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Friday, October 14, 2016

Mario Martinez, One of America's Best Ever

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One of my all time favorite lifters is a guy that most have never heard of in spite of a long list of great accomplishments.How about a career spanning 23 years that included 10 national championships, 3 olympics including a silver medal and a 4th place finish,3 Pan Am medals,and the first American to both snatch over 400lb. and clean & jerk over 500 lb. in a meet. Try googling Mario Martinez and you'll have trouble finding much.
Raised on a remote Salinas, California ranch, Mario trained under a tree with a non-revolving exercise bar and an assortment of weights, some that he would tie on with rope. Mario Martinez got so strong that he’d bend his lifting bars, but no problem because Mario would straighten them out with a hammer and keep training. He developed a rough, but workable technique, but was famous for his bent-arm pulling style throughout his career.He racked his cleans with only his finger tips on the bar and had to regrip for the jerk. Sometimes his hands would slip off and he would have to regrasp the bar.
After several years of training this way, he traveled to San Francisco to view a competition. He entered the next one and soon was training under the watchful eye of Jim Schmitz. Even then he kept his independence.Here is how Jim tells it,"A little side story here is there was a time when Mario's training wasn't going as well as he would have liked and he thought he would like to do his own program. He still wanted to train with Ken Clark, John Bergman, Tom Hirtz, and Butch Curry, who were all following my program and coaching, but he wanted to do his own programming. To make a long story short, he would get to the gym before those guys, check out their programs—particularly Ken Clark's—and then train with Ken and John doing the same exercises, but with 10, 15, or 20 kilos more. He just didn't like to see his workouts written down, he thought it limited him." While he was a large and big boned man, with strong ligaments and tendons, he was never a huge superheavy and at times lifted in the 110 kg class. At the end of his career, I had the opportunity to meet him when we hosted the American Open in Flagstaff, Arizona. I assisted with the scoreboard and was honored to meet Mario. This may have been his last national level meet as he was closing in on 40 years old. He still managed something in the range of 160 kg. snatch and 200 clean and jerk if my memory is correct. Very impressive. Rich McClure, NAU strength coach at the time and the meet director, had Mario sign the competition platform as a memorial and inspiration to all who would lift on it in the future.
He was the last American man to medal in the Olympics in weightlifting with his silver in 1984 in L.A. He went 6 for 6 and thought he had the Gold wrapped up when the Australian tuna fisherman, Dean Lukin, pulled the lift of his life and did 240 to take the Gold. A few weeks later Mario had his Volkswagon Rabbit reposessed while he was in the gym training. Ironically, Marylou Rhetton, who won gold in gymnastics in the same olympics was given a brand new corvette by her sponsors. Mario who worked 40 hours a week as a mechanic to support his family had to take time off without pay in order to compete, then had his car reposessed. Such is the life of an American weightlifter. Unsung Mario is among the best. He is now carrying on with his family life and restores old autos as a hobby. All the best Mario and thanks for the memories.




Image result for mario martinez weightlifting
Mario was known for his bent arms pulling style which he used very effectively.


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