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One-on-One with Joe Dube

Interview with Joe Dube, March 2005
by Arthur Chidlovski

"My only regret in weightlifting, is that I didn't lift for another four years. I believe I would have given Alexeev a run for his money in '76 Olympics."

The words of Joe Dube are as fast and powerful as were his lifts decades ago when he was an active competitive weightlifter. Dube is a legend of Olympic lifting. He is the last U.S. Men's World Champion. He won the superheavyweight title in 1969. He was the strongest man in the world that year. Since then, no U.S. lifter brought a gold medal from the IWF World Championships.

"It was my last attempt with 212.5 kg. When the weight crashed to the platform, the audience went bananas and rushed up to the ropes that was behind where the officials were sitting at their tables. Quiet a few had American Flags waiving them in the air while they shouting USA. They didn't like the Soviet's and displayed this. The guards had to keep them from going over to the ropes and up to the platform where I was. I just stood there in amazement with my arms straight up crying in disbelief at what I just done. If I remember correctly there was about 6 to 7 thousand people there. There were a lot of guards there to. When I stood on the Victory Stand and the United States National Anthem was played, Tears flowed down my face as I couldn't help it. I thought of all the People that had helped me so much during my lifting career. This to me was "their Gold Medal Too".

 

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What were your all-time best lifts?

My best official lifts were: Press 210kg, 4621/4 lb., Snatch 167.5, 369 lb., C&J 215kg, 473lb. My best alltime unoffical lifts were: Press: 475lb., Snatch: 385lb., C&J: 485lb. My other Best's were: Back Squat: 710x17reps., 745x5 for 4sets. never really tried a single record attempt. Almost always did high reps for stamina. Front Squat: 625x5 for 3 sets. Jerk from rack: 530lb. Power Snatch: 358 with straps.

If there were any coaches, lifters or off-the-platform personalities, whom would you name as the ones who had the most impact on your career in Olympic weightlifting?

My older brother Virgil who trained with me when we started. We learned a lot from weightlifting magazines when we started and helped coach each other. I came into contact with Paul Anderson and he gave me a lot of advice during my early career. Dick Smith, Smitty as everyone called him, was a Coach for the York Barbell Club. He helped me tremendously during my lifting days. Walter Imahara helped me also. He helped me to change my style that resulted in a huge increase in my quick lifts.

Who were your toughest opponents when you were an active lifter?

Zhabotinsky, Alexeev, Reding and Bednarski.

What Olympic lifters impressed you the most among the ones you ever saw lifting?

Paul Anderson, Baszanowski, Tommy Kono, Bob Bednarski. I could go on and on naming them. I made it a point to visit the training halls at International meets and watch lifters train. Also would take notes that could be helpful with my training.

What was the most memorable moment(s) to you in your weightlifting career?

Winning the Gold Medal at the 1969 World Championship in Warsaw, Poland in the superheavyweight class...

Winning Bronze Medal at the 1968 Olympic Games, Mexico City...

Being Inducted into the US Weightlifting Hall of Fame...

Being invited to the White House by then President of the United States, Richard Nixon after winning '69 World Championship...

Being invited and lifting on "The Tonight Show " with Johnny Carson.

When did you retire from competitive weightlifting and what did you do afterwards?

The first time I retired from lifting was in 1972 after a bad injury to my left elbow. This kept me out of 1972 Olympics. I made a comeback in 1979 and did fairly well after a seven year layoff. I managed to win The America's Cup in Honolulu in 1980.

I retired for the last time in January 1982 in Ben Green's meet in Newnan, Ga. I worked for an insurance company who's home office was in Jacksonville, Florida. I had been working there during the years of my best lifting. I was in charge of the companies records. I started with them in 1962 and Retired in 1996, a few months after having my total hip replacement.

I am now once again involved with my art work, motorcycle riding and enjoying life in general.I love getting on the computer and communicating with my old friends in Weightlifting.

You were the last U.S. Men's World Champion (1969). What would be your advice to the U.S. lifters and coaches of today on how to interrupt these 36-year long run without gold medals in Men's competitions?

