University of Louisiana’s National Championship Weightlifting Teams
by Warren A. Perrin, Attorney at Law
Part Two: Olympic Weightlifting
Chapter 3 – Masters Weightlifting
Masters Weightlifting is the Olympic sport of weightlifting for persons 35 years old or older. Masters Weightlifting is a committee within USA Weightlifting, which is the national governing body (NGB) for the sport of weightlifting in the United States.18
In 1975, the Masters weightlifting program was founded by William (Bill) Clark, who had begun weightlifting in 1959. The idea of a Masters program was first broached in 1973 at the AAU convention. In 1974, only four lifters registered to enter the upstart National Masters meet—Jim Witt, Jack
Lano, Wilbur Miller and Bill Clark—so it was not held. In October, 1975, the first “official” meet was held with nine entries. Age groups were divided by five years starting at the age of 40, and Bill Clark was the first Masters Chairman. An additional age bracket—for ages 35-39—would be added to U.S. Masters competitions in 1990, and in 1994 that group was added to the international program as well.
The first World Masters Championships were held in Colorado Springs in 1985. Since that time, the World Masters Championships have been held every year. The decision of where the competition takes place is decided at the Masters Congress, which is the annual Masters meeting held every year at the World Championships; all elections for officers take place there as well. Each nation has one vote in the Masters Congress. In 1989, Bill Clark decided to step down from leadership of both the USA Masters and the World Masters organization. With support both in the U.S. and abroad, Walter Imahara was elected to lead both organizations. He would continue leadership of USA Masters until 1996, and continued as World Masters Chairman until 2008, when he retired.
Initially, all weightlifting competitions—Masters included—were restricted to men only. However, in February, 1976, Bill Clark made a combined Power/Olympic lifting competition into an all-female meet. It broke the gender barrier and women’s weightlifting was established. Although women began to compete in the U.S. in the 1970s, and internationally during the 1980s, it would not be until 1993 that women became a part of international Masters weightlifting on a trial basis. Beginning in 1994, women were allowed to compete in a separate official women’s division in the Masters program.
In an email sent to me by David Meltzer on April 14, 2020, he kindly provided the following information on the evolution of the Masters program:
There was no World Masters program in any real sense (that is, one that involved other countries) until the first World Masters Championships were held in Colorado Springs in 1985. There was no IWF Masters until 1993, since that was the first time that the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) actually recognized Masters as a part of the IWF. Walter was chair of the World Masters program beginning in 1989 and continued until 2008. Imahara stepped down from the chairmanship of the USA Masters around 1996 and Howard Cohen became U.S. Chair at that time…Michael Cohen is the current Chair of USA Masters. The current Chair of the World Masters is Denise Offermann of Cyprus.19
Walter Imahara, as usual, promptly responded to my request for more information on the history of the Masters program and sent this information in an email on April 14, 2020: “With the backing of Ken McClain and Barb Conley I was voted in as National Masters Chairman on April 14, 1989, in Houston, Texas. On July 25, 1989, during the First World Masters Games in Aalborg, Denmark, I was voted in as the World Masters Chairman.”
Some of the leading Masters competitors on the Gayle Hatch Team from Baton Rouge included Pete Talluto, Chuck Meole, Gary Glass and David Meltzer. They were all ranked among the world’s best lifters in their age group and bodyweight class. They have all been National Masters Champions many times. In 1997, Meltzer won the Best Lifter award for the 45-49 age group at the U.S. National Masters Championships.20
18 ‘USA Masters Weightlifting,’ USA Masters Weightlifting, accessed 14 April 2020, https://www.mastersweightlifting.
19 History of the USA Masters Weightlifting Program, accessed 19 April 2020, http://www.mastersweightlifting.org/
20 Jan Todd, JT, Terry Todd, TT, ‘The Return of Iron Game History; Table of Contents,’ The H. J. Lutcher Stark Center,
Volume 12, 12, Issue 4.1, accessed 19 April 2020, https://www.starkcenter.org/igh/igh-v12/igh-v12-n4-v13-n1/