Press "Enter" to skip to content

Father’s Day: Powerlifting strengthens bond between dad and daughter

Always there.

That’s how Wil Shelton describes his dad.

Willie Shelton Sr. was a father who personified perseverance and steadiness.

A postal worker on the graveyard shift who retired after more than 50 years of service. A role model in the Cerritos home where Shelton’s parents, now divorced, raised five children together in a solid Black American household that adhered to Christian values.

“He always walked upright,” Shelton says of his father, who now lives in Bellflower. “It’s not that he told us what to do and then did something different. What he told us to do, he lived it.”

Shelton’s father was a fan of boxing and track and field and shared that love and his knowledge of the discipline required to succeed with his namesake, who participated in both activities during high school. Shelton soaked up that wisdom for what he envisioned as his future.

“I always believed I would become a dad,” Shelton said. “I tried to live my life like I would be a dad one day.”




With his own three children, the grown-up Shelton dedicated himself to his father’s love of sports and his example of being there and being persistent. He mentored his children in the athletic activities of Southern California youth – soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, track and field.

But as an avid weightlifter since his early teens, Shelton has taken his fatherhood role with his middle child – daughter Marina Shelton – up a notch. At the age of 53, he helps to train Marina, 28, in powerlifting.

Shelton also competes alongside his daughter, most recently in the 2022 USA Powerlifting Mega Nationals held in Las Vegas last weekend.

Powerlifting might seem an unusual platform for a close father-daughter relationship. For the Sheltons, it comes naturally.

They revel in each other’s performance.

Wil Shelton was there for primetime on June 11 to witness his daughter achieve the goals she set: She finished among the top three in the 198-pound weight class for women. Along the way, she bested her personal record by reaching a total of 1,218 pounds with her three lifts.

Marina Shelton also earned her professional powerlifter card, which means invitations to meets that come with the chance to win cash and other prizes. (That’s something she could use, still living at home while paying off grad school loans.)

Witnessing what he called his daughter’s “greatness” at the end of her more-than-three-hour competition, Shelton said he felt inspired.

He had also been inspiring himself earlier in the long day: Shelton won the bench press national title in the Raw Master’s division, competing against other men 50 and up in the 198-pound weight class.

He broke his own personal record lifting 375 pounds.

But in text messages, he seemed more excited for his daughter than for himself. She pushed herself to her limits, attempting 518 pounds on her third and last deadlift. She couldn’t do it, but walked away having lifted 496 pounds.

“It was the way she tapped into her reservoir of character that really made her a true winner in my eyes,” Shelton said.

In other words, she tried her best – something Shelton preached to his children as they grew up and continues to do for them and multitudes of other people in both their professional and personal lives.

 A supportive voice

The Shelton family will be celebrating the Las Vegas weightlifting results at home in La Mirada this Father’s Day, along with marking the birthday of Shelton’s oldest daughter, who is pregnant with his second grandchild.

This is the first year that Wil and Marina Shelton have competed at the same events, starting with a Southern California meet in Irvine back in April.

The rest of the time, they encourage each other when working out in the garage they converted into a gym and from the stands at powerlifting meets. Shelton’s wife, Carla, a cheerleader in high school, is also supportive.

Powerlifting differs from the weightlifting competitions most people might be familiar with from the Olympic games, where lifters are on their feet to hoist weights overhead in moves known as the snatch and the clean and jerk. Powerlifting involves three lifts: bench press, squat and deadlift.

Wil Shelton watches his daughter with quiet confidence when she competes. Still, Marina, a speech therapist finishing up her clinical fellow year at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, said she hears her father’s voice in her head.

She even recorded him during a training session to play back his encouraging words as part of her mental preparation.

What’s her dad saying? This: “It may seem hard now, but you don’t want to be crying or upset if you miss a big lift like that on the platform when it really matters.”

To Marina Shelton, that embodies who her dad is and always has been. And who he expects his children to be – to see challenges as growth opportunities.

“He has this certain intensity to him that is just ‘I’m going to go out there and do it. I’m going to go get it.’ Not exactly being the best, but being your best self.”

Motivation to support

Shelton’s two girls and only son each started in sports at the age of 4. As teens, all set track and field records at Cerritos High, their dad’s alma mater.

Shelton says his own weightlifting record from his senior year in 1986 is still memorialized in the school gym. A skinny youth, Shelton became fascinated with weightlifting in pursuit of become more muscular.

He boxed and participated in track and field – his father’s two loves – but a weight training class in his freshman year, and an article on then-star football running back Herschel Walker’s regimen of 100 to 200 pushups a day, set the tone for the rest of Shelton’s life. He still has the calendar he marked daily, starting Nov. 20, 1982, to reach a goal set by a PE teacher to bench press his weight of 120 pounds. Shelton exceeded the goal, lifting 145 pounds and earning an A in the class.

