If there’s one word to describe Larry Steinkraus, it could be resilient. Or maybe determined.
He hasn’t let life tear him down, and he finishes what he starts.
Take college, for example. Steinkraus attended Indiana University after graduating from Gavit High School before being drafted for the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. He had around 75 credit hours accumulated, about 40 short of a degree. So he eventually went back to school at Calumet College in Whiting and got that degree in 1987.
He has matriculated the ups and downs of marriage with the same woman, Sue, for 42 years.
More recently, Steinkraus was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but has been cancer-free for almost four years.
“You have to have faith and pray that God will heal you,” he said. “Life throws you a curveball here and there, so you maintain as normal of a lifestyle as possible, stay strong and keep a positive attitude.”
That’s simple and great advice for anyone, but especially those who fight cancer on a daily basis. So it should be no surprise that Steinkraus has gone back to a sport he loves and conquered it again.
The 65-year-old from St. John placed second in his age group (men’s 65-69, 187-pound weight class) at the Masters World Cup Olympic Weightlifting Championships Aug. 9-13 in Dallas, Texas. There were 351 weightlifters from 25 countries in the event.
To qualify, Steinkraus won his age group and weight class in the American Masters last November in Savannah, Ga. The impressive part is that the American Masters was Steinkraus’ first weightlifting meet after taking a few years off following his bout with cancer and chemotherapy.
Steinkraus started weightlifting in 1980, recalling that a certain event that happens every four years may have influenced his interest.
“I think I watched the Olympics that year and liked the weightlifting competition the most,” he said. “I played around lifting weights and competed in an event for the first time in 1981.”
That meet was in a suburb of Detroit and he remembers meeting fellow competitor Fred Lowe. Ironically, 34 years later he ran into Lowe at the World Cup in Dallas.
Steinkraus was involved in multiple sports in high school and beyond, including baseball, wrestling and cross country.
“When I got a bit older, I looked around for a sport that could keep me active and competitive throughout the rest of my life,” he said. “That’s when I became interested in Olympic weightlifting. It’s a great sport for anybody wishing to stay involved in athletics.”
Olympic weightlifting consists of two competition lifts called clean-and-jerk and the snatch.
Steinkraus’ wife and kids have also been athletically inclined over the years.
Sue was involved in cheerleading, gymnastics and track and field. His son, Matthew, participated in track, cross country and baseball at Lake Central. His daughter, Jennifer, also a Lake Central graduate, competed in track, cross country and dance.
“They have all been very supportive of my weightlifting,” Steinkraus said. “It’s been a good way to stay healthy … and keeps you out of trouble.”
And it can help people, too. Steinkraus also carries over one of his personal triumphs, as well as a tragedy — last month his sister-in-law died of cancer at the age of 58 — to weightlifting by participating in a program co-sponsored by USA Weightlifting and The American Cancer Society called “Kilos for a Cure.” Anyone interested in getting involved with the program can visit TeamUSA.org.
Steinkraus’ next meet will be the American Masters again in November in Savannah where he’ll try to repeat as 65-69 champ.