Paris Dong carries his weight to state championship ranking


Getting ready to lift the weight, Dong focuses intently.

Maddie Loebbaka

It started with 18 kilograms, or 40 pounds. A lightweight set meant only for beginners. Since lifting the lightweights, senior Paris Dong has increased the weight of his powerlifting by hundreds. After his two-year-long journey, on Dec. 8, 2018, Dong lifted 230 kilograms, or 507 pounds in a state competition, landing him at second best in the state and 15th in the country for powerlifting.

It’s a numbers game for Dong: the kilograms lifted, the reps completed and hours spent at the gym. He uses the game to his advantage, however, by creating steady goals and new personal records to assure he reaches his ultimate ambition: set world records.

“[Powerlifting teaches me] dedication towards a hobby, because I train pretty much every day. I spend two to five hours a day, every day. Even the days when I don’t want to go, I push myself to always try my best,” Paris said. “It’s given me a great mindset that anything is possible as long as you’re willing to put in the effort.”

Dong has been powerlifting for two years and progressed rapidly among long-time state rankings. Though he has improved quickly, he has done so without a coach.
“I am 100 percent self-taught. I make my own rules and follow my own schedule,” Paris said.

Dong showcases his deadlifting skills at a state competition.

Dong credits all his learnings to YouTube and various fitness books. Ed Dong, Paris’ father, was an Olympian hopeful in the 1980s for Judo, a form of martial arts, and was the one who initially introduced Paris to the sport of powerlifting.

According to Ed, the absence of a coach stands out noticeably in competitions, for many powerlifters can come from teams or organizations with coaches to represent them at meets.

“I see his competitors with coaches and teammates and Paris is sitting there all by himself, no representation, and he goes up there and he beats them all,” Ed said.
Though his independence might stand out to his father and other fellow powerlifters, Paris prefers it because of the self-reliance it provides him.

“I don’t have to rely on anyone. If I want to succeed, I have to do it. No one’s going to help me with it. It gives me independence. I just keep reminding myself that if I really want something, I have to keep going. Go through the pain, go through all of it,” Paris said.

Powerlifting is unique from most mainstream team sports in that it differs in the sense of community and togetherness, according to Ed.

“With a team, you have the support of all of your team members, it’s a different focus. The focus is teamwork, there’s not an ‘I,’” Ed said.

Paris’ sister, Sabrina Dong, agrees with her father that a different culture exists around powerlifting that is not found in other sports. She finds that many of its traditions and methods are unique to the sport.

Dong prepares for the squat with weights in the state competition.

“There’s a whole different culture around competitive lifting. I went to one of Paris’ competitions and it was really, really interesting to see how all these people hype themselves up before they lift the weight, all the little things you do before you powerlift,” Sabrina said.

According to both Sabrina and Ed, Paris takes that culture and translates it to determination and dedication. Every day after he gets home from school, Paris can spend up to 3-5 hours in the gym training.

“He takes a lot of pride in being really dedicated to something. Seeing the results in a physical way is just one benefit. He just gets a lot of pride in being able to do these competitions and do really well,” Sabrina said.

In addition to his powerlifting, Paris is also an active member of the drama community and a two-time member of the Micetro cast. He noted that sometimes it is difficult to balance both activities.

“[Micetro] was definitely a change because it limited the amount of time I could train because I would have after-school practices and then spend a couple hours after practice [training] and usually get home around 11 or 12. That doesn’t even include doing homework,” Paris said.

Though at times the time management can be difficult, Paris’ first priority will always be powerlifting.

“I feel like school is just a stage in your life,” Paris said. “but powerlifting is what defines me.”

Ed can see the dedication evident in Paris’ accomplishments. In every one of Paris’ competitions that Ed has attended, he has felt immense pride seeing his son take on the difficult task of powerlifting all on his own.

“Once he’s on that platform, it’s just him against the world. Him against himself,” Ed said.