UPDATE: USA-W has just named Pyrros Dimas, the most decorated weightlifting Olympian of all time, as technical director for USA-W. In his new role, he will serve as both head coach to USA-W’s elite athletes as well as work with the national coaching staff to prepare the USA for international success. Read on to learn more about Pyrros Dimas from what he shared during the Q and A session the USA-W Olympic trials this past May.
The following is a guest post by Dane Miller, owner of “Garage Strength: The World’s Fittest Strength Farm.” Dane is one of the best up and coming weightlifting coaches in the United States, as well as a coach for track and field and a strength coach for wrestlers. He has developed some of the best youth lifters who have gone on to perform well on the senior national stage, including Hayley Reichardt who placed 2nd in the 48kg division at US Senior Nationals and Jacob Horst, the Senior National champion at 62kg. He also is the coach for US American record holder, Norik Vardanian, and recently coached five athletes at the United States Olympic Trials for track and field in Eugene, Oregon. He is the only coach in the United States to have coached an athlete at the Olympic Trials in both weightlifting and track and field. He also owns Earth Fed Muscle, a protein supplement company. (Use code “BarbellPress” for 5% off all products).
When Pyrros Dimas was a child, he would climb trees in order to pick fruit for himself. One time he was caught climbing a neighbor’s tree and like any child would be, he was frightened and readied himself for a scolding. Instead, the neighbor, who recognized his strength, suggested he get into weightlifting.
Though he played many sports as a child, such as soccer, Dimas soon recognized that his talent lies in weightlifting and he decided to pursue it seriously. His intention, at the time, was simply to improve his snatch technique.
Technical development is the most crucial aspect of training for a young lifter. Because of this, Dimas spent his early years (from age 7 until age 19) focused primarily on developing a greater understanding of the movements. He followed a Russian program focused on volume and variation in his lifts. In fact, it wasn’t until he was 19 that he began to lift heavy weights in training. His training intensified and rather than focusing on volume, he hit many heavy singles in training.
As a youth lifter, he competed in the 67kg class, snatched 140, and clean and jerked 167. By 17, his body had matured and he moved up to the 75kg class As a result, he accomplished 145kg in the snatch and 185kg in the clean and jerk.
Perhaps the most positive influence on his training was the addition of his training partner, Kakhi Kakhiashvili, who moved from Georgia in the then USSR to Greece where Dimas trained. Lifters tend to spend more time with their teammates than they often get to spend with their wife and children. Positive relationships, thus, are essential to the athletic development of lifters.
Around the same time, Dimas switched from primarily split jerking to competing with the power jerk. This was never his intention, but he had already trained the power jerk in order to develop a stronger split jerk. His coach recognized that he was a better power jerker and thus, he adopted this style of jerking. Suddenly, training became even more enjoyable.
But even still, there were times when he questioned his dedication. The road to success in this sport demands a great deal of mundane repetition in training. There were many times when he contemplated quitting in order to live a more “normal” lifestyle. Yet, it was his love for competition which kept him involved in the sport. Nothing could beat the feeling of chalking his hands and approaching the bar in front of spectators.
One of his inspirations was Yuri Vardanian. From a young age, he was in awe of the way Vardanian smiled as he held so much weight overhead. The strength and control that Vardanian exhibited during competition was both fascinating and inspiring. Thus, as Dimas grew in the sport, he drew upon the same Vardanian-like theatrics in order to intimidate his opposition.
Looking back, he reflected upon the importance of his relationship with his coach. Though at times he enjoyed irritating his coach with his attempts to gain more control over his own training regimen, he always respected his coach and allowed him the final say regarding both training and competitions.
Clearly his coach made effective decisions because Dimas had incredible numbers in training. At a bodyweight of 92kg, he was able to front squat 292kg and back squat 325kg. However, in hindsight, he wishes he hadn’t trained with such heavy squats as he would have preferred to have spent more time improving his technique in the lifts instead. Even still, his best snatch in training was 190kg with straps and his best clean and jerk was 220kg. His best clean was 225kg.
Of course, it is not his training numbers, but rather his impressive accomplishments on the Olympic platform that made Pyrros Dimas a legend. When competing, he always cut to an 83 (which was a weight class of the time). To cut, he would change his eating habits a few weeks out from competition so that he would be able to lose 5-6 kilos but still feel strong. He liked to eat a small bowl of rice and chicken with a little bit of gravy and salt leading up to a competition. While cutting, he drank water with vitamin C to maintain his energy levels and ate bananas to prevent cramping.
Once competition day arrived, he followed a very specific routine in order to ensure that he did his best. Leading up to a meet, he would wait to shave his face until the competition day arrived. Also, he would bring his bag of “lucky charms.” Among his “lucky charms” was an article of his daughters’ clothing which reminded him of why he was competing.
In order to focus, he did not talk to anyone on the day of competition, but instead, spent his time visualizing his success. He imagined all of his lifts and the feeling of being successful after each attempt. To Dimas, this routine was just as important as the training that led up to competition, and he stressed that every competitor should have their own way of preparing.
His preparation was effective as he won three Olympic golds and three World Championships. His loss to Shahin Nassirina at the 1999 World Championship was not for lack of preparation, but rather because he was battling a shoulder injury that required him to fly to New York City in search of the best medical care available. Even with such an injury, he took second place and after the World Championships ended, he was able to rehabilitate his shoulder in time to win the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
In fact, he took gold in three of the four Olympics he participated in which makes him the most decorated weightlifting Olympian of all time. It was in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, his home country, that he finished third. By these games, he had already had his fair share of injuries and was thirty-three years of age, which is relatively old in the world of weightlifting. Despite placing third, the experience was tremendously moving as he competed at the highest level possible in front of his home crowd. For Dimas, this was the highlight of his career.
The toughest battle for Dimas was his retirement. After so many years of being an elite athlete earning Olympic and World medals for his country, he found himself irritable and depressed. Without weightlifting, he struggled to find what would make him happy. Eventually he came to realize that there is life beyond weightlifting and his joy came from spending time with his family. And of course, he still finds his way to the gym where he lifts for sheer enjoyment these days.
Reflections: It was incredible that USA Weightlifting was able to bring Pyrros Dimas to the Olympic trials. Anyone who is interested in weightlifting is aware of his ability and his past performances. During the question and answer session, he was open to sharing information and even fielded a question regarding the current socio-economic situation that Greece and the Greek people are currently facing. It was refreshing to hear that one of the best lifters to have ever walked the planet struggled with the same issues that American lifters do. It was impressive that Dimas was critical of his own training despite being a multi-time World Champion, a three-time Olympic champion and four-time Olympic medalist. He still critically analyzed his training and reflected upon how his training could have been improved just as all athletes should do. This question and answer session at the Olympic trials is one thing I will never forget!