- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
In any case, Rachmanov had used his three attempts, and the next man up was Bonk, who was now forced to take at least 534� in an effort to total more than Heuser had up to that point. As before, the thick-legged German cleaned the weight beautifully, but when he held the bar against his neck he must have briefly cut off the blood supply to his brain: he suddenly dropped the bar and stumbled backward, almost falling. This made it Heuser's turn at the 534�, a weight that would win for him his second world title. But it was not to be; the bar was simply too heavy, and he barely deadlifted it before returning it to the platform in disgust.
Now only one man and one clean and jerk remained, and the announcer passed on the German coach's request that the loaders place 551 pounds on the bar to give Bonk the chance at the championship that had just eluded his teammate. Backstage, following Bonk's near collapse and Heuser's failure, Rachmanov's friends had begun to embrace him, only to be reprimanded sternly by Nikolai Parhomenko, head of the Soviet delegation, who pointed out angrily that a critical lift still remained.
Bonk mounted the stage, chalked up, walked to the bar, bent and began to pull. Amazingly, he cleaned the massive weight with power to spare, got set quickly and this time drove the bar almost to arm's length. Almost. Instead, gravity won out, and East Germany's hopes crashed to the platform with the 551-pound barbell. Before the echoes had died, every member of the Soviet contingent, Parhomenko chief among them, was hugging and kissing every other in relief and delight and trying to get to the principal object of their affection, 6'2", 314-pound Sultan Rachmanov, super-heavyweight champion of the whole wide world.
There had been five earlier Soviet victories in the nine lighter bodyweight classes, but these had produced no such display of happiness and release. Was it because of the admitted propaganda value to the Soviet Union of having yet again produced the world superheavyweight champion? Or only the relief at having come to the end of a world championship with the team title well in hand? The Soviets could hardly have been so exultant simply because of the relative excellence of their superheavyweight lifting, because in the class below, their Sergei Arakelov had snatched 408 and jerked 496 at a bodyweight of only 228, and their Yurik Vardanian had come very close to jerking 475 pounds at a body-weight of 180.
Perhaps it was simply because with its weightlifters the Soviet Union has been able to indulge the universal fascination with things titanic. With size. In zoos the world over, the ocelot receives far less attention than the tiger, the gibbon far less than the gorilla and the lesser kudu far less than the greater. SIZE.
One thing is clear—in Sultan Rachmanov, all people everywhere who are captivated by size and power have someone to behold in amazement. He is truly a giant. Although approximately 40 pounds lighter than Alexeyev, in terms of bone and muscle weight Rachmanov is the larger man. People whose memories go back 50 years into the history of the iron game state flatly that no man has ever had legs with such a combination of girth, shape and muscularity. Very little of his 314-pound body is fat, and he intends to add another 10 or 15 pounds of muscle by the time of the Moscow Olympics.
The 29-year-old Rachmanov came by much of this Herculean size naturally. His father, who died in 1975, was 6'1", weighed 265 pounds and was famous locally for his ability to lift logs, machinery and boulders—meeting such challenges as come the way of the workingman. Rachmanov Sr. was from Uzbekistan, which accounts for Sultan's name and striking Mongol features. His mother is Ukrainian. "Uzbek and Ukraine is together giving one much strength," Rachmanov will say, adding, "brothers also big and strong."
For years he has lived in Dnepropetrovsk in the Ukraine, and he says he can only imagine how it must feel to be weak. Always the strongest boy of his age in school, he was introduced to weightlifting at the age of 17 and now says he intends "to lift all my life. Forever." With such colossal natural aptitude he went from strength to strength, and soon caught the eye of the Soviet coaching system. He fondly recalls spending several months in the early 1970s with Alexeyev, saying that he taught him many valuable lessons. The respect Rachmanov bears for Alexeyev is expressed straightforwardly and seems not in the least grudging; he speaks of the great champion with warmth, though not with deference. He plans to train hard through the long winter (though not, so far as is known, to move a mountain) and to be prepared in the spring to exceed Alexeyev's world-record total of 981 pounds. This would require lifts of approximately 441 to 446 in the snatch and 540 to 545� in the clean and jerk, poundages that are definitely within his capacity, particularly if he can add 10 pounds of muscle to an already incredible hulk.
It is impossible not to wish this fine young man well. Chosen overwhelmingly by his teammates as their captain in 1979, Rachmanov seems incapable of a meanspirited act. If his nature could be faulted, it would be for its excessive sweetness. His lack of what in today's jargon is called machismo is so absolute that it worries many of his friends. "If only he were a little meaner," they say, wistfully, "he would lift even more."
Several hours after the lifting he was relaxing in his hotel room with friends he had invited up for caviar and vodka when someone remarked that Alexeyev had enjoyed many such evenings of celebration and no doubt looked forward to another in Moscow in the summer of 1980. Rachmanov, who was standing in the small room so that his friends might sit, paused for a moment after this was translated, then smiled that marvelous smile, spread his great arms and replied with a sweeping gesture, "Alexeyev good man. Good man," and then added, as if the thought had just that moment occurred to him, "Rachmanov good man also."