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By MIKE CAPSHAW
Hurricane Irene couldn’t stop Tom Martin from competing in the 2011 World Fire and Police Games in New York City.
With Irene canceling flights up and down the East Coast late last month, the Levy County Sheriff’s Office corporal took matters into his own hands. When Martin finished his nightshift on Aug. 27, he jumped into a car with his wife, Sarah, and headed north.
It paid off as Martin, who lives on the outskirts of Chiefland, won the bronze medal in the 220-pound weight class of the Bench Press competition. He earned the trip by winning a gold medal in Florida’s Fire and Police Games. Several individuals and companies came together to raise funds to help Martin pay for the trip.
Originally, Martin was scheduled to fly out on Aug. 28. That flight was pushed back a day before finally being cancelled.
“I didn’t want to take the chance that the airports would have damage there, so I just jumped in the car when I got off of work and started driving,” Martin said.
Taking turns behind the wheel, the Martins “kind of skirted the storm” along the East Coast and made it all the way to Pennsylvania where they stayed the night. The next day they drove into Manhattan where heavy rains were already starting to come down, he said.
“There was so much time and effort on a lot of people’s parts to make it all happen, so I didn’t want to take the chance in missing the event and letting myself and a lot of other people down,” Martin said. “So I made every effort to make sure I got there.
“My wife understood my situation. I told her that, ‘We have to get there. I can’t miss this event.’”
Irene caused all of the events in the world games to be postponed for several days. Martin said he was asked to “be on standby” to help with shelters and a possible evacuation, but that wasn’t needed as Manhattan was spared the heaviest part of the storm.
Once the competition started, Martin had to deal with a nagging back/neck injury he suffered during the squat competition at the Florida games. He returned home on Sept. 1.
“I ended up with 375 pounds, and I stopped there because I had the bronze and didn’t want to push it anymore. I was in a lot of pain by that point,” Martin said. “It wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for but after getting (injured) in the Florida games, I’m happy with what I got.”
At the Florida games, Martin bench pressed 515 pounds, only 15 pounds shy of the record in his weight class. Competitors are allowed to use a “bench shirt,” in the Florida games. The reinforced shirt allows weightlifters to bench press a much higher weight. However, bench shirts are prohibited in the world games.
Martin has been to two specialists for his injury, and been told it’s either a problem with a disc or severely damaged muscle tissue. He’s also been told not to lift, giving the injury time to heal, but that’s not an option for a guy who works out daily before his work shift.
“Well, (not lifting) is what they suggested,” Martin said. “I have been scaling it back a bit, but I’m still trying to get some lifting in. For the Florida games next year, I’m anticipating getting in enough work between now and then to not only take the gold again like I did in 2010 (and 2011), but there are a couple of state records that I plan on beating for my weight class.”
While in New York City in conjunction with the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, Martin got to tour Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial. He also spoke with several firemen and officers who “have to relive it every year.”
Martin is quick to point out he never would’ve made the trip had so many not came together to raise money for him. All total, about $1,000 was rounded up to support the Levy County Sheriff’s Office corporal.
“Everyone that helped out, I’m going to put together a big ‘thank you,’ for them,” Martin said. “A lot of people pulled together to make this happen and it was an honor and a priviledge just to have the chance to go.
“I’m just so thankful for all of the support. That’s why nothing could stop me from going.”
Not even a hurricane.