For Blaze Foster, Change Is A Good Thing
by Steve Drumwright
Change can often be a scary thing.
That wasn’t the case for Blaze Foster when he experienced a big professional shift in his life.
That change came when the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee formally took Para powerlifting under its wing earlier this year, after the sport had previously been managed by an independent organization. As a way to kick of the new relationship, Foster and 15 teammates participated in a camp this past June at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“(It) was quite an experience we never had with any of the other governing bodies,” Foster said. “I know for me and a few other of my teammates, it made us feel like we were actually a part of the USOPC. To get to meet other Paralympians and other Olympians, it was a really good experience … the services that they provided, they gave us a lot of resources and tools like reaching out to a dietitian or a mental health coach. Things like that were also very helpful.”
Foster, a 34-year-old Pennsylvania native who now lives and works in Raleigh, North Carolina, was on the athlete leadership group under the previous regime and had advocated for changes to be made. Foster remains part of the athletes advisory group as the team is now with the USOPC.
The camp in Colorado Springs allowed the team to hit the reset button and begin anew under the USOPC at some of the finest facilities and among the best athletes in the world.
Foster said the powerlifters got to train at the OPTC two of the days they were there. While they’re used to training among themselves, this time they got to mingle with members of the U.S. wheelchair basketball team during the camp.
What was Foster’s big takeaway from that experience?
“That it does take a village,” Foster said. “It takes a lot to get to the ultimate goal, which is a Paralympic Games. Talking to one woman, (2024 in Paris) would be her third Games, and that’s really impressive. And now being able to get some nuggets from her, like how you keep up with the longevity, things like that. Just being able to pick other athletes’ brains and see what works for them and hear them out on what they would recommend with us being just starting this journey of what to do.”
Foster won’t be able to qualify for the Paralympic Games Paris 2024, but with some of his mind cleared after coming under the USOPC and all its resources, he has a renewed drive to make a push for the LA Games in 2028.
“If the USOPC didn’t take over, ‘24 would probably have been my last year,” Foster said. “But now that the USOPC has taken over, I’m going to dedicate myself for another quad. LA will be my last year.”
Born with dwarfism, Foster got into weightlifting as a wrestler at Gateway High School in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. After taking a step back during college at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, he resumed lifting weights along with pushups and jumping jacks as a way to stay in shape.
Eventually, he began competing as a Para powerlifter. During a 2017 event in Guelph, Ontario, a judge there was also a coach for the U.S. team. The two exchanged phone numbers and emails. A couple weeks later, an email exchange led to an invite to a camp in Ashland, Virginia, where Foster performed well. It led to him being officially added to the U.S. team in 2018.
Growing up in Monroeville, Foster became an avid football fan. Several kids he hung out with and played various sports in the backyard went on to become good Division I athletes. He credits that time to helping him develop into a good athlete at a time when kids with differences can be treated harshly.
“I played with all my peers,” Foster said. “That’s one good thing in my hometown, they didn’t limit me at all. I wanted to try something, they allowed me to do it and that’s what really built my self-esteem for adulthood. I really thank them constantly to this day, because like a lot of people don’t get that opportunity.”
Steve Drumwright is a journalist based in Murrieta, California. He is a freelance contributor to USParaPowerlifting.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.