Columbia Falls Powerlifter Heads to World Games

Sylvester Vermillion won two gold medals at U.S. Special Olympics last year in Seattle

By Andy Viano
Powerlifter Sylvester Vermillion at the Wave Aquatic and Fitness Center in Whitefish. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

Syvlester Vermillion’s journey from furniture mover to powerlifter to national champion is taking him to the Middle East, where the Columbia Falls resident will compete for the U.S. Olympic Team at the Special Olympics World Summer Games on Wednesday, March 20.

Vermillion, who is autistic and suffers from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, only began powerlifting as an adult, discovering the sport after taking his two teenagers to participate in Special Olympics at their schools. In 2014, he joined the Whitefish Thunder team and began training with local coach Mark Kuhr. Four years later, Vermillion dominated at the Special Olympics State Games, winning the deadlift (430 pounds), bench press (230), squat (405) and combined (1,065) powerlifting title,

That effort was good enough to qualify Vermillion for the Special Olympics USA Games last July in Seattle and he added more hardware to his collection there. Vermillion won gold in the deadlift and triple combination, and was a silver medalist in the bench press and squat. In the months since the World Games, Vermillion attended a rigorous training camp with other American qualifiers, and has increased his training schedule with Kuhr, lifting four to five days a week in preparation for his appearance on the world stage.

Vermillion boarded a plane last week from New York City, bound for Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates with his American teammates. In Abu Dhabi, they will join approximately 7,000 athletes from countries around the world participating in a number of different events. The World Games are held every two years and alternate between the Summer and Winter games. This year’s World Games begin with an Opening Ceremony on Thursday, March 14 and Vermillion’s weight class will powerlift on the final day of competition, March 20.

A live broadcast of the World Games will be available on ESPN3, the channel’s streaming platform, and nightly programs on ESPN2, ESPNEWS and ABC will broadcast highlights throughout the competition. A two-hour special, featuring some of the competition’s top moments, will air Saturday, March 30 on ABC.

For more information on the Special Olympics and the World Games, visit

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