‘From gutterness to utterness’: Weightlifter spreads the word of God

“All I am is a voice, here to tell you, you have a choice.”
That’s the message weightlifter Dave Damiano told a dozen or so people on hand Monday morning at the Memorial Sports Centre here to see him squat 545 pounds to beat the unofficial world record.
And it’s a message the 54-year-old Wyoming man repeated numerous times after making several appearances in Fort Frances and International Falls last Friday through Monday, including when he broke the world deadlift record by lifting 620 pounds at the Northsite Health and Racquet Club across the river Monday evening.
Competing in the Masters division and weighing in at around 218 pounds, Damiano holds numerous world records in his age and weight class as a power lifter.
At the 2000 World Games in Las Vegas, for instance, he benched-pressed 391 pounds, squatted 540, and dead-lifted 611 for a combined record of 1,542 pounds.
But Damiano stressed his life has been a long, hard road—and that he couldn’t have travelled to where his is today without the power of Jesus Christ.
Twenty-five years ago, he was a facing life sentence in New Jersey’s Trenton State maximum security prison.
“I started lifting weights in prison. There was nothing else to do,” he remarked.
But his weightlifting career wouldn’t start until after he found the Lord, and found himself out on parole after he had decided to stop doing drugs, drinking, and “clean up his act.”
“If I didn’t, I’d be dead,” he said.
He went on to bodybuilding and competed in many competitions, before finally deciding six years ago to switch to powerlifting. “Any doors that God opens, I’ll go there,” said Damiano.
“Everything I am today is because of Christ,” he added.
Damiano noted he’s not the only Christian weightlifter with a message, noting there’s even a team—“The Power Team”—that tours the U.S. preaching the word while pumping iron.
When not powerlifting, Damiano works at the Wyoming Boys’ School, a state-run correctional facility where he is responsible for 10-15 youth in his unit. These include drug dealers, sex offenders, and even those convicted of murder.
As part of his role at the facility, he teaches life skills and works hard to instill the morals and values he once shunned. While some of his young charges would try the most seasoned professionals, Damiano exhibits love and compassion when dealing with them.
“I’ve got a heart for the lost,” he reasoned.
And Damiano stressed his faith also sees him travelling all over the U.S. to speak to anyone who will listen, especially youth. “If there’s anything I would want to say to everyone is He’ll save anyone that comes to him.
“He loves the human race.”
Damiano was brought here by the First Assembly of God Church in International Falls, and member Cathie Sinninghe called his visit “absolutely phenomenal.”
“You get people who say to kids don’t drink, don’t smoke pot. But here’s a guy who shows you where doing that can take you. He was ready to kill himself,” she remarked.
“His is a message of hope. People say there is no hope. But he shows with God, you can become a blank slate and leave whatever you’ve done wrong in your past behind,” added Sinninghe.
She noted Damiano, who will be coming back here next year, also got to be reunited with longtime friend Pastor John Viscoti of the First Assembly of God Church, whom he met back when he was in New Jersey.
Damiano’s first stop was at a youth rally at the Ukrainian Hall here Friday evening. On Saturday, he stopped by The In Place (Youth Centre) in International Falls.
On Sunday, he shared his message at the First Assembly of God Church during the morning service and then returned to The In Place for a street party.
Damiano wrapped up his time in the area Monday morning at the Sportsplex and then over at the Northsite Health and Racquet Club in the Falls that evening.