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Former powerlifter teaches Alaska kids to build character

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Posted: Monday, March 19, 2012 11:39 pm | Updated: 1:43 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — He entered the room with all the grandeur expected at the arrival of a giant.

“Thump! Thump! Thump!” he said, stomping his way to the center of kids’ attention at the Boys and Girls Club of the Tanana Valley.

“My name is Bill Kazmaier, and I am the strongest man in the world,” his deep voice boomed. “Wherever I go, the Earth shakes beneath my feet.”

Before going on too long, and before the looks of the children became too glazed, Kazmaier broke character to explain the difference between being a character and building character.

Kazmaier’s character has long been one of a tough guy. He won the World’s Strongest Man contest in 1980, 1981 and 1982. He broke all-time records for bench pressing, wrestled professionally with Worldwide Championship Wrestling and became the only person in history to lift a live bengal tiger overhead with his left arm.

He told kids at the club on Friday that is was all a matter of believing in himself and putting his mind to the tasks. His motivational speech explained many of his personal achievements and how he came to achieve them.

When he was 12 years old, weighing about 110 pounds, he said his family life was a little broken. He looked for role models among his teachers.

One day, he stayed after school when he was supposed to be headed home like other students. He walked the school’s hallways and heard clanking coming from the gym. He walked in and saw that his teacher was lifting weights. His teacher couldn’t quite lift his own weight on the bench press.

When the teacher gave up, Kazmeier asked if he could have a go at lifting his own weight.

He did it easily, he said, but his teacher was seemingly unimpressed.

“The look on his face was one I’ll always remember because he had no emotion,” he said.

He said his teacher kicked him out of the gym, telling him to not come back.

That is when Kazmaier said he learned the power of the terms “I can” and “I will.”

“I learned that my brain controls my body,” he said.

To demonstrate even further to kids, he pulled out a steel frying pan. He asked 14-year-old TJ Goins to verify the pan was solid steel, which he did.

Kazmaier crouched down, growling as he rolled the pan into the shape of a burrito.

The kids were impressed.

Sierra Houston, 7, said it was her favorite part of his visit. She said she thought her dad could probably do the same thing to a pan, but if she’d ask him to, he’d probably say no.

Kazmaier is on a mission to visit 53 communities in Alaska to spread his message.

Contact staff writer Reba Lean at 459-7523.

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