roll," the 41-year-old Holmes shouted to a group of Ohio State student-volunteers, after some encouragement from his coach, Rick Stolze (below). Having grown up around 10 athletic older brothers and sisters, Holmes also participates in Special Olympics swimming, golf, bowling and basketball. Holmes, who was born with Down syndrome, has been a powerlifter since 1989. His deadlift of 225 pounds at the Ohio Games (sequence at right) brought him a fourth-place ribbon, and he took home the silver medal for his bench press (175 pounds, 10 less than gold medalist Cory Martin, 21, of Canton, Ohio). "He's real shy and quiet except during a competition," says Stolze. "Then you see a completely different John."
Photographs by Lynn Johnson