Going for the Gold: Schrom on making his vision a reality

By Beth Bourgeois | July 14, 2015, 8:30 a.m. (ET)

Jake Schrom, pictured above, is one of five powerlifting athletes that will head to Toronto for the 2015 Parapan American Games to represent Team USA.

Twice a week, Going for the Gold will highlight a member of Team USA’s Parapan American roster leading up to the games beginning on August 7. Features will take a deeper look at a member of each of the 14 Paralympic sports that the U.S. will compete in during the 2015 Parapan American Games, held in Toronto. The sixth installment spotlights powerlifting athlete Jake Schrom (Carlisle, Pennsylvania).

Athletes get involved in sports through all kinds of channels. Through youth programs. High schools. Parents. Talent scouts. For Paralympic powerlifting athlete Jake Schrom, it was through more of an unconventional channel: YouTube.com.

Schrom’s right leg had recently been amputated above the knee after an accident. His brakes failed while driving a work truck and he was thrown from the vehicle with his leg pinned underneath. Right after surgery, he was already thinking about all of things he wanted to do when once he was up and moving.

“I was up late night, couldn’t sleep, and I just started looking for some weightlifting videos,” said Schrom. “I never really doubted my abilities as an athlete after my accident, but I needed to find a course of action. I didn’t know any other amputees, so I wasn’t sure where to start. I found all of these videos of amputee powerlifters on YouTube and then got involved with a program through my college.”

A student at Penn State at the time, Schrom quickly started training through the university’s Ability Athletics program. He’s since graduated from Penn State with a degree in landscape contracting and design.

He’s gone from collegiate competition to an international competitor. Most recently, Schrom won gold at the 2015 IPC Open Americas Championship in Mexico City in the men’s 88kg weight class. The competition was a great primer for the Parapan American Games, which will take place August 7-15. Schrom is one of five men on the U.S. powerlifting team that will compete in Toronto.

“I am coming off a good high from Mexico City, but I still didn’t lift as well as I had hoped to,” said Schrom. “The taste of victory was nice, but I am just focused on staying healthy and hopefully bringing home a medal. That’s all I can ask for – to hit a good weight and get on the podium.”

Schrom doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, but said he would be lying if he said Rio wasn’t a constant in the back of his mind. He narrowly missed the U.S. team that competed at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and he is bound and determined to on be on the airplane to Rio de Janeiro come September 2016.

“Not making the team for London was really heart breaking, but that disappointment has really fueled my fire to continue my training and focus on qualifying for Rio,” said Schrom.

To make the 2016 Paralympic Games, Schrom must earn a top-eight ranking in the world. He’s outside looking in right now, with a best lift of 430lbs in his weight class. Jake knows it’s just a matter of time until all of the pieces come together to bump him up on that world ranking list.

“If I hit a personal best, I have a good shot at qualifying,” said Schrom. “Lifting is really an art form. There are so many components that need to come together. I am constantly learning what I can do to prepare for each competition so I’m at my absolute best in the lead up to that day. Whether it’s reducing stress, rest, food, volumes and intensity, it’s definitely a balancing act. It’s tough for anyone to be at their peak, especially after traveling.”

Schrom works out three to four days a week in his hometown of Carlisle, Pennsylvania for a couple hours each time. That’s on top of his fulltime job; he works for the family landscaping business, where he does landscape design, sales and project management.

He says the favorite part of his job is helping to make big transformations – casting a vision and helping to bring it to fruition - seeing a project come full circle.

In 2016, perhaps Schrom will make his own transformation – while wearing red, white and blue.

Parapan American powerlifting competitions will be held at the Mississauga Sports Center beginning on Saturday, August 8 and concluding on Tuesday, August 10. The U.S. roster features four other male athletes: David Page, Bryce Segua, Ahmed Shafik and Jacob Stearns. For more information on the upcoming Parapan American Games visit Toronto2015.org.