Chesapeake Weightlifter Caine Wilkes

Caine Wilkes plants his feet firmly on the gym floor, adjusts his glasses and gives a mighty shout. He picks up the bar, loaded with three weights on either side, and brings it to his chin in a precise motion. Then he lifts the bar high in the air, his joints cracking and beads of sweat forming at his forehead as he triumphantly clenches the 308 pounds above his head. The average man would surely buckle under this much weight. But Caine’s not average. He pauses to flash the friendliest smile before dropping the bar to the floor.

The 27-year-old weightlifter (nicknamed The Dragon) was born and raised in Chesapeake and has been lifting for 16 years. His father, Chris Wilkes, first suggested lifting as a way for Caine and his three brothers to improve their football strategies, but Caine took it further than his dad (who is also his coach) could have expected. “My dad kept telling me, ‘If you keep pushing yourself you will get to where you want to be,” Wilkes says. “I want to keep pushing myself. Even if I don’t make an international team or win a championship, I want to be that guy that pushes the other people to beat me.”

Currently, he’s a two-time National Champion in the U.S. and a 2014 Pan Am Champion as well as a USA World Team Member for two years. His weightlifting has taken him to Poland, Kazakhstan, the Dominican Republic and Sicily.

His next goal? Making the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.

Wilkes trains for two lifts: the Olympic-style snatch lift (picking the barbell up from the floor and lifting it over his head in a continuous motion) and the clean-and-jerk (lifting the barbell from the floor to just below the chin, resting the bar on his shoulders, then hoisting the bar above his head.) So far, his maximum weight lifts are 401 pounds for the snatch and 487 pounds for the clean-and-jerk.

Aside from working toward his own weightlifting goals, Wilkes, along with his younger brother and father, are all part of the team Wilkes Weightlifting, visiting Crossfit gyms in Hampton Roads and along the East Coast to teach proper lifting techniques. “You do have to be strong, but you’re also trying to be powerful, explosive,” he says. “There’s a lot of speed, balance, coordination—all that stuff that people don’t usually equate to weightlifting.”

When Wilkes isn’t training six days a week and teaching others proper lifting techniques, he’s a soft-spoken artist who enjoys writing and loves his mom. He graduated from ODU this past spring with a double major in art and English. What started as doodling hobby has evolved into drawing and painting. Some of his art focuses on weightlifting, but he also enjoys creating characters.

Not only do his interests and abilities surpass what one may attribute to the average weightlifter; his attitude is refreshing as well. “Caine is extremely modest,” says assistant coach Chad Benjamin, who owns Crossfit Callused in Chesapeake, where Wilkes has been training since January. “I’ve never met someone so humble and so nice and then be so aggressive with that amount of weight. I’ve never worked with someone of his magnitude.”

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