Tucked inside the Longboat Key room at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, the crowd for the Sunshine State Games powerlifting competition Saturday could only be so large. The crowd did swell at the right moments, not that it mattered too much to Donna Carlisle. After finishing the deadlift to complete her division championship in Palmetto, Carlisle made a beeline for one of the other competitors inside the Bradenton Convention Center.
Her husband, Kenneth Carlisle, was waiting just outside the hallway where lifters prepared before taking part in the competition, and Donna held up both of her hands for a quick two-handed, overhead high five and hug.
“I didn’t have my best meet,” Kenneth said after the competition concluded, while tugging at his wife’s arm, “but this is the new 52-kilogram, 50-59 state champion.”
Donna pumped her first and smiled. She hadn’t been lifting long and Saturday was just her second competitive meet.
She had, however, been around the sport long enough. Kenneth has powerlifted competitively for most of the past five years, first when the two lived in Indiana and only stopping when they moved down to Bradenton about two years ago. In recent months, he’s geared back up and competed in his first Florida meet a few months ago in West Palm Beach.
Before his move, Carlisle was a staple at USA Powerlifting (USAPL) events in the Midwest. He’s competed at the Beast of the Bluegrass in Kentucky, and USAPL competitions throughout Indiana, including Fort Wayne and Bloomington.
“I’ve took some time off,” Carlisle said, “but I can’t wait to do it again.”
During most of those meets, Donna was his cheerleader. When he’d travel across the state and region, Donna would travel with him to watch from the crowd.
“That’s how it started,” Carlisle said. “He was going to meets and I was sitting out in the audience and I was watching these women do this and I was like, ‘Why can’t I do that?’”
“Well, you can,” he told her, “but you’ve got to go into the gym.”
Donna briefly shuddered at the thought and then mulled it over some more. She was developing osteoporosis and as she was climbing through her 50s she knew she needed to start exercising more. She started heading to the gym with her husband.
After a few months, she went back to the doctor for another bone density test.
“It had improved,” Donna said. “The doctor couldn’t believe it.”
And Donna had the sort of confirmation she needed to continue working, until she was finally ready to compete at meets such as the Sunshine State Games.
Saturday’s meet was especially convenient, just a quick 15-minute drive from the Carlisles’ Bradenton home. Part of the perk, though, tends to be the trips and environments, as well as the workouts and actual competitions. It keeps them healthy and spry, even as they become some of the older competitors at any given meet.
“We do like going different places, meeting all the people,” Donna said. “It’s fun, and we keep in shape and we don’t grow old.”
Results for powerlifting and all Sunshine State Games events can be found at flasports.com/sunshine-state-games/results.
Synchronized swimming: 7:30 a.m. at Arlington Park
Ultimate: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at The Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch
Archery: 9 a.m.; 900 round at The Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch; 25 target 3-D at Sarasota Archery Club
Paddling: 9:30 a.m.; marathon events at Ft. Hamer Park
Racquetball: 10:05 a.m. at Sarasota YMCA–Frank G. Berlin, Sr. Branch