“The USA Weightlifting family is saddened to learn of John Coffee’s passing,” said USA Weightlifting CEO Matt Sicchio. “Though I did not have the privilege of meeting John myself, his impact is clearly felt across this community. In so many ways, we have John Coffee to thank for the current state of our sport. We are particularly grateful for his commitment and contributions to the growth of women’s weightlifting. He inspired and personally impacted many of our sport’s leaders, including our own Ursula Garza Papandrea (USAW General Secretary). Our thoughts are with his family, colleagues and the countless lifters he taught along the way. I hope those who lost a friend and family member this week take solace in the fact that his legacy lives on through the strength of today’s U.S. women’s team.”
John Coffee, a pioneer in the sport of weightlifting, died on Jan. 22, 2023, at the age of 76. Coffee dedicated more than a half-century to advancing Olympic-style lifting, running the storied Coffee’s Gym from 1980 to 2017 out of Marietta, Georgia. The USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame member is credited with helping develop competitive weightlifting for women in the United States, with his efforts being lauded around the globe as well. The 19-time women’s team champion at the USA Weightlifting National Championships, Coffee’s Gym trained the athletes responsible for 36 of the first 65 medals won by U.S. women at the IWF World Championships. Coffee’s pupils included Olympian Robin Byrd Goad, the most decorated U.S. weightlifter in history with 20 world medals to her name, and fellow world medalists Colleene Colley, Sibby Flowers and Carla Garrett.