The Tiny Giants
by Marty Gallagher
“...Lamar Gant got the shock of his young life when he suffered his first defeat since winning his first world championship. “Mighty” Joe Bradley appeared out of nowhere and beat the unbeatable Lamar Gant. “
Lamar Gant is the only powerlifter in history that can be mentioned in the same breath as Ed Coan. Lamar captured sixteen IPF world championships, the most ever by any lifter. For those of you non-lifters reading this, the IPF, the International Powerlifting Federation, is the only powerlifting federation that matters or that has ever mattered – all the other various power federations are basically regional outfits that stage “national” and “world” championships. Nowadays anyone can become a world champion if you pick the right organization. Being a world champion powerlifter is about as prestigious as getting a “participation trophy” in elementary school. One ridiculous example comes to mind: a certain meet promoter, a 54-year-old man lifting in the 181-pound class with a 300-pound bench press wearing a bench shirt, had the nerve to have the meet announcer (his wife) at his “world championships” pompously announce every time he strode onto the platform that this fool was a “sixteen-time world champion.”
I confronted him on this sacrilege and he became mortally offended that I had taken exception to his blatant bullshit. His irate response was quite well thought out. “For the past four years at our World Championships (in this case, the world championships of Nevada) I have entered and won 1.) The three-lift over-50 division, 2.) The lifetime drug-free over-50 division, 3.) The over-50 shirt-wearing bench press division, 4.) the over-50 deadlift division. Thus, I simultaneously win four world championships in four categories at every world championship meet, and this is my fifth year.” He racked up three more “world championships” at this particular competition, and this serves as the perfect illustration of why powerlifting is so sick and is (deservedly) on life-support. When you dilute national and world titles in order to make money, you commit athletic suicide. These “national” and “world championship” competitions are held by every jive federation and are used to lure in competitors to generate MONEY. In this pathetic day and age, meet promoters make their money from entry fees: there are no paying customers buying admission, there are no sponsors and there is zero revenue to be made other than by milking the lifters.
Each lifter has to pay an entry fee, on average $75 to $100 dollars; you have to “join” the organization for another $50 to $75; the promoter then creates as many subdivisions as possible and allows lifters to enter these divisions simultaneously. A savvy meet promoter can easily generate $300 per lifter. Now add the lure of becoming a national or world champion – with a $25 trophy or medal to prove it – and you have a financial bonanza for those promoters that can draw enough lifters. Those of us in the know derisively call these puny power organizations that stage these faux national and world championships, “The World Championships of Pennsylvania,” or “The World Championships of Missouri,” or the World Championships of wherever they happen to be held. Some of the larger splinter organizations actually draw a few foreign lifters and perhaps some lifters from other parts of the United States; but the largest worldwide participation and the tightest, strictest judging in the world occurs in the IPF.
Back in the early decades of powerlifting, from the 1960s up until the mid-1980s, there was ONE national powerlifting organization: the United States Powerlifting Federation (USPF) and only ONE international powerlifting organization, the International Powerlifting Federation. Winning the IPF world title meant something. It still does. Lamar Gant lifted when there was only one national and international federation and won more IPF world titles than any man in history. That alone ensures his powerlifting immortality. But there is a lot more to the Lamar story: in addition to his longevity, Lamar set individual world records that have stood for decades and that may never be exceeded. His 688-pound world record deadlift made while lifting in the 132-pound class is arguably the greatest single powerlift ever made; the only rival to this lift would be Ed Coan’s 900 deadlift done while Ed weighed 219 pounds. No one-trick-pony, Lamar has held the world record in both the squat and the bench press: he officially bench pressed 336 without a shirt in a drug tested national championships weighing 129 pounds, and squatted 595 as a 132-pounder, this wearing a first generation Zangas SuperSuit (worthless), a belt, and old-time Marathon knee wraps.
The greatest deadlifter of all-time (excepting Ed Coan) shows how it’s done. Critics make much ado over Lamar’s scoliosis, (collapsible spine) long arms and long legs – a decided deadlift advantage – yet gloss over the fact that he set world records in both the squat and the bench press, lifts where his physical advantages become distinct disadvantages.
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