Gordon Santee USPA

March 11, 2024

Gordon Santee: The Iron Journey – A Powerlifting Legend’s Tale

It was the late 1960s when Gordon Santee, behind the wheel of his 1969 Corvette Stingray, traversed New England in search of road races. 

That’s right, road races.

His career, demanding travel across the United States, gradually restricted his racing pursuits. “My job had me traveling around the US for business, making the road racing more and more limited,” Santee recalls.

So, what’s a speed enthusiast to do? 

“I got some weights and started training in my garage,” he says. And just like that, the ’70s turned into the era where Santee swapped asphalt for iron, sights on a powerlifting journey that would define the rest of his life.

A Lifelong Commitment to the Lift

Fast forward to 1976, and Santee wasn’t just lifting weights; he was competing

He discovered quickly that powerlifting was more than a sport.

“From the beginning, I found that strength training and powerlifting were going to be a life of discipline, challenging myself and finding others that liked the sport,” he shares. 

His commitment saw him keep meticulous records of his competitions, a spreadsheet that reads like a powerlifter’s dream diary: 176 competitions worldwide, from the USA to South Africa, Germany, Austria, Australia, Canada, and Great Britain.

More Than Just Lifting Heavy Stuff

What’s truly remarkable about Santee isn’t just the weights he’s lifted but the friendships he’s made and his impact on the sport of powerlifting. 

“Over the years, I have made friends with other powerlifters and keep in touch with them,” he notes, highlighting the community and camaraderie at the sport’s core.

Santee’s contributions to powerlifting extend beyond his performances on the platform. He has served as a cornerstone of the powerlifting community, shaping the rules and mentoring others. “I have refereed in 13 organizations over the decades,” he mentions, highlighting his deep involvement beyond just competing.

The Heart of a Champion

But before the iron bars and the deadlifts, there was the roar of the engine and the thrill of speed. 

Competing in the Sports Car Club of America New England Chapter, Santee’s racing prowess was undeniable. In 1973, he was awarded the Sterling Moss Silver Chalice Award, a prestigious honor donated to the New England Region. 

And this wasn’t just any trophy; it was Moss’ physical trophy from the 1956 German Grand Prix at Nurburgring, awarded each year to the New England Region’s top driver. 

“My name was engraved on the chalice in 1973,” Santee proudly recalls, marking a monumental moment in his racing career.

But wait, it gets better.

Transitioning from gripping the steering wheel of his Corvette to gripping the iron bars of weights, Santee’s dedication remained unwavering. This transition highlights a change in sport and a continuation of a relentless pursuit of excellence.

The most telling of Santee’s dedication came during a local newspaper interview in Southern California. When asked about when he plans to hang up his lifting belt, Santee’s response was nothing short of legendary:

“When they peel my cold dead fingers off the iron bar.” 


This sentiment echoes the passion he brought to both the race tracks and the lifting platforms. If that doesn’t scream dedication, love of the game, and the relentless pursuit of being better today than you were yesterday – we don’t know what does. 

Fueling the Fire Within

Gordon Santee’s journey through powerlifting, framed by his early days of racing, is a testament to the power of dedication, discipline, and passion. His story isn’t just about the records he’s set or the competitions he’s won; it’s about the journey, the people he’s met, and the unforgettable mark he’s left on the sport. 

As we reflect on his incredible career, let’s remember that at the core of every great achievement lies simply in one thing: love for what we do. 

Whether you’re a seasoned powerlifter or someone just starting, let Gordon’s journey inspire you to chase your passions with everything you’ve got. After all, it’s not just about lifting weights—it’s about lifting each other up and pushing forward, no matter what.

Gordon Santee is the USPA Technical Chairman and an International Referee.


Join the USPA Today

Ready to join the USPA and begin your journey in powerlifting?


Looking To Compete?

View all upcoming events around the world!


Coach to victory

Learn elite powerlifting coaching to master the game & outperform the competition!

Related Posts