Leroy Shangin pushes through the pain.


“Louder!” he shouts to the crowd cheering him on.


“What keeps me going in this is not only myself but my family and the words of encouragement,” Shangin said.


He walks around the track with 16 pounds of lead dangling from his ear.


The Perryville native is one of only nine competitors at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics that qualified for the excruciating ear weight event.


Shangin takes more than two laps, walking more than 300 feet before he finally succumbs to the weight. The bars fall to the ground; Shangin takes only a few steps before he does the same.


“I can feel it around my ear, it’s numb,” he said. “My ear is numb right now. I can’t feel anything.”


The ear weight is traditionally a men’s-only event. Women have to ask to be allowed to compete. The men had no problem letting the ladies wear the lead this year.


“Before, I’ve seen a couple of them doing it, but now there’s more,” said competitor Aizah Sullivan. “I think it encourages more people to do it, like more females to feel comfortable to do it.”


“Once you start going it goes numb so you can’t feel it,” Michelle Strange explained. “You’re just feeling it slip off and you’re trying to hold it on and you can’t.”


The women compete head-to-head with the men. Avery Vilche of Red Bluff, California made quite the showing, good enough to place on the podium.


“It’s great to beat women but to beat some guys, that’s pretty cool,” said Vilche, the third-place finisher.


No matter how short or far they’re able to go, athletes agree even being able to lift the weight is a victory in itself.


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