GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — One of West Michigan's finest is representing our country this summer.
A Grand Rapids police detective is set to compete in a world powerlifting competition.
GRPD Detective Demetrios James Vakertzis' is constantly in the gym. As a third-generation Greek, strength is in his DNA.
"It's kind of like in our culture," Vakertzis told FOX 17.
Since the age of 16, powerlifting has become his passion. He's always pushing himself to get stronger. A few years back, he won the silver medal in China's World Police and Fire Games.
"You put that American flag in a foreign country, and I don't know how to explain how humble but how proud of you... you are to come back and say, 'Hey, West Michigan, Grand Rapids Police Department, we went over and kicked some a**," he said.
Now, he's aiming for it all this year at the World Police and Fire Games in the Netherlands at the end of July.
"It's the top lift, your highest bench, and your highest dead lift. They combine the number and whoever lifts the most weight. With age and weight class, you're the winner," he said.
Originally, he wasn't planning on competing following the passing of his oldest daughter Sophia in a car accident last year. He says a lot of prayers went into his decision and the family came up with the idea of lifting in her honor. He has a picture of Sophia tattoed on his right forearm. This way, he can always picture her there as he lifts.
"She's always she's been. She used to go to all my competitions," Vakertzis said. "There's a method to my madness is what I tell people."
For 22 years, Vakertzis has dedicated his life to serving and protecting West Michigan. He works behind the desk in a secure office, stopping pedophiles and sex traffickers.
"When I'm in here, this is what's going on. You know, we're not talking about work, or we're not talking about going out and party," Vakertzis said.
When he's not in front of a computer screen, Vakertzis is here in the GRPD's brand-new gym getting ready.
"I'd pull 1,213 plates. Sometimes I have to kind of manage my time when I come in here. Because if there's a lot of people in here, they don't have any weight because I'm pulling all the plates to do what I do," he added.
He's hoping to add enough weights onto his bench and dead lift set to secure a spot as the champion.
"So, for me to be able to go and do this is... it's an 'us' event because I want everyone to realize that when I say we go over and put our name on a map, we legitimately are going to another country, and West Michigan will be put on the map," he said.
Vakertzis still needs help to get to compete. He's looking for any kind of funding, whether in donations or sponsorships. He's hoping to raise $20,000 by July.
You can help him by contacting Brownr@cityofgrandville.com.