The sport of weightlifting is all about relationships. Athletes have a special relationship with their coaches, their equipment, their gym.
For thousands of athletes, the weightlifting gym at Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs is a special place. The same can be said for the coaches who helped push their athletes to fulfill their dreams. Whether that dream is winning an Olympic medal, lifting a new PR or finally figuring out the proper snatch technique, the magic that happened in the OTC gym is irreplaceable.
Dragomir Cioroslan and Nicu Vlad discuss technique with Carl Badami
From Dragomir Cioroslan to Bob Morris to Lyn Jones to Zygmunt Smalcerz; the list of those who have worked at the OTC is a who's who of some of weightlifting's greatest.
"This gym is fantastic," Smalcerz, the 1972 Olympic Gold Medalist from Poland and most recent OTC resident coach said. "This is the best place to train and get the best results for the future."
Bob Morris coaches 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist Tara Nott
USA Weightlifting hosted its final Master athlete camp at the OTC in August. Dozens of athletes from around the country came to the OTC for one last training session.
"I know a lot of lifters who trained and exceled as a result, so it's kind of a weird feeling being here, because as I look around I'm looking at 36 years of history," Masters camp coach and 3-time Olympian Fred Lowe said.
Longtime resident athlete, now coach, Jackie Black also coached the final Master athlete camp. She was a resident athlete at the OTC from 1999-2014. She wanted to coach to share in the magic that she experienced in her 15 years at the Olympic Training Center.
Lyn Jones instructs Josh Lawrence at the Olympic Training Center
"This is a significant part of my life, in this room, it's just a really cool, amazing experience for these guys to come in and experience a little bit of that," Black said.
The gym was also the start for many coaches' careers. USA Weightlifting held many sports performance coaching courses where athletes came to learn about how to teach the next generation of weightlifters.
"I know most of every coach that worked here, I know a lot of athletes who have trained here, so as I look around at the artifacts on the walls and all the different pictures, I feel like, I don't know how to describe it. I've had a great time coaching here. I am a little bit morose looking around," Lowe said.
John Thrush gives a few pointers to his athletes at the National Junior Camp at the OTC.
While the U.S. Olympic Committee's decision to close the resident weightlifting athlete program and gym is sad for many, athletes and coaches alike look at what was built inside the gym in Sports Center 2.
"The history of this room is going to be hard to match," Wil Fleming said. "That's sad to lose that history. But I think with the direction of USA Weightlifting is heading, it's going to be a really good thing overall and they'll turn it into a great situation." Fleming, an elite athlete himself, has coached Master athletes at summer camps at the OTC.
For many coaches, working with athletes at the OTC gym was a highlight of their coaching careers.
Zygmunt Smalcerz giving notes to athletes at the OTC.
"I am so glad I came here," Smalcerz said. "It's like what we call in Poland, I dotted the 'i' in my career here."