On September 26 in Las Vegas, Amateur Athletic Union Strength Sports inducted 18 athletes into the Strength Sports Hall of Fame, representing Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting and strongman. The Hall of Fame induction came during the 2015 AAU Strength Sports World Championships weekend at the Rio Hotel in Vegas.
“We are honored to induct the very best strength athletes at this year’s Hall of Fame ceremony,” said Martin Drake, AAU Strength Sports Chairman. “These include legacy weightlifting, powerlifting and strongman honorees, and the class of 2015 selectees as well. Some of these, particularly our early weightlifting champions, are long overdue.”
On Saturday evening, after the conclusion of the day’s competition in weightlifting, powerlifting, Feats of Strength and MAS Wrestling, Drake kicked off the ceremony at the Rio Hotel by introducing the meet directors and AAU Strength Sports Executive Committee, and then recognized four international representatives who were in attendance at the world championships – Martin Heindl of Austria, Khawja Farid Sediqi of Afghanistan, Michal Capla of Solvakia, and Flavio Danna of Brazil, all of whom had brought teams to the United States for multiple AAU world championship events.
A number of the 2015 inductees were on hand to be honored in person, and made for a very special night indeed. Inductees included legacy weightlifting honorees, powerlifting honorees, a strongman honoree, and this year’s class of inductees.
· Tommy Kono. With this year’s ceremony including weightlifting for the first time, it was appropriate for weightlifters to be recognized first, and the great Tommy Kono to be the first 2015 Hall of Fame inductee. A three-time Olympic medalist (two golds and a silver), six-time world champion, and the only Olympic weightlifter to set world records in four different weight classes, Kono could not be at the ceremony, but his award was received by Jim Dainty, a Kono trained-lifter. Dainty brought a display with multiple photos representing Kono’s career, and his commentary on the American weightlifting legend was moving.
Other weightlifting inductees:
· Michael Cohen, a multi-time Team USA and Olympic Team member in international competition, multi-time USA national and masters weightlifting champion, founder of Team Savannah Weightlifting, 1998 & 1999 USA Olympic Weightlifting Coach of the Year, a multi-time women’s Olympic coach, and a member of the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame. “The AAU and its Junior Olympics was the springboard of opportunity for me in the sport of weightlifting,” Cohen said. “I eagerly looked forward to the annual national championships to compete with the best youth weightlifting in the United States. For these competitions, I developed the drive needed to strive to reach my goal of being a member of the USA Olympic Team.”
· Howard Cohen, the current USA Weightlifting masters chairman, an AAU weightlifter and record holder from the 1950's through 1980, a multi-time national and world masters Champion, and a member of the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame.
· Jim McCarty, who was an AAU Weightlifter 1976-1980, and who was AAU Sr. national champion in powerlifting and weightlifting in the same year, with a 390 clean and jerk at 165 pounds. McCarty is a current AAU Weightlifting masters record holder, and a Superman of the Century (combined weightlifting and powerlifting total) record-holder.
· Jason Farrow, a member of AAU Weightlifting 1971-80, and AAU Weightlifting 2013-present. Farrow was multi-time USA Weightlifting and International Weightlifting Federation masters national and world champion, two-time Maccabi team member (gold), USAW masters record holder, and an AAU record holder.
· Don Walker, who competed in AAU Weightlifting 1968-1980, AAU Powerlifting 1968-80, and was an AAU Weightlifting American record holder. Walker was also a multi-time USA Weightlifting national and IWF world champion, and returned to AAU Weightlifting and Powerlifting competition in 2013.
· Fred Lowe, who was a member of the 1968, 1972 & 1976 Olympic Weightlifting teams, was an eight-time Senior National Champion, a multi-time USA Weightlifting masters national champion, and IWF masters world champion.
· Bill Ennis, who competed in AAU Powerlifting 1970-1980, was an AAU Sr. National Champion, and AAU American Record holder; he continued competing in AAU Powerlifting when powerlifting returned in 1994, and competes as a masters lifter now; he is also an AAU International Referee. Ennis’ award was received by Hall of Famer Gordon Santee.
· Vince Anello competed in AAU Powerlifting 1966-1980, as well as in other federations; he was an eight-time Sr. National AAU and USPF Champion and five-time IPF World Champion. Known as the first man under 200 lbs. to deadlift over 800 lbs. (4x bodyweight), Anello is also a member of the York Barbell Hall of Fame.
