COLUMBIA — A low murmur rose from the audience. Camera shutters snapped. Eyes fixed on the front of the stage of Lange Middle School's cafeteria.
Steve Schmidt, wearing a blue shirt and black athletic pants with white strips on the side, spit out the last nail from the wooden block balanced on two wooden sawhorses in front of him.
"17.10 seconds," powerlifting commissioner Joe Garcia said.
"16.85 seconds," IBM volunteer Lee Bacott said.
Schmidt looked relieved. He had just captured his third Guinness World Record.
"I was hoping that I didn't fail," Schmidt, 59, said.
During the powerlifting competition intermission at Saturday's Show-Me State Games, Schmidt broke the record for the "Fastest Time to Remove 5 Nails from Wood with the Teeth."
The previous record, set last July, was five nails in 22.21 seconds. Schmidt's official time will be reviewed by the Guinness World Record office in London — but both are record-breaking times.
Before the attempt, Schmidt proved that his wood and nails met the Guinness requirements. Nails had to be at least 3.15 inches long, 0.12 inches thick, and hammered at least halfway into a wood that scores at least 300 on the Janka Hardness Test, which measures wood hardness.
Schmidt was allowed to place two-by-four-inch cloths on top of each nail to keep metal off his teeth.
After the specifics were accounted for, Schmidt started pulling each nail from the wood and spitting it onto the floor.
He demonstrated his skill again after he broke the record, this time pulling as many nails as possible from two long wood blocks within one minute. He extracted 26.
Schmidt's previous Guinness records include lifting 220.5 pounds 50 times with his teeth in January 2010 and breaking the record number of teeth lifts in 2013. For the first record, he more than doubled the previous record of 24 repetitions using the same weight. For the second, he broke the German-held record of 54 reps with 60 reps.
Schmidt uses a leather mouth guard fastened to a chain that attaches to weights. He said the appeal of breaking world records is the challenge.
"I want to challenge myself," he said. "I want to show (people) I'm the best at what I do."
Schmidt, who weighs 220 pounds and stands 5 feet 10 inches tall, has been powerlifting with his body since the late 1970s, but picked up the sport of nail-pulling with his teeth this past Thanksgiving. A German game show called "Unschlagbar", which means "Unbeatable", invited Schmidt to participate in a contest where he competed against two people in pulling nails with teeth.
"It was a free trip, and I had never done it before," Schmidt said. "But I said yes, I want to see if I could do it."
When he is not busy cattle farming in Leslie, Schmidt practices lifting with his teeth once every 5 days for 45 minutes. He protects his teeth by flossing every night, brushing twice a day, staying away from sugar and using flouride-free toothpaste.
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