History of Olympic Weightlifting
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Interview with David Rigert, 2003
by Jeno Boskovics, World Weightliftingw
Make an election of All-Time Best Weightlifters anytime and anywhere in the world: David Rigert's name is never omitted from the list.
Rigert kept setting up world records, winning Olympic, world and European titles through more than a decade (from 1970 to 1981).
Admired the world over, this brilliant athlete took part three times in the Olympic Games but won only once. Of the three cities with names starting with an "M" only Montreal proved to be his lucky town. In both Munich and Moscow he had to leave frustrated, although he had the potential to outclass the rivals by at least 10 to 15 kilos.
Then, many years later, Rigert returned to the international stage. He is currently Chief Coach of the Russian men's team. He has got a big job to accomplish...
World Weightlifting has attempted to bring the Great Champion to a "confession"- a difficult enough job, as Rigert is well known for being rather scant of speech... He just would not believe that the Weightlifting Family is still interested in his story.
When did you compete last?
In 1981, at the USSR Cup - that was my last competition.
Once before you had already been national coach. When and why did you part with that position?
From May 1985 to June 1987 I worked with the national selection. There wasn't any particular problem; I decided to resign.
This year, fifteen years later, you became Chief Coach again. What did you do all these years?
In the first nine years I started to be a businessman. I worked with construction and manufactured sports equipment. Then, after 1996, I was the Director of a sports institute and worked as a coach as well."
What did you see and learn during the time you were away from the sport?
Being in the business: that's a completely different word. You have to keep your eyes open. Actually, the competitions make you tough and you can put your sport experience to use very well. Each field of life is a big battlefield: it's victory that must be achieved both by the sportsman and by the businessman. During the years without weightlifting I did not see new miracles. My past in competitive lifting had prepared me for practically anything.
What changes did you see in weightlifting as an athlete, as a coach or as a businessman?
As compared to my time, the number of competitions has dropped dramatically. Today the Olympic Games are in a prominent place, and the best lifters focus on that. They may almost complete withdraw themselves between two Games. The frequency of important competitions is insufficient. By the way, the weightlifting map has been thoroughly redrawn in the last decades. The so-called white spots are vanishing. Countries that had never even been mentioned in the sport are now winning medals - and it's all right like that.
What is your goal as the Russian national coach? What do you expect from Vancouver and what are your designs for the Olympic Games?
There can be only one goal: to be successful! We still possess some very talented weightlifters, but the world is now more balanced and anything can happen to anybody, anytime. As regards the Olympic participation of my team, I shall bring to Athens only those who are potential winners, who are good fighters and work hard. Only those who are best trained and in top shape can achieve success on the Olympic stage. Tchigishev, for instance, does have that potential due to his character. Among the women Popova and Khomitch are also hopefuls, but there are other girls who may become medal contenders.
Now that we have mentioned the Olympic Games: after so many years, how do you explain the reasons for your dropping out both in 1972 and in 1980?
Anytime this subject comes up, I get a bitter taste in my mouth... Indeed, I should have won in Munich and in Moscow, too. You see: mine is the best example that the Olympic arena is different from anything else, since the most unexpected can happen there. Otherwise, I have always been a team-man. A team-man and a patriot. All I kept before my eyes were the interests of the team. So my chief heartache was not that I missed two Olympic champion titles but that I disadvantaged my team. Those events wore my psyche down a lot. In order to be able to recover, I needed a certain amount of egoism, when I had to focus on my own life my own future."
Canada, more precisely Montreal, was the venue of your only Olympic victory. Now you are returning to this country. What are your feelings like?
The place of Olympic triumph will remain a favourite place for any sportsman. I am glad to return to Canada and I hope that when I leave for home, I shall be happy again... By the way, since 1976, I have already returned to Canada - in 1991 for the World Masters. That time again, I was successful...
Which one of your contests was the biggest fight in your life?
At the 1974 European Championships in Verona: I think my duel with Bulgarian Andon Nikolov was the most exciting contest of my life. In snatch he bet me by 2.5 kg (175 - 172.5), and in the jerk I defeated him with the same difference (212.5 - 210). Both of us had 385 kg and I won on lighter bodyweight."
Who do you think are today's best weightlifters?
The Iranian superheavy has set out to total 500 kg. Shall he make it?
Reza Zadeh is a superb champion and it is quite certain that he still has wonderful results ahead of him. Yet, I do not expect him to reach the 500 kg - in fact, nobody can make it in the next five years. But, of course, I would not mind if I were wrong...
Who are weightlifting's All-Time Best?
Without ranking them: Vlasov, Zhabotinsky, Vorobyev, Kono, Baszanowski, Anderson, Alexeev, Kakhiasvilis, Dimas, Suleymanoglu. After the Athens Olympic Games perhaps we shall have to add a few names to this list.
If you were 15 years old today, what sport would you choose?
It would not be a problem for me to decide. Again I would only take weightlifting. I believe that I was born to be a lifter and I don't know whether I could have achieved success in another field.
Videos and Gallery of David Rigert is available in his section of the Hall of Fame @ Lift Up.
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