A Warm Remembrance of Gary Hanson
By Artie Drechsler
I was very saddened to hear of the passing of my friend Gary Hanson. Gary had an outstanding career as an athlete, having won National Championships at 56 kg. in 1964, 1965 and 1967, and one in 1969 at 60kg. Gary also won a bronze medal at the 1963 Pan American Games, and set a total of seven Jr. World Records (not to mention Jr. American Records). Four of Gary’s records were “basis performances” – the first lifts recognized by the IWF in the newly established category of Jr. World Records (in the press, snatch, C&J and Total), then three further records, one each in the press, C&J and Total).
In recognition of his achievements, Gary was inducted into the Metropolitan LWC Hall of Fame during the 1980s. He was a member of Sandor Gere’s wonderful NYC Weightlifting Team of the 1960s. Sandor had been the National Coach of the Hungarian team, before making a harrowing escape from Hungary after the USSR occupied that country to put down a rebellion in the 1950s. Shortly after arriving in the US, he began a weightlifting team at the Jamaica YMCA in NYC, and built a real powerhouse team by the early 1960s.
When the YMCA program closed in the mid-1960s, Gary relocated his training to Lost Battalion Hall, where I met him as a young beginner. Gary always had an encouraging word for me and was more than willing to share Sandor’s “secrets”. One of these was training twice a day (unheard of in the US at the time).
Apart from being an outstanding athlete, Gary had a very successful business career, entering the world of computing when the business use of computers was in his infancy.
Gary inadvertently taught me one of my most important lessons in preparing for a competition – keeping your key equipment (e.g., shoes) with you when you fly to a competition. I happened to fly with Gary to the 1969 Nationals (my very first and one of Gary’s last). He checked his shoes with his luggage, and when we arrived in Chicago he discovered the luggage, which contained his lifting shoes, had been lost. He was of course distressed to learn about the loss, as he had to lift the next day. I was in a state of panic as my mind ran over the catastrophe it might had been to me had I lost my shoes.
With no prospect of recovering his shoes in time for the competition, Gary calmly searched for another lifter who wore his shoe size and wasn’t competing in his session. He managed to find one in the nick of time, and went on to win the competition. I learned never to check my key equipment ever again.
Goodbye my friend, I’ll miss you but never forget you.
Remembering Stan Bailey
By Arti Drechsler
This past week we lost one of weightlifting’s most enthusiastic and successful contributors, and a great personal friend - Stan Bailey. Stan had already taken up the sport on a limited level before he left his native Trinidad to come to the US, in the early 60s. When he arrived in the US, his early jobs involved very hard physical work, but he still yearned to lift weights again.
One day, while walking past the Jamaica YMCA, he heard the unmistakable sound of metal plates clanging (yes this was before the advent of bumper plates). He found his way into the weight room of the Y, where he met Sandor Gere, former national coach of the Hungarian Weightlifting Team, who had defected to the US during the Soviet crackdown on Hungary in the late 1950s. Sandor started a club at the Y and in short order produced several Jr. World recordholders and the most powerful club in the NYC area. Stan joined the club immediately and rose to national prominence under Sandor’s guidance. He also progressed outside the gym, becoming a US citizen, while maintaining his dual citizenship, and becoming a career police officer.
He placed 5th in the US Nationals in 1972, but because of his dual citizenship was able to represent Trinidad at the 1972 Olympics. He also represented Trinidad at both Pan American Games and the Commonwealth Games, bringing medals home from both of these events. A lifter with incredible leg strength for his era, I saw him do an easy back squat with 250 kg. at a bodyweight of 75 kg. in 1972.
While competing, he began to coach, an activity he was to carry on for the rest of his life. Among many national and international level athletes that he developed or worked with was two-time Olympian Tony Urrutia. Stan was also head coach for a number of US international teams and was recognized by the USAW as a Senior International Coach (its highest level designation).
As his weightlifting career on the open level began to slow down, Stan also became an official, eventually achieving the IWF’s highest credential – Category 1. He officiated at many IWF events and was a stalwart at USA Weightlifting events for decades. On the local level, he was President of the Metropolitan LWC for many years, and was the meet director for most of the weightlifting events at the Empire State Games. He also competed very successfully at the National and World level in masters competitions, eventually being inducted into the USA Masters Hall of Fame, for his accomplishments.
On a personal level, Stan befriended me early in my weightlifting career, when no one thought I had much of a chance of amounting to anything, and he gave me the nickname “young phenom” because he said I trained harder/heavier than anyone he’d ever seen. He’ll never know how much that meant to me, although I tried to tell him. Stan may have even saved my life once, when he ejected from the gym a criminal who pulled a knife on me. I will deeply miss him, but always remember how fortunate I was to have him as a friend.