Category Archives: USAWA Daily News

Tommy Kono: A True All-Rounder

Kono_VanVleck

 

by Thom Van Vleck

When I was a kid I had my Uncle Wayne who was a “Paul Anderson Fan”.  He was all about strength and nothing about aesthetics.  Function first, looks second.  And Function was Olympic lifting!  My other Uncle, Phil, was much more at aesthetics but he also liked strength and he was a Bill Pearl fan.  The one guy they could both agree on was Tommy Kono!

Anyone that is involved in strength sports should know by now that Tommy recently passed away at the age of 85 after one of the most storied careers in strength history.  I did a story on Tommy a few years back and I’m going to say a few things here but you would need to large book to really do Tommy justice!

Tommy is famous for living in Hawaii but he was actually born in Sacramento, California and was relocated to the Tule Lake Internment Camp as a teenager during WWII due to the fear people had against those of Japaneses decent.  While this was a miserable experience in some ways it was the best thing to happen to Tommy.  During his stay the desert air helped clear up his asthma which had made him sickly.  He also got involved in weight training which obviously changed his whole life.

In 1950 Tommy was drafted into the army.  They realized his Olympic potential and gave him the opportunity to train.  Tommy worked hard and this all began to pay off in 1952 when he won the gold medal in Olympic lifting in Helsinki, Finland.  This was followed by dozens of World and National records and titles.  He was again Olympic champion in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics (when Paul Anderson famously won his gold) and the won Silver in the 1960 Olympics in Rome.  He kicked in 6 world championships and 3 Pan Am Golds to boot.  So he had the functional strength my Uncle Wayne appreciated.

Tommy also was a champion bodybuilder.  I don’t mean he looked good and did well against the best of the day.  I mean he was a 4 time Mr. Universe!  This was in the same years he was competing as a lifter as well.  So he had the aesthetics my Uncle Phil appreciated.

Tommy was also just as great a coach as lifter.  He coached three separate nations in three different Olympics.  He was elected to numerous Hall’s of Fame but what I recall that was most striking was being named “Weightlifter of the Century”.  Tommy deserved this and here’s why.

While other lifters may have won more world titles or broke more records there there three factors that made him the best.  First, he was undefeated from 1952 to 1960 on the world stage.  Second, his 26 world records were an amazing accomplishment.  Third, these were set almost equally in the three lifts contested in the day.  He was the best at all of them and not a specialist.  Fourth, and maybe most amazing, was he competed and set records in 4 different weight classes.

Maybe most important of all was Tommy was just a great person.  My Uncles met him in the 60’s while he was still lifting.  They told me he was a happy guy who offered advice and really listened to them when they asked him questions and gave them well thought out answers.  I found this out for myself in 2009 when I met him at the Arnold Fit Expo.  I stopped him in the hallway and introduced myself.  He stopped, talked at length, and made me fell like I was a good friend.  He was famous for helping others and never asking for a dime in return.

So I say Tommy all-rounder because he was the best at all the lifts, the best physique, the best coach, the best photographer of his era, and one of the best authors!  He also was just a great human being who would have been a great friend to have even if he had never picked up a weight in his lift.  So here’s to Tommy Kono.  The best!

 

Frank’s Record Day

by Frank Ciavattone

FRANK’S BARBELL CLUB -Record Breakers Day

Jeff Ciavattone pulling on a thumbless grip deadlift at Frank's Record Day.

Jeff Ciavattone pulling on a thumbless grip deadlift at Frank’s Record Day.

Rainy and on the eve of a snowstorm…
This team meet was the largest we’ve had with the 9 lifters showing up. Jim Fuller from Portland, Maine, Pastor Peter Pirn from Cleveland, Ohio, along with 3 new lifters representing Frank’s Barbell Club: Cassie Morrison, Mike Driscoll and Rocky Morrison. And our veteran lifters: Jess Hopps, Joseph Ciavattone Jr, Joseph Ciavattone, Sr., Frank Ciavattone and Jeff Ciavattone. Along with the exceptional turnout we also had many spectators present to observe this meet.

