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.