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Plamen Asparukhov (Bulgaria) at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow


May 8, 2021 – Plamen Asparukhov of Bulgaria celebrates his 61st birthday. Happy Birthday, Champion!

History in Color:

July 28, 1980, Moscow, Russia, USSR – 20-year old sub heavyweight Plamen Asparukhov of Pernik, Bulgaria competes in snatch program in the 100kg weight class at the 1980 Summer Olympics at the Izmailovo Weightlifting Arena in Moscow.

Plamen Asparukhov (born in 1960) was one of the top Bulgarian prospects in the late 1970s – early 1980s. He represented Bulgaria at the 1980 Summer Olympics in the 100kg class and won the World Cup the 1982 World Cup in Varna. Plamen Asparukhov won a bronze medal at the 1981 World Championships in Lille and 3 bronze medals at the European Championships in 1979, 1980 and 1981.

In the national level, Asparukhov won 3 national titles in the heavyweight class at the Bulgarian Championships in 1981, 1982 and 1984.

Asparukhov’s personal best results in total were 385kg (175+210) in the 100kg weight class (February 2, 1980, Varna, Bulgaria) and 405kg (180+225)  in the 110kg class (September 19, Lille, France).

After the end of his career as an athlete, Plamen Asparukhov worked as a coach and trained such notorious atheles as Yoto Yotov, Stefan Georgiev, Galabin Boyevsky, Damyan Damianov and more. Asparukhov coached the national team Bulgaria in 2000-2004 and for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

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Sergey Ayrapetov (Azerbaijan, USSR) at the 1982 USSR Championhips

History in Color:

July 25, 1982, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine –28-year old super heavyweight Sergey Ayrapetov of Team Spartak (Baku, Azerbaijan) competes in the 110+kg weight class at the 1982 USSR Championships at the Old Circus Arena in Dnepropetrovsk.

After the end of this tournament, Sergey Ayrapetov became the first weightlifter in Azerbaijan to reach the 400kg in total of two lifts.

Sergey Ayrapetov (born in 1953) was one of the regular contenders in the super heavyweight class in many national competitions in the Soviet Union. He was a 1980 USSR champion in the snatch lift and, of course, the founder of the Club 400 in Azerbaijan.

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Hooray-Hooray to "Hoa-Hoa" Dahlgren of Sweden

May 4, 2021 – Famous Swedish weightlifter Lennart ”Hoa-Hoa” Dahlgren celebrates turns 69.

Happy Birthday to Lennart Dahlgren! Hooray-Hooray to “Hoa-Hoa” Dahlgren of Sweden!

History in Color:

March 23, 1973, Vallingby, Sweden – Middle heavyweight Lennart Dahlgren of Stockholm, Sweden competes in the 90kg weight class at the 1973 National Championships in Vallingby.

Folke Lennart Roland ”Hoa-Hoa” Dahlgren was one of the top Swedish weightlifters of the 1970s. He competed for the Stockholm Athletics Club. Dahlgren represented his country at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and won 11 national titles in Sweden. His personal best was a total of 360kg (160+200) at the competitions in 1978.

Besides his career achievements in competitions, Dahlgren became well-known for his entertaining routines and unorthodox appearance during weightlifting tournaments. We already wrote about his memorable hoops in Montreal at the 1976 Summer Olympics. Weightlifting is a serious sports and mixing it with entertaining has never been the overall point but… the black-and-white photo of Lennart Dahlgren celebrating his lift actually became one of the mostly quoted and reproduced shots of the Olympics in 1976.

After his retirement from competitive weightlifting, Lennart Dahlgren became a famous restaurateur,  host and wrestling commentator on television in Sweden.



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Coaches and Athletes: Dick Smitty and Lee James (USA)

History in Color:

July 25, 1976, Montreal, Canada – American coaches Karl Faeth and Dick “Smitty” Smith preparing preparing a 22-year old middle heavyweight Lee James of Team USA for his lifting attempt during the competition in the 90kg class at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

When Lee James won a silver Olympic medal in Montreal, it was a sensation. It was totally unexpected when he finished right behind legendary David Rigert of Team CCCP. It was unexpected and it was totally beautiful.

To me the story of Lee James is a story of American Weightlifting Cinderella Man and the story of Dick Smitty and Lee James trip to the top of the world is one of the most inspiring stories on the coach-n-athlete magic chemistry in the U.S. weightlifting history.

Dick “Smitty” Smith (1925-2014) played a significant role in the Olympic weightlifting history in the United States. For over 50 years he was employed by the York Barbell Corporation, known for decades as the centerpiece of American weightlifting. He was involved in training for big win in the World and Olympic tournaments such legendary U.S. weightlifters as Bill March, Bob Bednarski, Joe Dube, Garry Gubner, Lee James and many more. As a coach and a manager for the Team USA Weightlifting, Smitty was a 6x U.S. Olympian and attended 6 Summer Olympics.


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Arkady Vorobyev Wins the 90kg Class at the 1958 Prize of Moscow

History in Color:

March 8, 1958, Moscow, Russia, USSR – Soviet middle heavyweight, Olympic champion Arkady Vorobyev of Sverdlovsk, Russia wins the 1st place with a 457.5kg total in the 90kg weight class at the 1958 Prize of Moscow International tournament.

