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Yordan Mitkov (Bulgaria) Wins the European Championships in Varna

History in Color:

May 23, 1979, Varna, Bulgaria – 23-year old middleweight Yordan Mitkov of Asenovgrad, Bulgaria wins a gold medal in the 75kg class at the 1979 European Championships in Varna.

Yordan Mitkov (born in 1956) was an Olympic champion from Team Bulgaria. He won the gold in the 75kg weight class at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Besides his Olympics title, also won a gold (1976) and a silver (1975) medal at the World Championships, and a gold (1979), silver (1975) and bronze (1976) medals at the  European championships and a Bulgarian national title in 1979.

At the 1979 European Championships in Varna, Bulgaria won the first place in the team competitions with the Soviet Union and East Germany on the second and third places respectively. In the middle weight, Bulgaria was represented by Yordan Mitkov and Nedelcho Kolev. Mitkov won gold medals in both the snatch and cj lifts with a gold total of 345kg (155+190). Kolev was a silver medalist with a 337.5kg (150 + 187.5).

In his career, Yordan Mitkov managed to set 4 world records  including his last world record (197kg in cj) set five months before the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

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Yury Vlasov Performs an Olympic Press Lift at the 1964 Europeans in Moscow

History in Color:

June 28, 1964, Moscow, Russia, USSR – Olympic champion Yury Vlasov, 28-year old super heavyweight of the Team USSR competes in the 90+kg weight class and wins a European title with a world record in total on the last day of the 1964 European Championships in Moscow.

It was the first time when the European Championships were held in the Soviet Union. 55 athletes of 13 nations competed at the CSKA Weightlifting Hall in Moscow.

By the end of the tournament, the top 3 teams in Europe were:

  1. USSR

  2. Hungary

  3. Czechoslovakia

As shown on the History in Color cover photo, Yury Vlasov won a gold medal and set a new world record – 190+165+207.5 = 562.5kg in total . In retrospective, it was his 6th and last gold at the Europeans.

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Anatoly Pisarenko at the 1980 USSR Championships

History in Color:

May 18, 1980, Moscow, Russia – 22-year old super heavyweight Anatoly Pisarenko of the Dynamo Kiev club receive prepares for his lift in the 110+kg class at the 1980 USSR Championships in Moscow.

At the 1980 USSR Championships held before the 1980 Olympics, there were 143 participants in 10 weight classes and 51 (!!!!) of them bombed out. In the super heavyweight class, only two athletes were listed as medalists.

In the super heavyweight class, Vladimir Marchuk won a gold and Anatoly Pisarenko won a silver medal. Neither Vasily Alexeev nor Sultan Rakhmanov (main super heavyweight candidates to the Olympic Team USSR in 1980) competed in the tournament. No bronze medal was awarded. The rest in the class were disqualified because they failed with their lifts.

None of the supers from the tournament competed at the 1980 Olympics.

The 1980 USSR Championships was held at the Izmaylovo Sports Arena that was built for the 1980 Summer Olympics. However, with two months left to the Olympics, the arena was still under construction in May 1980.

“What a championship it was! ” Sergey Artamonov, one of the officials of the tournament, told me in our recent conversation. “There were no audience at the Izmaylovo arena during the 1980 USSR Championships. No viewers were allowed to attend it because of the safety issues.  The arena was still under construction.”

The Soviet Federation made the 1980 national championship mandatory for all candidates to the Team USSR Weightlifting in order to be selected for the 1980 Olympics. However most of the top lifters didn’t compete and there were only a few who actually took part in the Moscow Olympic tournament in July 1980. Only Kanybek Osmonaliev (52kg) Viktor Mazin (60kg) and Igor Nikitin (100kg) won the 1980 USSR Championships and went on to represent the country at the Olympics.

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Legendary Hans Zdrazila is 80!

October 3, 2021 – Legend of Czech and world weightlifting, Olympic champion Hans Zdrazila turned 80!

Hans Zdrazila (born in 1941) of Ostrava, Czech Republic was one of the best middleweight and light heavyweight athletes in the world in the 1960s. He was the first weightlifter of Czechoslovakia to become an Olympic champion. It happened on October 14, 1964, when a 23-year old middleweight Hans Zdrazila won a gold medal at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

In his native Czechoslovakia, Zdrazila competed in the 75kg and 82.5kg weight classes and won 10 national titles (1960-1964, 1966-1968, 1970-1971).

On the international arena, Hans Zdrazila was selected to compete in the national team from 1960 to 1972. He was a 2x Olympian and represented Czechoslovakia at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo (1964, gold medal in the 75kg class) and in Mexico City (1968, 6th place in the 82.5kg class). Besides his remarkable performance at the Olympics, Zdrazila won a gold (1964) and 2 bronze (1963, 1966) medals at the World Championships and 2 silver (1964, 1965) and 2 bronze (1963, 1966) medals at the European Championships.

Happy Birthday, Champion!

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Got Biceps? Phil Grippaldi Turned 75!

History in Color:

September 27, 2021 – One of the most talented and popular U.S. Olympic weightlifters in the 1970s, 3x Olympian, Phil Grippaldi turned 75!

Phil Grippaldi competed in the 90kg weight class and had an impressive look of a bodybuilder and strength of an Olympic weightlifter. Grippaldi grew up in New Jersey. When he was a kid, he was introduced into bodybuilding routines by one of his neighbors. At 16, little Phil was 5’5″ and had a 19″ biceps.

