Powerlifter Ray Fougnier Is 71 and Headed to the Championships

By: Simon Moya Smith

 Fougnier, 71, prepares to lift in front of a crowd of people. Fougnier is retired but continues to pursue a passion of his

He doesn’t smack an alarm clock in the morning and quaff five raw eggs like Rocky, but he is up before the sun every day and sticks to a very calculated regimen.

The Oneida Indian Nation reported Monday that celebrated powerlifter Ray Fougnier, 71, will compete at the International Powerlifting Federation World Championships in Johannesburg, South Africa, in June.

The retiree and former head of the American Indian program at Cornell University told ICTMN that, these days, he gets up at 4:30 a.m. to prepare for the six-hour time difference between his home in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and Johannesburg.

Fougnier, who is a member of the Wolf Clan, said he works out three days a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – for approximately two hours. His diet consists mostly of fruits, vegetables and protein, and that one of the most important components of his schedule is rest. “At my age I need to have more recovery time,” he said. “I can’t lift like younger lifters lift. You need to be a little more restrained in the type of abuse you put your body through. That’s why I only work only three days a week.”

Since ICTMN last spoke with Mr. Fougnier, he has not only come in first at several competitions, he also has broken records. Over the last year he emerged victorious at the Tennessee State Championship and the Michigan State Championship as well as set two records: the squat at 290 lbs. and total weight lifted at 890 lbs.

Fougnier said his objective for the world competition in Johannesburg is to bring home another medal Fougnier poses with medals he's won (Courtesy Ray Fougnier)and to help the American team take the gold. “The better I do the better it is for the [American] team,” he said. “I’m looking to medal in the competition [and], looking at the results of other lifters, I think I can do that.

But it isn’t just about winning medals at championships, Fougnier said. It’s about living a healthy lifestyle, about eating right, exercising and staving off debilitating maladies. “Weight lifting is good for your bone structure. It’s good to combat diabetes and things of that sort,” he said.

And as indigenous North Americans, it’s even more imperative to stay fit, he said. “As Native Americans we have a high instance of certain kinds of diseases like diabetes and heart disease,” Fougnier said. “My mother was a diabetic and we had to live with that for a long period of time; it was very distressing for her and especially for the family, as well. … And as I got older I did not want to deal with something of that sort so I looked for ways to counteract those effects, and weightlifting and obviously diet and certain kinds of exercise are certainly helpful in terms of avoiding those kinds of problems.”

Looking forward beyond the competition in South Africa, Fougnier said he sees himself continuing in competitive powerlifting until his body says otherwise. “I intend to continue with it on a recreational basis. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the near future, but I will certainly be doing some form of it,” he said.


In a press release, Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said the nation “is thrilled to help make it possible for Ray Fougnier to travel to South Africa and compete in this prestigious worldwide championship competition. Ray is an outstanding Native American role model and a shining example of the values of the Oneida Indian Nation. We are very proud to have him representing us on an international level.”