Coffee’s Gym, a pioneering powerhouse that created Olympians, a World Champion, and generations of Olympic Weightlifters, announced this week it will close its doors for good.
In a Facebook post, Coffee’s Gym announced it would close by the end of the month after 37 years of operations.
“The years I spent competing and training at Coffee's will forever be imprinted on my mind and heart as an important part of my early adulthood,” USA Weightlifting President and Coffee’s Gym athlete Ursula Garza Papandrea told USA Weightlifting. “My experience played a vital role in my development as a national and international athlete and coach.”
John Coffee started Coffee’s Gym in the Atlanta area in 1980 and is credited with helping develop competitive Olympic Weightlifting for women in the United States— a concept just coming onto the scene at the time. Since then, the gym produced 36 of the 70 medals won by women at the International Weightlifting Federation World Championships and has won more women's national team titles than any other women's teams combined.
John Coffee with his athletes at the 1996 National Championships (Photo: Bruce Klemens)
“The news of the closing of Coffee’s Gym is a truly sad day for our community,” USA Weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews said. “Coffee’s Gym is one of the leading lights not only in the United States but arguably worldwide in Women’s Weightlifting. Coffee’s Gym dominated the Women’s Team Championship at the Nationals for over 20 years. The closure of Coffee’s marks the end of true sports dynasty, leaving a gaping hole in our community. The work of this club, and it’s Head Coach John Coffee, is a body of work any coach in any sport could be truly proud of.”
One of the most high-profile athletes to come from Coffee’s Gym is 1994 World Champion Robin Byrd Goad. Goad participated in the first Women’s World Championships in 1987 and represented Team USA on the first Women’s Olympic Weightlifting team in 2000 at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Goad is also the last American to set a Senior World Record with a 78kg snatch on April 1, 1994.
Coffee and was there for the Goad family as her children Dean, Robin and Rubylyn all trained at Coffee’s Gym.
“It is truly sad to see John's gym closing after so many years,” Former USA Weightlifting President Artie Drechsler said. “But we can be grateful that John was there in the early years when the flame of women's lifting was a delicate flicker that needed careful and loving attention in order for it to survive, and then to grow into the raging flame women's lifting is today. Thank you, John.”
Coffee, 70, has been recovering from a stroke he suffered last year. Coffee’s zest for life— and his athletes— was evident in an interview he had with Patch.com in 2010.
"[I'll run this gym] until they take me out of here feet first," Coffee told Patch.com. "As long as I'm mentally and physically able to do it, I'll do it. I don't have any plans to move to Florida. My plan is to stay here. I look the best here.”
“The closing of the gym doors feels a bit like the symbolic turning of the page as we experience growth and change in our sport,” Garza Papandrea said.