by Thom Van Vleck
A USAWA member once told me that the USAWA is a good “retirement” sport. You have to admit….there are a lot of guys that are pretty old in the USAWA! I pondered why that was and what it meant (especially since I’m one of them!).
I was at a USAWA meet at Al’s one time and the great Wilbur Miller was there. We were visiting and he was talking about all the options the USAWA offered to demonstrate strength. We were also talking about Highland Games and Strongman as well. He told me that back in his day you either Olympic lifted or powerlifted (he did both and was very GOOD at both, probably one of the best all time at both sports at the same time). As we watched the lifters doing the lifts Wilbur said, “I wish we would have had this kind of stuff around when I was young…..I think I would have been pretty good at it”. I don’t think…I KNOW he would have been! Wilbur must have been inspired, because he came back after that and did some pretty amazing lifting at the same USAWA meet the next year and he’s a CURRENT USAWA member now!
Now, I know some of the old timers will point out that Wilbur and the rest were doing “odd lifts” back in the day, but today’s USAWA has many, many more contested lifts.
Most of us started in more mainstream strength sports. I started as an Olympic lifter (and was an abysmal failure but I did learn how to power clean and squat….two lifts that have served me well!). I then became a powerlifter (and was moderately successful). Then came strongman & Highland Games (which I found I was even better at, with Highland Games being my greatest success relative to world class competition). And with those, also came injuries. Some of those have kept me from doing certain movements and if those were the only lifts on the table….then you are OUT! But with the USAWA comes hundreds of lifts. If you can’t do one, pull out the rule book and search until you can find one you CAN do! How great is that!
Of course, having all the age brackets and age adjustment formulas attract masters lifters, but that is, in my opinion, NOT why there’s so many masters in the sport. Most athletes don’t retire because they are done, they retire because they are injured. The desire is usually still there, the body just unable to perform. That is why there are so many masters involved in the USAWA because it allows them to find lifts they can still do and compete at! That’s a great thing in my opinion! It also attracts guys like it attracted Wilbur Miller….the challenge of doing so many things and doing them well and finally finding a place to do it!
….and one last thing…..I ain’t RETIRED! I’m just getting started!