The joke in the superheavyweight contest was that neither Kerr nor Perdue performed ignobly for Britain. Kerr finished 10th with a total of 716� pounds, while Perdue was ninth with 722. But what sent the Cubans into ecstatic frenzy was Perdue's style. Instead of entering upon the stage in deliberate fashion and walking back and forth cautiously during the three-minute time period allotted for a lift, he strode briskly from the wings like a fretful Ustinov, then paced back and forth in quick march. Where other lifters would stop and carefully rub their hands in one of the two bowls of chalk on either side of the stage as if engaged in some mysterious rite, Perdue would have none of this. Without breaking stride he would suddenly flick a giant paw into a bowl, raising clouds of white dust. The Cubans, who love the impulsive gesture, would roar their appreciation.
Perdue next would eschew the customary approach to the lift. He would suddenly cease his marching, wheel and practically run to the bar, seize it and hurl it over his head. Thunderous applause. He earned gales of laughter when he slipped once and tumbled on his back, and he almost brought down the house when he cleaned the bar to his chest only to have it appear to become ensnarled in his beard.
After that misadventure, Perdue immediately sallied forth on his second attempt and paced back and forth on the stage with occasional glances at the clock until it read 2:15. He then raced forward, grabbed the bar, cleaned it, jerked it and set it down, waving his arms in victory amid tumult in the hall. Satisfied with that lift of 408 pounds, he never did take his third attempt, yet after Alexeev made his winning solo jerk of 496 pounds, there were those who hoped Perdue would suddenly appear from the wings to challenge the giant Russian. The very idea of this would have outraged serious lifters, but his new fans were hungering for just one more temps Perdue.
In contrast to the British, the U.S. performance was woeful. The best American hope, Fred Lowe of Lansing, Mich. (SI, June 25), won first in the middleweight Pan Am clean and jerk, after bombing out—that phrase again—in the snatch, and therefore had a total score of 000.0. Lightweight Jim Benjamin of Tulsa bombed out, as did Capsouras in the middle heavies and long-haired Jacob Stefan of Seattle in the heavies. Stefan did not even bother to try the clean and jerk. Middle heavyweight Phil Grippaldi of Belleville, N.J. finished first in the Pan Ams, and so did Mike Karchut of Calumet City, Ill. But the best U.S. showing was by Dan Cantore of San Francisco who, although he finished seventh in the world lightweight, won three Pan Am firsts. Cantore took a stroll through Havana the next day and was amazed at the number of Cubans who came up to shake his hand in congratulation.
The U.S. performance was something like the Yankees finishing last in the Three-I League, and there were recriminations galore. Probably the team was whipped even before the championships began, but who is to blame is a matter of dispute. According to one lifter, the team carried only seven members instead of the usual nine because Hoffman wanted an alibi in case the Cubans did well. Asked about this, Hoffman hemmed and hawed and declared that he did not even know the Pan Am championships would be held at Havana until he got there. In any event, the lifters were pessimistic from the beginning, and defeatist talk can be deadly to a competitor trying to psych himself up. One heard that the Communists had an advantage because they understood anabolic steroids—those strength-inducing hormones that are used to fatten cattle—better than the U.S. did. There was talk of amateurs ( U.S.) vs. pros ( Soviet Union et at.) and some lifters even claimed that their team doctor not only did not bring along his black bag but he left early because he was homesick. Of all the complaints, one seemed fairly legitimate. The U.S. officials (who paid their own way) accompanying the lifters outnumbered them two to one.
Brushing all such considerations aside, Hoffman was livid over the U.S. showing. He said he was going to write a 25-page editorial in Strength & Health denouncing the "bums" who had done poorly, he believed, on purpose. He was bitter about the length of Stefan's hair—"It comes down to his shoulders!"—and he fumed over the money he said he had spent to send this lifter through college or to help that one buy a house.
Amid all the finger-pointing, Cantore observed optimistically, "There is potential in the U.S." But will the potential ever be used? Perhaps Fred Lowe put it best. "If weight lifting is going to be a spare time hobby," he said, "you can expect spare time results."