Legendary Olympic weightlifter, scientist, coach and educator, Arkady Vorobyev (1924-2012) belongs to the generation of the Soviet weightlifters that entered the competition platform when they returned from the battlefields of the World War 2. Decorated war veteran, Vorobyev served as a marine during the war and then as a military diver during a post-war reconstruction of the sea ports in Odessa, Ukraine. Vorobyev’s first weightlifting competitions were national Navy championships.

Being a very disciplined and extremely strong physically, Vorobyev soon was selected by the national team coached to represent the Soviet Union on the international arena. His achievements as an elite weightlifter were outstanding – besides numerous world titles and international tournaments, Vorobyev won two gold medals at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics and a bronze medal at the 1952 Olympic debut in Helsinki. He was a team captain and a true leader of the weightlifting national Team USSR where he enjoyed respect of both the coaches and fellow lifters. Later on, as a head coach of the Team USSR, Vorobyev led the Soviet athletes to two victorious Olympics in 1964 and 1968.

Graduate of a medical school (1957), Vorobyev had a Ph.D. in medical science. He is an author of numerous books, textbooks and research materials dedicated to the Olympic weightlifting. In 1977-1991, he was a President of Moscow Suburban Institute of Physical Education where he prepared over 50 Ph.D. candidates. As a scientist, Vorobyev authored the first computer applications for the weightlifting training process. His scientific studies were instrumental for what essentially became known as the Soviet weightlifting training methodology. The list of his students included elite coaches and lifters in Russia, Bulgaria, Cuba, Hungary and many other countries.

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Dave Sheppard: American Rookie Wins a Silver World Medal in Milan

History in Color:

October 27, 1951, Milan, Italy – 20-year old rookie of U.S. weightlifting team, middleweight Dave Sheppard of New York City, NY, USA competes in the snatch program in the 75kg weight class at the 1951 World Championships in Milan.

It was the first appearance of David Sheppard at the top international level tournaments with the national team. In the snatch program (shown on the cover photo) he finished first with a 127.5kg lift and, in total, both Sheppard and his teammate Peter George finished with the top total of 395kg. Legendary Peter George won a gold medal by a body weight and a 20-year old rookie Dave Sheppard won a silver medal. Khadr Sayed El Touni of Egypt won a bronze.

David Sheppard was born in 1931 in NYC. He began to train in Olympic weightlifting at 11 which is very early. Especially, for the 1940s. Prior to this, he was active in gymnastics. As a teenager, he won a few local competitions in the 60kg weight class and at 17 he won the second place at the junior national championship.

Sheppard (1931-2000) was a pioneer of the squat style in Olympic weightlifting. In the years when split style was dominant, he was a brilliant squat style technician. Needless to say, Dave was a fascinating athlete and, in training sessions , he was able to lift split style almost as much as he lifted squat style.

Sheppard was a 3x national champion (1954, 1955, 1958).

In his career on the international arena, Dave Sheppard represented the United States at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne and won a silver Olympic medal in the 90kg class. Sheppard won the Pan American Games in 1955 and was a 4-time vice champion of the world in 1951, 1953, 1954 and 1958. He was a world record holder too.

Dave Sheppard was also a very significant Team USA athlete in the historical matches between Team USA and USSR in 1955 and 1958, as well as tour of Team USA to Iran and Egypt in 1955.

At the 1954 World Championship in Vienna, due to the team interests, Sheppard was moved from the light heavyweight class to the middle heavyweight class and with a 84kg body weight represented USA in the 90 kg class. After the first two lifts, he was second to Arkady Vorobyev. So, in the clean-and-jerk, he secured the silver medal with the 167.5 lift and then added… 20kg (!!!) to reach for the gold medal.

Considering that Sheppard’s bodyweight was only 84kg and that his teammate Tommy Kono just set the 172.5kg world record in the 82.5kg, it was an enormous weight to capture. 187.5 kg was even well above the world record in the 90kg class set by Norb Schemansky (181kg).

What happened then became a part of the historical epics of the sport. In the first attempt, when no one expected from Sheppard to succeed, he slowly pulled the weight from the platform and then cleaned it but… failed to stand up. In the second try at 187.5kg, Dave cleaned the weight and after a big struggle got up with it but failed to jerk it off the chest. The crowd gave the athlete a loud round of applause. They saw one of the most beautiful and moving moments of Olympic weightlifting – the moment when the athlete pushes the limits of what he can possibly lift.

Those who saw Dave Sheppard in the competitions or saw him in archival footage remember his trademark – his captivating smile on the platform. He really payed a special attention to this. Sheppard considered theatrics of weightlifting as important as its athletic aspects.

Dave Sheppard was a magnificent technician. Even today his lifting techniques looks impressive. With all these said, Dave always shared his knowledge and techniques. He actually helped many of his teammates to master the techniques. The list of these athletes include such lifters as Isaak Berger, Dave Ashman and more.

It’s a known fact that all his life, when he was an active lifter and after his retirement, Dave Sheppard was helping everybody in the gym. It didn’t matter whether it was someone struggling with the 50kg or 250kg lifts.

David Sheppard was a true legend of Olympic weightlifting. Memories of him come from the vintage covers of the Strength and Health magasines, from the results and footage of competitions and from unforgettable stories of those who knew him.