“That was something that really motivated me to keep going.”

By the end of his freshman year, he could bench press 190 pounds. A self-described “shy kid,” the feat earned him attention. And, he added, it also helped make him a better break dancer.

From then on, Shelton embraced the mentality that “the impossible is possible.”

As an entrepreneur, he’s made a name for himself in the world of Black-owned barbershops and hair salons. A licensed cosmetologist, he ran a salon for 10 years and now advises a national network of Black barbershops and salons.

The founder, president and chief executive officer of Wil Power Integrated Marketing, he also is a marketing consultant to global branding and entertainment entities in gaining the loyalties of Black consumers.

He’s coached companies and corporations on diversity and inclusion, and sat for interviews with magazines, newspapers and podcasts.

Cultural relevance is important to those businesses and to Shelton. But so is respect. He’s working on a documentary he hopes to have out around Black History Month in 2023, one that looks at the history and important role that barbershops and hair salons have and continue to play in the Black community.

He also supports enactment of the proposed CROWN Act of 2022, an acronym for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. Shelton recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to interview the women behind the effort for national legislation to prohibit discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyle owing to race or national origin. More than 15 states, lead by California in 2019, and dozens of municipalities have enacted such laws in recent years following highly publicized incidents of discrimination, particularly involving Black students.

As a father, a powerlifter, consultant and motivational speaker, Shelton is always looking for ways to inspire someone.

He hopes the work he does in the gym will also ignite a deeper purpose in younger people around him. His mantra: Put in the dedication and devotion and that can shape successful efforts in other areas of your life.

But he also stressed compassion when raising his children. Their professional lives reflect that: Marina’s in speech pathology; Kiara, 31, is a healthcare administrator; and Ryan, 26, working for the city of Long Beach, is helping formerly incarcerated people find jobs and re-enter society.

Marina Shelton often works with stroke victims. Seeing them recover the ability to communicate is as much a victory for her as her prowess in powerlifting.

“To help someone regain speech, to be able to vocalize their basic wants and needs,” she said, “is really special.”

Successful motivation

Shelton describes himself as a “protective and passionate” dad. He wasn’t one of those parents who yell at their kids or the referees from the stands, he said. He’d do his best to make sure they had prepared, then the rest was up to them.

“I always tried to help my kids live out their dreams and become what they were wired to do and born to do,” he said.

Like her siblings, Marina Shelton began tagging along to a 24-Hour Fitness near home at 12, the legal age to get a gym membership. She would follow her dad around the gym and do what he did.

“Thinking about it now,” she said, “it was kind of cool. I didn’t have any other friends going to the gym at 12, especially with their dads.”

Those gym days helped build the foundation for her present work ethic, her fitness regimen and her general health.

She was a natural athlete, but her dad influenced her to gravitate toward strength sports. He encouraged her to try shot put in high school, saying she was built for it. She responded like the teenager she was at the time.

“I was like, ‘Whatever.’”

But Wil Shelton knew what he was talking about: Marina set girls shot put and discus records at Cerritos High.

Later, as a freshman track and field walk-on at Cal State Long Beach, she earned a full scholarship for her last three college years. She competed in shot put, discus, hammer throw and indoor weight throw.

Both her parents were always there for her meets, whether that meant traveling up north, south to Texas or east to Kansas.

Her dad, she recalled, “was always motivating me to be better than I am.”

Marina turned out to be the only one of the Shelton siblings to pursue powerlifting as a sport. She gravitated to it about four years ago, in the footsteps of her dad, and is among a growing number of women competitors.

During a livestream of the USA Powerlifting Mega Nationals, one of the commentators declared the 5’4″ and 194- pound Marina Shelton “an absolute beast” at lifting weights – high praise in sports vernacular.

“What I do is cool,” said Wil Shelton, who jumped back into competitive powerlifting in 2013. “But what she does is way cooler than me.”

It takes a lot of dedication. Marina Shelton trains four days a week, a couple of hours a day, around her work schedule – one day in the garage at home and the rest at a powerlifting gym in Anaheim. Other times, she’s working on cardio.

Both training and competing in powerlifting have brought her closer to her dad.

As she has done in the past for Father’s Day, she plans on giving him a weightlifting-themed present. She cherishes the bond they have as powerlifters.

“It’s something I try not to take for granted,” she said. “I’m not going to be lifting forever. My dad is not going to be lifting forever.”

“Although,” she added on second thought, “it seems like he is.”

Wil Shelton expects to see his own dad this weekend, too.

“I love to give him gifts on Father’s Day, to acknowledge that he set the tone for me.”

Source: Orange County Register

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: