by Doug Hepburn (1961)
I was recently invited by the Weightlifting Association of Quebec to a contest of strength against an outstanding French Canadian strongman by the name of Ben Cote. I must admit that up to this time I had never heard of Mr. Cote ad consequently I was skeptical as to this man’s ability.
After some deliberation I accepted the invitation and the date for the contest was set early in October ’61. I was confident that I could win, regardless of the lift agreed upon. This was not to be, to quote the famous words of equally famous Scottish poet, “best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I don’t know if ever a mouse tore a shoulder while lifting heavy, but I do know that the writer of this article did – very severely.
After committing myself I was obliged to appear. It is a poor policy to disappoint an audience of several avid weightlifting enthusiasts, some of whom had journeyed hundreds of miles by car.
On October 6th at 8:15 in the evening, I boarded a Trans Canada Jetliner, smiled at two bug-eyed stewardesses, sidled down the aisle, found my seat and proceeded to wedge myself into same. I use the word “wedge” literally, and I can say with all sincerity that when I am seated, or “wedged” if you wish, the use of a safety belt is an unnecessary contrivance. However, one must concur with the safety belt regulation so I exhaled, drew in the abdomen, buckled the belt, and again smiled in an “I told you so” manner to my small audience of doubters, including the stewardess. A wise strongman learns to smile early in his career.
On the morning of October 7th at 10:30 I arrived at the small airport situated a short distance from Chicoutimi, Quebec, my destination. I was met by Mr. Dan Walker, the organizer of the contest, and Mr. Ben Cote. The local press photographer requested several photos of Ben and myself and we obliged. Luckily, Mr. Walker was bilingual and I informed him that I was exhausted from the long trip and that a short nap would put matters right. Fatigued was putting it mildly, for I had looked in the mirror on the plane and my eyes looked like two burnt holes in a blanket.
The contest took place on the evening of October 8th, a Sunday. Although I was incapacitated with the injured shoulder and knew, for my part, that I would be far below my best, I was looking forward with anticipation to seeing my opponent in action. If the rumors were true, I was about to see one of the greatest exhibitions of deadlifting in the history of the Iron Game.
I was not disappointed, nor will the reader be, for I will relate exactly what happened that evening. The first lift to be contested was the Two Hands Deadlift. I have done well over 700 pounds with the assistance of two steel handclips which I normally use when training to improve my pulling ability for the Olympic lifts. However, the deadlift was never my forte, and I performed this lift solely to improve lifting proficiency.
Cote removed his sweatsuit, chalked his hands, and called for 600 pounds for a WARMUP. He then approached the bar, took his grip, and proceeded to perform repetitions with this weight, a weight that many outstanding strength athletes would be satisfied to lift for a single repetition.
Sufficiently warmed up, Ben got down to business. Watching him, I noted that although he was not a young man, he was exceptionally well developed, especially in the thighs and back. This, of course, would be expected as evidenced by his deadlifting ability. I also noticed, as is generally the case, that Cote’s physique proportion was perfectly suited for the lift that he excelled in – long arms, and legs shorter than normal for a man of his height.
For the first attempt Cote succeeded easily with 700 pounds. He lifted this weight from the floor so quickly I thought he was going to clean it. After a short rest the French Canadian asked for SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS. This poundage was lifted smoothly from the floor to the waist and held for two seconds. There was no inching the bar upwards on the thighs as is the custom of many deadlifters when attempting a limit.
I was told by Cote’s trainer that Ben had succeeded with a poundage of 775 pounds in training. I can well believe it. To the best of my knowledge only one man to date has ever deadlifted such poundages. The great and immortal German strongman Hermann Goerner. I am convinced that within one year Benoit Cote will deadlift a poundage not less than EIGHT HUNDRED POUNDS officially. This, I am sure, will establish Cote as the greatest deadlifter in the history or weightlifting. I salute you, Ben Cote, and may you reach your goals soon.
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