· Odd Haugen, who was on hand as meet director for AAU Mas Wrestling, was inducted into the Hall of Fame as the strongman honoree. Originally from Tingvoll, Norway, Haugen was junior and senior Mr. Norway in bodybuilding, was an AAU and USPF national powerlifting champion, was the 1999 AFSA Strongest Man in America, and 2000, 2001 and 2003 Hawaii Strongest Man winner.
Class of 2015 inductees:
· Michal Capla, powerlifting country leader from Slovakia, was the first international inductee in the AAU Strength Sports Hall of Fame. Capla was on hand for this year’s event; he is a former IPF Slovakia country chairman, a former International Paralympic Powerlifting Committee Slovakia chairman who has led Slovakian teams to AAU World Powerlifting Championships 19 times, with multiple AAU World Championship wins himself. “I highly appreciate that I was selected for the AAU USA Hall of Fame,” Capla said. “It was unexpected, but a pleasant surprise. I realize that it is a commitment to the future… Not only I, but also other athletes from Slovakia will participate in this competition, since it is held in a family atmosphere.”
· Karen and Henry Fultz, a husband and wife team with more than 20 years of service to AAU Powerlifting, were inducted together. Both are multi-time AAU World Champions, and world record holders. Henry is an International Official, and Karen has served as the meet administration at multiple world championship events. Both are also AAU FOS world champions. “As I sat at the ceremony listening to the resumes of other Hall of Fame inductees,” Karen Fultz said, “I was deeply moved and humbled that I would even be considered to receive this awesome recognition. Thank you to the many that have walked with us on this journey.”
· Bill Weinstock, AAU Strength Sports board member and the founder of AAU Feats of Strength, was inducted. Bill is an active masters powerlifter 1994-present, a multi-time AAU masters world powerlifting champion, an AAU Weightlifting North American champion, AAU FOS world champion, and an international powerlifting judge.
· Robert Herbst, who participated in his first AAU weightlifting meet in 1975, was also inducted. Herbst is a 30-time AAU national and 16-time AAU world powerlifting champion, with seven American and 37 world records. He is also a nationally-known referee and announcer, has assisted AAU with developing the legal waivers used in strength sports, and was a semi-finalist for the 2013 AAU Sullivan Award given to America’s top amateur athlete. “I am humbled and honored to be considered along with the great lifters who came before me and who have inspired me,” Herbst said. “After the ceremony, a boy of around twelve came up to me and looked at my plaque and told me he wanted one someday. I told him that through hard work and dedication he could have one. Just as I was inspired by those such as Tommy Kono who came before me, I hope that I can do the same for today's youth.”
· Joanne Shear, who was involved with AAU Powerlifting 1996-2004 was inducted; she is an international powerlifting judge, and co-hosted numerous AAU meets in the northeast. Joanne was unable to attend, but will receive her award at a later date.
· William Hawkins III was also inducted; a competitor in both equipped and raw powerlifting, William has held national and world titles in multiple federations and has held state, national and world records in both equipped and raw categories over more than 20 years of competition. William is also head coach and founder of the Project Lift youth powerlifting team, which has dominated AAU team competitions on the East Coast.
· Ed Brooks. The final inductee was former national and world bench press and powerlifting champion Ed Brooks; a multi-time law/fire national champion and record-holder, Ed has also been an international powerlifting judge for more than 20 years, and a meet director since the 1990s.
“The AAU Strength Sports legacy is tremendous, and tonight, we recognize its giants – men and women who have gone the extra mile to achieve excellence in weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman competition, promotion, judging and representing AAU strength Sports,” said ceremony emcee, retired Navy Rear Admiral Hal Pittman about the inductees.
“The men and women recognized here tonight blazed the trail,” Pittman continued, “so that all of us can be here celebrating together, and honoring AAU’s 80-year legacy as the organization that first promoted weightlifting and powerlifting in the USA, held the first sanctioned powerlifting meet, and the first world powerlifting championships, developed Feats of Strength and combine as competitive sports, and continues to promote drug-free sport for all!”
The inductees who were on hand to receive their awards posed for group photos at the close of the ceremony, and many of the inductees and their families lingered afterwards and socialized on the multiple platforms that were set up for world powerlifting and world weightlifting.
The AAU has a long-standing history of sanctioning the strength sports, including early Olympic weightlifting and bodybuilding (the 1930s), and the first powerlifting competitions ever held (1960s). The AAU Strength Sports Executive Committee voted in 2012 to establish an AAU Powerlifting Hall of Fame to recognize the men and women who influenced the sport of powerlifting, and in 2015, that Hall of Fame was expanded to include honorees from all strength sports, including legacy AAU Olympic weightlifters and powerlifters, and early strongman/strongwoman competitors.
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