SI Vault
Terry Todd
November 05, 1979
Three Americans, one a woman, journeyed to the Highlands to try some ancient Scottish tests of manhood. They rocked the Scots with truly hefty attainments
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 05, 1979

A Legend In The Making

Three Americans, one a woman, journeyed to the Highlands to try some ancient Scottish tests of manhood. They rocked the Scots with truly hefty attainments

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

As it turned out, that day wasn't long in coming, because shortly thereafter CBS bought the rights to telecast the most famous of all the Highland Games, those held in Braemar in late summer, and the network asked me to do the color commentary. At that point Jan began to train for the assault on the Dinnie Stones. For 100 years or so they had lain near the inn at Potarch beside the River Dee, only a few miles from Braemar.

Known throughout the world of strength, the Dinnie Stones were named for Donald Dinnie, a wonderful all-rounder of the last half of the 19th century who dominated the Highland Games as no one had ever done before or likely will again. So awesome was Dinnie, and so long-lived athletically, that he was the subject of many writers, even poets.

He's springy, elastic and light when he's running,
Comes up to the mark in time and to spare,
His opponents can't beat him or match him in cunning,
They say we were beat because Dinnie was there

History has it that as a young man Dinnie came with his father to repair the arched stone bridge over the Dee at Potarch, and that during this project his father used the two boulders that would later bear the family name as anchors for a roped plank. As long as anyone even then could remember, they had been used as tethering stones for the horses of the patrons of the inn. Each of the stones has a solid shaft embedded deep inside, with an iron ring attached to the outside end, allowing for a decent, though uncomfortable, handgrip, and, unlike the Inver Stone, each is rough and irregularly shaped. Together the two weigh 788 pounds—448 the heavier and 340 the lighter—and, according to the stories connecting them to Donald Dinnie, he was the first person able to stand astride the two and lift them both from the ground at the same time. A larger and older workman on the bridge at Potarch supposedly lifted the larger of the stones, whereupon Donald is said to have responded by not only lifting the two together but also carrying and dragging them across the five-yard width of the bridge.

To hear some of the locals tell it now, though, especially if someone comes from far away to attempt the stones, Dinnie not only carried them across the bridge but also 1) carried them the length of the bridge; 2) carried them down one riverbank, through the river and up the other side; 3) threw them over the river; or 4) all of the above. In any case, the stones are well named, and through the years since Dinnie first lifted them, thousands of men have tried to duplicate his effort. Only a handful have succeeded, and more than a few have injured themselves because of the awkward and unbalanced nature of the lift.

Nevertheless, Jan laid into her training with a will. She continued her usual heavy lifting, and she began her special preparations for the stones by placing a barbell just above her knees and then lifting it with the muscles of her hips, thighs and back until she stood erect with the barbell resting across the front of her thighs. The first week she used 600 pounds in this exercise, called a partial deadlift, and as the weeks passed and her strength and grip increased, she lifted more and more until six weeks or so later she pulled 900 pounds.

At that point she added another lift to her routine, the Jefferson lift, which approximated as nearly as was possible in the gym the position required to lift the stones. This was done by placing the bar on boxes or on a rack so that it was 18 inches or so off the ground. She then straddled the bar, gripping it with one hand in front of her body and the other behind, and pulled it up by straightening her legs until they were locked.

Starting with 500 pounds, she kept adding weight until she was able to pull 805 pounds, almost 20 pounds more than the weight of the stones. Meanwhile, during the buildup in the Jefferson lift, she also continued to push herself to the limit in the partial deadlift in an attempt to further strengthen the major muscles, tendons and ligaments she would use against the stones. Finally, about three weeks before we were to leave for Scotland, she made a partial deadlift in a training session at the Texas Athletic Club in Austin with what was to me the amazing weight of 1,100 pounds. She was ready.

Then, after several months of almost literally backbreaking work, we received the disappointing news that CBS had decided against doing the Highland Games show. But by that time it didn't matter. We were going. We did, after all, have Mr. Laker's address.

We had been living and training summer in Auburn, Ala., having moved down from Canada to help direct a project called the National Strength Research Center at Auburn University, and when we knew we would be going to Scotland on our own we asked a friend who was to be a colleague at the Center, Bill Kazmaier, to go along. Bill is a newcomer to the iron game, having trained seriously for only 2� years, but what he lacks in experience he more than makes up for in raw natural talent. In the past 20 years I have known all of the top performers in the strength sports, and in terms of genetic gift he takes pride of place. At 6'2�" and 320 pounds he is perfectly, though massively, proportioned, rather like the fourth-century B.C. statue called the Farnese Hercules. By way of comparison with another big man, Kazmaier is 2� inches shorter and approximately 40 pounds heavier than Lou Ferrigno, television's Incredible Hulk. Yet with all his phenomenal muscling Kaz is not a bodybuilder but a powerlifter, although Joe Weider, bodybuilding's Godfather, said after seeing Kaz that he could have a great future in the former field as well. Already he holds the world superheavyweight record of 617 pounds in the bench press, and most experts feel he will surpass the other three powerlifting records within the next year. So apparent is his talent that members of the U.S. Olympic Weight Lifting Committee have tried to shore up their sagging program by urging him to abandon powerlifting and concentrate on the overhead, Olympic lifts. He is, in short, a nonpareil.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5
Related Topics
David Webster 1 0 0
Scotland 142 0 0
Donald Dinnie 1 0 0
Dinnie Stones 1 0 0
Alexander Anthony Cameron 1 0 0