Holding an American flag in his outstretched arms, Mike Ferrantelli wept as the Star Spangled Banner played in the background last month.
Moments before, Ferrantelli, a 28-year Pasco Sheriff’s Office veteran, bench pressed 578.8 pounds to win the gold medal in the 231-pound weight class of the Masters 1 Division at the 2013 Masters Bench Press World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic.
That transformation from a display of brute strength to allowing his softer side to show was simply a culmination of his journey to get to that point.
“This stands as my best accomplishment ever,” he said. “I mean that in the fact that although I didn’t lift my max, that was the most I’d ever lifted at a world championship. It was my best training cycle for a competition and I felt the strongest I’ve ever been and, quite frankly, I’m the oldest I’ve ever been.”
What many don’t know is days before that April 20 lift, Ferrantelli, 46, wrenched his shoulder spotting another lifter.
If it wasn’t for his fiancé/training partner/masseuse/soul mate, Kelly Leggett, who was there in Prague, he likely wouldn’t have had a chance to even touch that bar.
“It was horrible. On a normal patient, I would have seen them two or three times a week and done it a whole lot nicer,” Leggett said laughing. “But we didn’t have time, so I dug in there and I got it.”
The world title – his sixth – is the latest accomplishment for the captain of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office’s Court Services Bureau.
In one week’s span, Ferrantelli graduated from Saint Leo University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and planned his father’s 70th birthday party.
You also can throw into the mix that he has been a single father to his daughter, Alexys, 10, for the past five years.
Following the win in Prague, USA’s coach gave Ferrantelli the team’s third-place trophy to bring back to New Port Richey.
Getting to Prague was about as daunting as lifting 500 pounds.
Donations from people like Thomas Dobies of Dobies Funeral Home, and Steve Farrell of Farrell Roofing, got him overseas.
“I feel this is a win for our county,” Ferrantelli said, “because it took our whole county to help get me there. It was very humbling to hear people say, ‘Mike, I heard about you competing. Send me a letter. I’d like to be a sponsor.’”
Still, Ferrantelli circles back to Leggett.
He said she forces him to slow down and take in life. And although they were formerly introduced less than two years ago, they had a connection long before that day.
Ferrantelli’s former power lifting coach, Kent Harriman, was her teacher in high school. Leggett’s mother and father worked with Ferrantelli for more than 20 years at the sheriff’s office, yet they never met.
“It’s kind of fate to where our circles ran around each other and we never met,” he said.
As for the heavy stuff, Ferrantelli has set more than 40 world records and owns 10 national championships. Not bad for a kid cut from his Gulf High School football team because he was too scrawny to hold onto a ball carrier.
“I’ve been very blessed to have won numerous championships, but it is so awe striking to think, wait a minute, I’m just a guy from Pasco County – I’ve lived here almost my entire life – and I flew to the other side of the world and accomplished something that is a dream,” Ferrantelli said.