Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Fort Wayne Police Department Detective Steve Espinoza is congratulated by an official after winning the gold medal in the bench press at the World Police and Fire Games today in Chendu, China.

  • Ted Striverson spots Espinoza as he lifts in preparation for the World Police and Fire Games. The 203-pound Espinoza has his eyes set on benching 400 pounds at the competition, which would be a record for the event.

  • Photos by Terri Richardson | The Journal Gazette Fort Wayne Police Officer Steve Espinoza is looking for his third World Police and Fire Games championship when he competes today in Chengdu, China.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2019 1:00 am

Pressing for more glory

FWPD vet in China to seek 3rd victory in weight lifting

Blake Sebring | For The Journal Gazette

When Steve Espinoza's kids started weightlifting to get ready for high school football years ago, they needed someone to work out with. So their dad volunteered.

Espinoza said he told his kids, “I used to do this all the time when I was in the Marines.”

Now that their football careers are over, dad is still lifting but competing on a world scale and somehow getting better.

Espinoza, 49, is a two-time world champion and is going for a hat trick today at the World Police and Fire Games in Chengdu, China.

Besides winning, his goal is to double his 203-pound weight in the bench press. The world record in the competition is 385 pounds. A couple of weeks ago, without the adrenaline of an competition, he pushed up 400 pounds during a workout at MaxFitness on Illinois Road.

“In January, I was at where I wanted to be and you always shoot for more,” he said. “I think overall, I'm ready to do what I want.”

A 20-year veteran of the Fort Wayne Police Department and president of the Police Benevolent Association where he represents 373 officers, Espinoza is a detective specializing in street crimes. At his first World Police and Fire Games in 2015 in Washington, D.C., he won the 45-49 age title with a bench press of 352 pounds and defended the title in Los Angeles two years later with 375 pounds. He might have done more that year but was leery of a sore shoulder.

The unique thing about Espinoza other than his late attraction to the sport is his athletic makeup. Besides playing fullback and linebacker on his school's football team, he wrestled for Whitko High School at 5-foot-6, 128 pounds. When he entered the Marines a few years later to take part in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he weighed 140 pounds.

“He's always been there, striving to get better,” said Jim Wheatcraft, one of Espinoza's lifting partners the last five years. “He has perfect form with nice short arms, a huge chest and the bar doesn't have very far to travel. Besides his desire, the biggest thing is not getting hurt. He strives to be good, and there are people there who are almost as good as he is and that adds to his determination.”

Espinoza also focuses on this specific competition, and he'll often ask competitors in other divisions for tips or training ideas. He's hoping to compete in 2021 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and maybe in Winnipeg in 2023. His wife, Joanna, likes the exotic vacations and understands the workouts are her husband's stress release.

“After the first competition in D.C., I said, 'You know what, this is something a short, fat guy can do,'” he said. “I like golf, but I'm awful. It's just one of those things where I have the build for it, and when you enjoy doing it, it helps, too. As long as I'm healthy, I plan on doing this.”


Fort Wayne Police Department Detective Steve Espinoza won the gold medal in the bench press at the World Police and Fire Games today in Chendu, China.