Inspired By His Dad, Jake Herbert Is On A Mission For Paris
by Bob Reinert
In 2021, before Dave Herbert passed due to COVID-19, his son Jake Herbert made a promise.
“He was one of my biggest supporters for powerlifting,” Jake Herbert recalled. “We started this journey back in 2016. I promised that I was going to try anything I can do to get to (the Paralympic Games Paris 2024).”
Two years later, it’s a promise the younger Herbert, a 31-year-old Para powerlifter from Indianapolis, is determined to keep.
“The thing is, I don’t care if I medal,” Herbert said. “It’s to step foot on that stage in front of the world in the top eight. That’s the biggest thing.
“And then of course, after that, it’s going to (the Paralympic Games Los Angeles 2028). The USA team can’t get rid of me until after L.A. Then after L.A., I might retire.”
The next step on that ambitious journey will be the 2023 World Para Powerlifting Championships, which take place Aug. 23-30 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Herbert, who first competed with the national team in 2016, also took part in the 2017 world championships in Mexico City, where he placed 19th in the 59 kg. weight class.
“It was my first international meet,” Herbert said. “It was a big eye-opener. Overall, though, the experience was something I was not used to at that time.”
Competing took a back seat to other priorities in the years that followed, but Herbert’s recent results have shown promise. Still, ranked 17th in the world out of 45 competitors in the 59 kg. weight class at the end of last year, he’s realistic about his prospects at the world championships.
“I know the guys in my weight class,” Herbert said. “I know what they’re doing. I’m not in that top (group) at the moment.
“In the last year, I’ve had sporadic training. Life happens. You can’t always know what’s going to happen.”
The world championships will provide a new experience for Herbert, who was born with Caudal Regression Syndrome, a rare spine defect.
“I haven’t gone across the (Atlantic Ocean) ever,” Herbert said. “This is going to be my first time doing that.”
To clear his path to Paris next year, Herbert is looking to move down to the 54 kg. weight class.
“I can qualify for the Paralympics within a lower weight class, which would be the goal for next year,” he said. “The weight I am lifting as of right now can put me in the running for an invite to the Paralympics. The 59 kg. weight class is one of the hardest weight classes to move up in rank at times.”
Herbert didn’t begin his athletic career as a powerlifter. He only found the sport in 2015.
“It’s a funny story, actually,” said Herbert, who was born in Hawaii but grew up in Indianapolis. “Prior to my powerlifting career, I played wheelchair basketball.”
Herbert was lifting weights to help with basketball.
“There was a guy at the gym I was going to,” Herbert said. “He had 40 years of experience within able-bodied powerlifting.”
The powerlifter got Herbert on the bench to see what he could do. Herbert trained with him for a year, went to a Para powerlifting camp and before long was on the national team.
Away from the weight bench, Herbert earned an associate degree in exercise science in 2021 from what is now Lionel University in California.
“My hopes are to use to help others in the adaptive community to achieve fitness and life goals,” said Herbert, “as I think we all need someone to be there to push us.”
Diet is an important part of any powerlifter’s regimen, and Herbert is no exception.
“Protein and carbs for diet, along with veggies and fruit,” he said of his preferences. “I always believed you could have anything you like in your diet as long as it’s in moderation.”
How about prior to a competition?
“Usually, a high-carb diet,” he said. “If it’s at the beginning of the day before the meet, I usually go for either some kind of fruit like pineapple with the natural sugar and some kind of high-carb with a little bit of protein.
“The night before, I usually eat protein. Nothing too heavy. You weigh in within 24 hours.”
When he’s properly fueled, it’s then time for Herbert to use a few tunes to mentally prepare for the task at hand.
“I listen to more of upbeat music before going in the back to warm up,” said Herbert, “just to take my mind off of everybody around me.”
Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to usparapowerlifting.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.