81-year-old Sarasota deputy earns world championship in weightlifting

But that's only a small part of his incredible story

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) - A Sarasota County deputy is now a world champion weightlifter. Lieutenant Johnny Yong has lived quite a life.

At 81, Yong is the oldest corrections deputy in Florida. He recently won his age group and was crowned world champion at the World Bench Press and Deadlift Championships. He currently holds multiple world records, all earned while juggling his job at the jail.

"Fitness is still a part of my life," Yong said.

Yong turned back the clock for News Channel 8. He played an old video clip of a pair of circus acrobats performing a daring hand balancing act. "(We were) the only ones in the world that performed this feat," Yong said.

He is a former circus performer. Yong was born and raised in Nazi Germany to a Chinese father and a German mother. "They never took us as Germans. So I was not able to go to school because the German regime didn't want foreigners to go to school. They called us ‘Eurasians,'" he said.

He started performing when he was just 5 years old. When World War II ended, Yong and his family moved to America and joined the Ringling Bros. Circus. He and his brother formed a duo, The Yong Brothers, and, for decades, performed daring balancing acts all over the world.

"Every different stunt I made with my brother took years to accomplish," Yong said.

One especially challenging act took eight years to perfect. "It's technique. You gotta have technique and a sense of balance and that comes with practice," he said.

Yong was drafted into the Army and sent to Korea. While there, he saw his old friend, Bob Hope, perform.

"He looked at me and said, ‘What are you doing here?' And I said, ‘Well I'm here; I'm stationed.' And he asked me, ‘Can you join the show?' And I say, ‘I can't join the show, I'm in the Army,'" Yong recalled with a chuckle.

Hope spoke to the commanding general, and within 24 hours Yong's orders were changed. He then performed on Hope's USO Tour.

Yong lived quite a life, mingling with movie stars and performing for royalty. But everything was not as it seemed.

"Not everything is glamorous and lovely and glittery and rhinestones and successful, taking bows and smiling. There's a lot of hardship comes with show people. Everybody that's in entertainment, his private life is also hardship, so we had hardships," Yong said.

Wanting a stable future, he retired from show business and became a deputy. "As long as I can pass the physical test at the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, I'm gonna stay working," Yong said.

Passing that test shouldn't be an issue for him for a long time. Lt. Yong lifted 250 pounds to win his gold medal, blowing the competition away. He can still force himself to lift 380 pounds, but on his doctor's orders, he scaled back for this competition.

Yong plans to return the championships next year and hopes to set another world record.

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