Thursday, September 20, 2012


                                 Pablo Lara, a great lifter, in action.

Here is an interesting story from Roger LaPointe as he told it in one of his Atomic Athletic Bulletins. The story reminds of the time when I attended a seminar sponsored by the NSCA back in the 80's. They had Angel Spassov, who was billed as a Bulgarian weightlifting coach, touring the country and speaking on the "Bulgarian Training Methods". Of course as time passed it became clear that Mr. Spassov was only marginaly associated with the national team and he fed us alot of trash about stepups that later was refuted. Nevertheless, I distinctly remember his response when one of the attendees asked about the role of sport pyschology and motivation with the Bulgarian athletes. It took him awhile to comprehend what was being asked, then he said that in Bulgaria there was no need for such strategies. Bulgarian weightlifters were sufficiently motivated by circumstance. The story below about the Cuban system supports the idea that athletes from free market economies have to bring their own sources of motivation to the table as the time spent training for lifting, or any other non-professional sport, actually costs time and income rather than generating it.

Motivations from Castro
Do you know who Pablo Lara is?
Even if you do, I'm betting that almost nobody you know has a clue who Pablo Lara is or what he is famous for doing.  For those of you who don't know of Pablo Lara, he won the gold medal in the 76 Kg Weight Class in Weightlifting during the 1996 Olympics.  His 205 Kg (451.9 lbs.) Clean & Jerk was an Olympic Record.
Motivations are funny things.  By the year 2012, anyone knowing  who won the 75 Kg (167 lbs.) weight class is filling up brain capacity with some pretty useless trivia.  Yet, For PABLO LARA, that information is NOT TRIVIA.  Lara set five world records during his career and was a national hero in Cuba. 
You want to know about intensity?  In 1997 I was able to watch Lara lift.  I never spoke with Lara.  I wanted to shake his hand, but really didn't have a good opportunity.  He was being watched pretty closely by the Cuban coaches.  I was lucky enough to be sent down to Guatemala for the NACACI Championships in order to politic and try to sell weights for the York Barbell Company.  Lara was my hero.  I was able to watch every one of his warm-up attempts and his lifts on the platform.  This was not a big contest, so he ONLY did a 190 kg Clean & Jerk.  That is 418.9 pounds, more than any middle weight lifter has ever done from the United States.
Here's some real motivation.  I watched Lara come into the hotel, before the meet, with at least a pound of gold chains around his neck.  I thought it was pretty ostentatious, but I had grown up in the Detroit area and had seen that sort of thing before.  Leaving Guatemala, I saw Pablo in the airport and he didn't have any chains.  I found out, from one of the Canadian Coaches, that he had sold all of his gold so that he could bring back dollars to Cuba.  Essentially, the Cuban team lived a good life sponsored by the state, but the lifters families were still in poverty and that is what the lifters would go back to when they were no longer part of the National Team.  Those gold chains were going to be a chunk of Pablo Lara's retirement.  I have no idea how true that may be, as I have never heard anything more about him after that meet.  I have heard similar stories about successful lifters from other third world countries.  That is some motivation.
You have to find your motivation.  I know that through that look of intensity, Pablo Lara also seemed like one smiling happy guy.
Weightlifting is hard work.  I also know that no one sticks with it without truly enjoying it. 
Ultimately Lara was done after 1996.
Live strong,
Roger LaPointe

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