All of these lifters, in their own way, shined. A little bio about each lifter:
Cassie Morrison – Cassie shows true determination as a relatively new lifter. And definitely will show her true talent in the upcoming meets. Her 2″ Hack was a very easily done lift.

Our second lifter, Jess Hopps, is in her third year competing and is starting to show her all around talent as you can see in the results of this meet. Her 2″ deadlift was actually done with the Ciavattone grip.

It was great to se Joe Ciavattone Jr. Back and like Jess showed his all around feets of strength. All easily done. Jeff Ciavattone, performed all his lifts with ease. Especially his two hands thumbless deadlift, with 206 Kilo, with room for much more. Next was Joe Ciavattone, Sr., Joe not only refereed the meet but he also competed. All of Joe’s lifts were impressive with much more to spare.

Jim Fuller, who continually shows how to perform the all around lifts with excitement and to astonish the crowd. Pastor Peter Pirn, who always smiled whether a miss lift or a record lift and TRULY was a crowd pleaser with all of his lifts. He will be a definite asset to this sport. Mike Driscoll, our new lifter, Mike has natural strength and has been training for approximately for three months and shows improvement after every workout. His highlift for Mike was a trap bar deadlift with a weight of 182 kilos.

Rocky Morrison in action with a Trap Bar Deadlift.

Rocky Morrison in action with a Trap Bar Deadlift.

Rocky Morrison, who not only is a large man but lifts large weights with only 7 months training. Was able to perform 211 kilo trap bar deadlift. An outstanding lift that was executed with ease. As being the meet director hearing the crowd and other lifters applauding everyones high lighted lifts surely made this a successful and wonderful meet.

Now…On to train for the NATIONALS!!!!!!

MEET RESULTS:

Frank’s Record Day
Frank’s Barbell Club
April 16th, 2016

Meet Director: Frank Ciavattone

Cassie Morrison: 20 years, 187 pounds
Hack Dead Lift 2″ Bar 52 ½ K

Jess Hopps: 31 years, 182 pounds
2 Hand Barbell Clean and reverse grip press 27 ½ k
2 Hand Barbell clean & alternate press 27 ½ k
Clean and Press on Knees 25 k
Clean & Press behind neck 25 k
2 Hand Deadlift 81 k

Joeseph Ciavattone Jr.:  22 years,  215 pounds
Ring Fingers Deadlift 117 k
2 hand thumbless Deadlift 182 k
2 hand Fulton Hack lift 162 k
Cheatcurl lefthand 40 k
1 arm Cheatcurl righthand 40 k

Jeff Ciavattone: 36 years, 255 pounds
2″ Fulton Righthand 92 ½ k
2″ Fulton Lefthand 83 k
2 hand thumbless Deadlift 206 k
2 hand Index finger Deadlift 80 k

Jim Fuller:  44 years, 249 pounds
Baby Finger Deadlift 50 k
Ring Finger Deadlift 50 k
Middle Finger Deadlift 50 k
Index Finger Deadlift 50 k
2 hand Thumbless Deadlifts 182 k
Trapbar Deadlifts 171.5 k

Joe Ciavattone, Sr.:  47 years, 229 pounds
Deadlift middle fingers 90 k
2 hand 2″ vertical bar Deadlift 120 k
Trap bar Deadlift 160 k

Peter Pirn: 52 years, 198 pounds
2″ vertical Bar left Hand 63 k<
2 hand 2″ vertical Bar 125 k
Power Rowe bent over Rowe 91 k

Mike Driscoll:  54 years, 192 pounds
1 hand Ciavattone lift 85 k
1 hand Ciavattone right 80 k
Trap Bar dead lift 182 k
2″ hack lift 142 k

Rocky Morrison: 54 years, 303 pounds
1 Hand Ciavattone Lift Lefthand 92 ½ k
1 Hand Ciavattone Lift Righthand 95 k
Trapbar deadlift 211 k

Frank Ciavattone: 61 years, 285 pounds
Weaver Stick Right Hand Forward 2.8 k

***The two referee rule system was used: Frank Ciavattone, Joseph Ciavattone Sr. All weights shown are in Kilos. Special Thank you to James Morrison for loading all the weights, To Rocky Morrison for providing coffee and donuts. Thank Jim and Peter for cominmg the distance to help allow us to making this meet a big success!

