David Horvath Turned His Love For The Gym Into A Competitive Powerlifting Career
by Bob Reinert
David Horvath wasn’t sure what to expect when he switched his athletic focus from Para track and field to powerlifting.
His performance at a major powerlifting competition in July 2022 offered some clarity.
Competing two hours from his Linn, Missouri, home, Horvath had a breakthrough showing at the 2022 World Para Powerlifting Parapan American Open Championships. At Logan University just outside of St. Louis, Horvath won a pair of total weight silver medals in the men’s 59 kg. weight class, doing so in the open and regional competitions.
“I went into that competition thinking, ‘OK, just get one good lift, just get on the board,’” Horvath said. “I ended up getting all three of my lifts (up as) successful attempts.”
After that showing, Horvath knew he had a future in powerlifting. Now 16 months later, he’s preparing to compete in the 2023 Parapan American Games, which will take place Nov. 17-26 in Santiago, Chile.
Horvath, who was born with spina bifida, joined the U.S. national team in March 2021. After winning those silver medals in St. Louis, he went into the gym each day with a renewed sense of commitment.
“Every training session going in is going to contribute to future successes,” the 23-year-old said. “It’s going really great. I’m in my peaking phase of training. I’m super excited, feeling super strong, ready to go.”
The Parapan Ams will be the first international competition for Horvath, who was ranked No. 26 in the world in his weight class in 2022. His best individual lift in competition is 133 kg.
Horvath has a mix of emotions about traveling to Chile to compete in the Parapan Ams.
“I’m a little nervous, obviously, because it’s my first time traveling out of country, period,” he said. “So, there’s those jitters there. Just to get the whole experience, I’m excited for. Trying to keep myself grounded, keep myself focused on my goals.”
The Parapan Ams will kick off a competitive eight-month stretch in the powerlifting calendar as athletes attempt to qualify for the Paralympic Games Paris 2024. However, Horvath is clear-eyed in that qualifying for the Games is not a realistic goal for him.
“I’m just not hitting the numbers that I would need to be hitting to be able to even qualify to go,” he said. “It’s just not there yet because I’m still fresh in the sport, two years or so.”
Instead, Horvath’s sights are set on the 2028 Games in LA.
“That’s my overall deadline-type goal,” he said.
Before he started powerlifting, Horvath competed in track and field in high school. He joined the team following some encouragement from his best friend. However, the coaches had never worked with an adaptive athlete before, so one of them reached out to Disabled Athlete Sports Association (DASA) in St. Louis. The organization provided Horvath with racing and throwing wheelchairs.
Once he had the proper equipment, Horvath excelled at track and field. During his senior year in 2019, he set four Missouri state records, doing so in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and the shot put.
Though he was having success in track and field, Horvath’s interest was piqued when someone at DASA brought up powerlifting.
“I’ve always had a mindset for the gym,” he said. “If my whole sport can literally just be lifting weights, it sounds good to me.”
Horvath decided to make the switch, and now he’s fully committed.
While he strictly does the bench press in competitions, Horvath isn’t always focused on that lift when he’s working out.
“If you want a strong bench, you have (to have) a strong back,” he said. “And so back day is pretty darn essential in my training program.”
Mindful of his growing platform as an adaptive athlete, Horvath — who recently graduated from Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Missouri, with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science — already has his eyes on the future.
“I want to be a personal trainer, not necessarily exclusively for disabled athletes,” said Horvath, “but I definitely want to use my personal experience and my knowledge to get more adaptive athletes in sports, in fitness.
“I want to use that for good to help as many people as I can get that motivation to be the best that they can be.”
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.