When I started lifting weights back in the later part of 1958 and early 1959 I had a burning desire right off the bat. I knew this was what I wanted to be, and it was going to be the biggest part of my life. I wanted to make the most of it.Life is to short to waste time in doing something half hearted. It has to be number one. If a Lifter wants to be a Champion he needs to live as a Champion, in his training, eating habits, life style etc. He has to have it above his shoulders, as well as below his shoulders. Physically and mentally.

This is what I would instill into the lifters today.

As far as Coaching, I think every lifter is entitled to a Coach that knows everything (knowledge) that the lifter needs to make his efforts successful. I think Coaches should take more of an interest in the lifters life other than just on the platform. He should almost be a second farther to the lifter and encourage them to live like a Champion as I mentioned above.

I hope this message on what I have written, will have somekind of impact on those that read it and ones that have that willingness to go all the way, and get me out of this title of being the Last American Male World Champion. Don't get me wrong, I am very proud and humble about this and do appreciate what I have done and how everyone else feels about it. But, I want someone, or many to bring back the Gold to The United States, and soon!!

If you could make one change in today's Olympic weightlifting what would it be?

I am very happy to have this opportunity to answer this BIG question! I have kept this silent for a long time now but, I'm going to spill it out and would like to hear from the Weightlifting community, their feedback, what suggestions they have and how it could be handled?

The following is an example.

A few years ago I attended a High School Weightlifting Meet here in Florida (won't mention the county) to help my son Joe Jr. I had a somewhat of a run-in with the Athletic Director/or Head Football Coach. I approached them when I found out that they were having the Bench Press and the Clean & Jerk for the lifts in the meet. And it is not only in this school, but all over the state in the High Schools. My question was: why don't they have the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk, the Olympic Lifts instead of the Bench Press? His answer was: It is to dangerous for the youngsters to do and they didn't want any of them practiceing it in the school. Besides the Bench Press is so important for the Football team players to do.

I told him this is not very helpful for our sport of Olympic Weightlifting. This is putting an Olympic Sport in the back seat to accommidate football players. Don't get me wrong, I do like football, I played it in high school myself, I watch it on TV and keep up with the Florida Gators.

He also said: "Nobody around here even knows how to do the lift (Snatch that is) or how to train on it." I even wanted to demonstrate the lift or get my son to help them learn it. He was getting very offensive about this after I again said to him: "Well this is a High School, where youngsters come to learn, why can't this be one their projects to learn and the same all over the State as well. There's available information and Videos on how to train for the Olympic Lifts and also for Coaching Olympic Weightlifting." He said: "Well that's the way it is" Later on during the lifting I saw several Clean & Jerks that was passed as good Lifts that were terrible. I mentioned it to him, said the lift should not have been good and he said to me that he didn't care what I thought, that they do it that way at their school. I almost came unglued, but kept my cool as other people were there and my son also.

So, this is it in a nutshell. Our Schools Head Football Coaches, are in control of the fate of our sport Olympic Weightlifting in the High School Systems here in the State of Florida. And who gives them this power, the School System, Superientendents and so on.The State School Systems.

The schools do have Olympic Sports such as Swimming, Track & Field, Volleyball, Baseball now, Basketball, etc. So why do they have to take a Sport, an Olympic Sport and shuffle it around to appease Head Football Coaches?

If the US is ever going to be a Powerhouse again, there needs to be some changes made. Again, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there isn't any lifters out there now, that won't make it. But, their could be a lot of talent that won't ever have the chance or opportunity to do so.

I would like to see the US Weightlifting Federation and Olympic Committee take a stand in this matter, to see what its chances are of changing it. I know there are a lot of other States that is operating in this same matter.

What will be Joe Dube's Top 10 Olympic Weightlifters of the 20th Century?

I really don't have a Top 10 list, I think all of them were great in my book. I will mention a couple that stick in my mind and that is Tommy Kono and Paul Anderson.

 

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Comments? Questions? Memories?

 

 

 

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