At least the Ceylonese Dancers need not feel neglected. They sold 200 tickets in San Diego before cancellation. Last Saturday a 15-year-old boy set a world weight-lifting record in Balboa Park, and was cheered heartily by only 51 spectators. The weight-lifting meet was tucked away in Balboa Park;s Federal Building behind 12 badminton courts in the space of about half a court. The badminton players never gave the strainers and groaners a second thought.
Ricky Lujan was the star of the meet. He set a world record for age 15 by lifting a total of 550 pounds in the two olympic lifts. 235 pounds in the snatch and 315 in the clear and jerk. Lujan looked more like a guard on a high school basketball team than a weight-lifter. With braces on his teeth and long hair, he looked like any teenager. But upon questioning, he carried himself like an experienced athlete. "Let me give you the background; it'll go faster," he confided. He has been a Junior Olympic Champ eight times and is currently lifting more than any other 15-year-old in the world, he explained. His father was a Cuban heavyweight champion but fled to the United States when Castro took over.
When Lujan stepped up to the bar he was all business and concentration. With the final clear and jerk, he held the bar overhead long after the judge had told him to drop it — basking in his glory.
The meet itself was well-timed and easy for a stranger to follow. An electric scoreboard flashed the amount of weight on the bar to the crowd. Two FAbian-haired helpers quickly changed the weights on the ends of the bars.
Most of the crowd were either family or friends or other weightlifters themselves. One of the lifters in the crowd, a Jon Hill, said there was a difference of "night and day" between weightlifters and "body builders." Body builders "push iron" only for an increase in muscle and definition. They try to pump up the capillaries to make the muscles look bigger. A weightlifter aims toward the lifting meets. Much of the sport of weightlifting is mental, Hill explained. The average lifter can go about ten pounds over his training lifts in meets.
A number of lifters in the crowd commented on the controversial use of steroids. They said that the most competitive lifters past their teens take the drugs for gains in bulk and strength. They admitted the possibility of danger in the practice, but said "everyone does it."
It seems as though weightlifting is the kind of sport that will always be tucked back behind badminton courts in the U.S. "It's one of the top three sports in Russia, but here it must be one of the bottom three," Ricky Lujan complained. But interest in the sport is growing, if one can believe some of the enthusiasts there, "only one in ten thousand used to be able to lift his body weight over his head; now one in five thousand can."