Grippaldi’s coaches in weightlifting were Butch Toth of the Keasbey Eagles weightlifting club and Michael Huszka of the Magnificent Seven (legendary Team Hungary Weightlifting of 1960s)

Phil Grippaldi managed to win 6 titles at the USA National championships (1967, 1968, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1977), won 3 Pan American Games (1967, 1971, 1975) and competed for Team USA Weightlifting at three Olympics. He took the 7th place in Mexico City in 1968 and the 4th place in Munich in 1972.

Happy Birthday, Champ!

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Yury Zaytsev Wins the USSR Cup in Frunze

History in Color:

December 16, 1979, Frunze, Kyrgyzstan, USSR – Olympic champion Yury Zaytsev, heavyweight of Zenith Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, wins the 1979 USSR Cup with a 407.5kg (170+237.5) total in the 110kg weight class.

It was the 4th national cup won Yury Zaytsev. He also won the gold at the USSR Championships in clean-and jerk.

One of the strongest Soviet heavyweights (110kg) of the 1970s, Zaytsev competed for Enbek of Alma Ata, Kazakhstan and, then,  for Zenith and Army of Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. He was a 2x World champion, 2x European champion, USSR Champion and 4x winner of the USSR Cup. At the 1976 Summer Olympics, he was awarded with the gold medal in the 110kg weightclass. Zaytsev authored several world records and his personal best in total was 410kg (172.5+237.5; Podolsk, March 9, 1980) in the 110kg class.

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Serge Reding of Belgium Performs an Olympic Press in Leningrad

History in Color:

June 25, 1968, Leningrad, USSR –27-year old super heavyweight Serge Reding of Belgium competes a 182.5kg press lift in the 90kg+ class at the 1968 European Championships in Leningrad.

At the 1968 European Championships, Serge Reding won a silver medal with a 527.5kg (182.5+140+205) total. Four months afterwards, he won a silver Olympic medal with  555kg (195+147.5+212.5) in total.

Serge Reding (1941-1973) was one of the best and most memorable super heavyweights of the 1960s. He was a member of an exclusive Club 600 with the 620kg total of 3 lifts (220+175+225) set in Lille, France in April 1972. There were only 5 athletes in the world that had their membership in the Club 600. Besides Reding, those were Vasily Alexeev (USSR), Rudolf Mang (Germany), Ken Patera (USA) and Stanislav Batishchev (USSR).

Reding competed for his native Belgium at the Summer Olympics in 1964, 1968 and 1972. In 1968, he became a vice champion of the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. He won silver medals at the World Championships in 1968, 1969, 1979 and 1974, won the European championship in 1969 and set 6 world records in his career.


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Gunther Wu and Adam Gnatov (Lubeck, 1971)

History in Color:

August 1971, Travemunde, Germany – German heavyweight Gunther Wu of SV Phoenix Kassel and Soviet flyweight Adam Gnatov of Lokomotiv Lvov are flexing muscles during the 1971 Baltic Cup tournament in Lubeck, Germany.

In the early 1970s, Adam Gnatov knew no equals to himself in Olympic press lift in the 52kg class. The eternal press record by a 132-cm tall flyweight athlete was set at 120.5kg in 1972 and remains unbeaten today.

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Ivan Veselinov: 1959 World Championships in Warsaw

History in Color:

October 4, 1959, Warsaw, Poland – 33-year old heavyweight Ivan Veselinov competes for Team Bulgaria in the 90+kg weight class  at the 1959 World and European Championships in Warsaw.

By the end of the night, Veselinov finished with a 455kg (145+130+180) total and won a bronze medal at the Worlds and a silver medal at the European Championships

Ivan Veselinov (b. 1926-1996) of Asenovgrad, Bulgaria was one of the best and most revognized Bulgarian weightlifters of the post World War II generation. From 1950 to 1968, he won 16 Bulgarian Championships! Veselinov was the first Bulgarian athlete to join the top international 500 Club. His personal best was 505kg (170+140+195) total that he reached in 1965.

On the international arena, Veselinov was a 3x Olympian and represented Bulgaria at the Summer Olympics in 1956, 1960 and 1964. He was is a 3x bronze medalist of the World Championship (1958, 1959), 4x European silver medalist (1958-1959, 1965) and 4x European bronze medalist (1955, 1956, 1962, 1963).

By all means, Ivan Veselinov is a Bulgarian pride of oldtime classics. He was one of the leading lifters in his country that laid down the foundation for the rise of Bulgaria to a weightlifting power house of champions in the mid 1970s and for decades to come later in the history.

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17-year Old Yury Zakharevich Wins the 1980 USSR Cup

History in Color:

December 12, 1980, Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, USSR – Rookie junior Yury Zakharevich of Dimitrovgrad, Russia wins a national title in the snatch lift on his way to become a 1980 USSR Cup winner in the 90kg class in Dnepropetrovsk.

It was the first appearance of Yury Zakharevich at the top national level tournament. Being a 17-year old junior lifter, he won the 1980 USSR cup with a 382.5kg total and won a gold medal in the snatch with a 177.5kg result.

Yury Zakharevich (b. 1963) was definitely one of the most talented and promising Russian athletes in the 1980’s. In 1983, when he was only twenty, Zakharevich disclocated his left elbow while attempting to snatch a world record. Doctors rebuilt his elbow using synthetic tendons. He returned to competition in 1984 and won next four European championships as well as the world championships in 1985-1988. In 1988 in Seoul, Zakharevich won a gold medal at the Olympics in a heavyweight division with world records in all types of lifts and in the total.