HICKORY GROVE -- Matt Aldridge is a national champ once again.
Aldridge benched 420 pounds during a national weightlifting championship June 5-8 in Oklahoma to claim his ninth national championship for disabled weightlifters.
Aldridge has no legs because he was born without shin bones. He started lifting in high school but took a break away from it for the last two years. In February, he started training again.
With this being his first major competition in nearly two years, Aldridge admits he was nervous.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
"It was definitely a different aspect there as far as just trying to get myself prepared and get myself ready for it -- to get in there and just have the confidence of where to move next in the competition," he said.
His first of three lifts was 370 pounds.
"Everybody said I looked great," he said.
He took a risk and jumped up to 395 pounds for his second lift. Then followed through by going up to 420 pounds for his third lift.
Having the confidence to make those lifts after such a long break from competition was tough, Aldridge said, but he wanted to show everyone he could still do it.
"There are some of the smaller meets you know you can win it at a lower weight and you can play it safe and do what you need to do," he said.
But with national coaches watching, he didn't want to just win. He wanted to impress.
"It was more than just winning it," he said. "You wanted to do a top-notch performance as far as the coaches seeing where you were."
Although less than his personal best of 445 pounds, Aldridge said the 420 pounds was one of the best lifts he's done in a major competition.
"That's kind of been a milestone I've been wanting to hit at a national level meet," he said.
Aldridge credits a lot of the success of his win to his wife Renee, who encouraged him to start competing again. She spotted him in the gym and drove him to Oklahoma.
Renee Aldridge said she couldn't be more proud.
"I was a little nervous when we walked in there," she said. "There were some guys in there that could have beat Matt, but they did not. He kicked butt."
Aldridge said he hopes to compete in regional competitions and prepare for bigger competitions like the 2010 World Championships in Egypt. His ultimate goal is to compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
"This is where I'm from, so I want to go from here and really get this community and this area the publicity and experience of somebody leaving from here and representing them at that level of competition," he said.