Lifter of the Month – Ruth Jackson

by Al Myers

The Lifter of the Month for March goes to Ruth Jackson! Ruth just recently won best overall women’s lifter in the first quarter USAWA Postal Meet.  Ruth has been an active participant in the postal series over the past few years.  In fact I’m gonna brag on her for a moment – this is her 13th CONSECUTIVE overall women’s best lifter win in our Postal Series meets!

Congrats Ruth on being selected as the USAWA Lifter of the Month!

Bad Case of the Barbells

by Thom Van Vleck

When I was a kid I watched the Beverly Hillbillies.  Yes, I’m pretty old. The show was a top comedy show in the 60’s and early 70’s.  It was about a family of hillbillies that come into millions and end up in Beverly Hills.  In one particular episode the beautiful “farmer’s daughter” Elly Mae gets set up with “Mister Universe” Dave Draper.  Dave Draper was indeed a Mr. Universe and a top Bodybuilder.  In the episode the family, being backwards, sees his huge muscles and mistake it for an illness.  They ask him what they are. He said “Muscles”.  They ask how he got them and he says, “Barbells”. Granny turns to Uncle Jed and whispers, “Worst case of barbells I’ve ever seen”.  I remember watching that episode several times.

In 1977 I began to develop as bad case of barbells myself.  I evidently didn’t get them as bad as Dave as I have never been mistaken for a Mister Universe but I think I have the illness as bad as anyone since I’m going on nearly 40 years of barbell training.  Over the years I’ve joked about it being an illness and my case being incurable.  Which brings me to my point.

I do have a bad case of the barbells.  I enjoy training and when I’m not my world isn’t right.  It helps me not only physically but mentally, spiritually, and emotionally as well.  I don’t just train to achieve a goal I train because it’s a part of my life like eating, drinking, sleeping, and praying.  It’s not really an illness.  It’s a blessing.  And over the years I’ve tried to be Typhoid Thom…and infect as many people as possible with the “illness”.

So, do you have a bad case of the Barbells?

Be Stronger, not the Strongest

by Thom Van Vleck

I started a weightlifting club at the University I work at a few years back. It has been very successful even if it has evolved into more of a “crossfit” type group.  But there are some serious weightlifters in there, too.

One of the things that happened as we had more women than men sign up. I began to investigate and here’s what I found.

The guys got pretty hung up on being the strongest.  If they couldn’t be the strongest in the group they pretty quickly quit.  Of course, there can only be one guy that’s the strongest so you pretty quickly end up with a pretty small group.  It ended up often being a competition instead of a workout.

The women weren’t worried about being the strongest.  They just wanted to be stronger.  They focused on pulling each other along.  They didn’t care who was the strongest.  They all wanted each other to be stronger.  They were competitive, but not in a negative way like the guys.

When I was in the military we had a lot of competition.  Most of it was healthy, some of it was not.  When it was healthy it went like this:  As a fighting force you are as strong as your weakest member.  So you encouraged the guy next to you to be successful because at some point your life might depend on it. You elevated yourself by making them better and in turn natural competitiveness would lead you to raise your game.  When it was unhealthy it was more like this:  You elevated yourself by bringing down those around you.  You didn’t get better, they got worse.

So ask yourself.  Do I want to be the strongest?  Or do I want to be stronger!  I personally think that when you choose to be stronger it’s more likely you’ll end up the strongest.

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