The First Youth Olympic Weightlifting Club In Ireland

Read Gerry's inspirational story below of how he started the first Olympic Youth Lifting Club in Ireland. It's an incredible tale from Bodybuilding in the 1980s, moving to Olympic Lifting and then to setting up the club in the 2007.

From Humble Beginnings

It's 1981, I am sitting at home in Trim County Meath, Ireland, and starting to watch a documentary of an Austrian bodybuilder living in America, preparing for a Mr Olympia competition.

Never have I seen anything so interesting in my whole life, as this programme.

All I could think of afterwards was that this is something I would love to do. But, I had no clue about how or where to start. This is where my search and interest began to be fuelled.

Taking Flight

While I was looking for more information on this amazing lifestyle; lifting weights, eating specific foods, and growing big and strong, I got hooked.

Moving on 1 year, I was a little older, and a little more informed, a good friend of mine told me of where I could buy a set of weights for about 50 pounds old money.

So, that is what I did, and the training began each evening in my room. Bench press on a little homemade wooden bench, squats (but I had to lift the weight from the floor to my shoulders), shoulder press, bicep curls, Tricia pullovers, sit-ups, bent over rows. Basically anything you could do with a bar bell.

Learning Fast

My search continued and word of a new type shop that sold magazines was opening in our little town. I called into it and spotted Bodybuilding Monthly on the rack. 

I purchased the magazine immediately; the shop owner said they were just some magazines sent by the company she deals with to see could they sell. So I ordered one for each month.

I read it from cover to cover, multiple times, trying to understand what had been written. I spent a lot of time learning diets, exercises, routines, and looking at the various training machines, benches and racks that were been used.

As I was a trainee welder at the time, I took it upon myself, with the help of Ned Wall, my good friend, to make up a selection of these machines, which I set up in my dads garage.

Further Training Commenced

People began to hear about what I had been doing. I had lots of callers to try out this training. It was great. Also, my knowledge on nutrition and cooking began to flourish.

It was time to move to UK to get work and experience the real thing. So off I went, I started work Monday morning and that evening, at 17:30, I headed to Tottenham to train in  Bodyworks Gym. I was told this was where it was all happening. So, in I walked and it was great, I trained every day and learned so much from all the bodybuilders there.

Starting Olympic Lifting

After a few years I moved job to Windsor, I had started studying nutrition part-time and was training in Maximums Gym in Langley. This is where I started Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting. It was a really old school, hardcore, no frills training type gym. Just heavy and tough, and full of like-minded people.

Winning The European Champs

Out of this gym I won the European Championships, squatting over 300kg at 110 kg bodyweight. I met a great bunch of people and my cooking career was well under way.

It began to take over, so competing stopped for me as of 1994. I was on to achieving a Michelin star, and cooking for health was now my objective. I achieved the star in 2000 with Stewart Eddy at Hunstreet House Hotel.

Then, The Coaching Started

I took up a role as executive head chef at Champneys Health Resort. This is where my coaching started with all the chefs, waiters, and anyone else who wanted to learn about strength training and Weightlifting.

This was now becoming very popular with health centres all over the place, but, which sadly meant end of the hardcore gym, except for the few.

I coached actors and singers while at Champneys, I've coached the likes of Gerard Butler, Barbara Streisand, and Frank Bruno to name a few.

Setting Up Ireland's First Youth Weightlifting Club

I then moved back to Ireland, in the far west, to Miltown Malbay in County Clare. There was not a gym in sight, outside of the "hotel type" which I hated. That's when I decided to set up my own and Miltown Malbay Olympic Weightlifting Club was born in 2007.

I purchased some penalty bars from USA and bumper plates. I also bought some 8 x 4 plywood sheets, rubber matting and rented a club hall.

We started with 5 young lads aged from 9 to 13 years and set about teaching them this great skill of Olympic Lifting. 

After a few hard months of people warning their parents of the dangers of Weightlifting, the club still managed to grow to 12 youths all under 15 years.

Thats when I contacted the Weightlifting Officials in Ireland, James Fleming and Colin Buckley and we signed up for our first competition in Edenderry in west Meath .

​The Competition

At this time there had never been a youth Olympic weightlifting club in Ireland.

When we arrived on our bus for the competition, everyone looked at us like we were freaks. We had 12 lifters all with club t-shirts and all under 16 at this time .

We were weighed in and all lifted well, achieving a bunch of PBs.

Everyone complemented us on our skills and numbers.

We were then invited to lift in the Munster championships in cork. However, when we arrived the officials informed us that, due to the age of our lifters, and the fact that this was a senior competition, and that we did not have lifting suits, meant we could not lift. Those were the rules.

Well, that was the spark that lit the fuse. I protested to this, as these were kids, and the fact that we doubled the existing numbers in the comp, we thought there could a exception in this case.

So, a meeting was called there and then and we were informed that, subject to us acquiring suits, we would be allowed lift as guests.

Calling In All Favours

I then went to every senior lifter for a loan of their suits and they all gave gladly.

I must say some of the lads looked quite small in the suits but the lifting was completed and we were on our way to nationals in 3 months time. This is where we picked up 5 gold medals and 3 silvers.

We were all so proud and two months afterwards, the rules about underage lifters and kit was changed to allow for two competitions to be completed before it's compulsory to have a full suit and shoes.

This was a sign that we had made a mark in the sport as the first all Youth Olympic Weightlifting club in Ireland. Four years later, we would send one of our youngest lifters, Adam O'Mahon, to the Youth European Championships in Lithuania. He finished 4th in his group getting 6 out of 6 and 3 Irish national under 15 records.

We have since moved into a bigger premise and now offer, strongman training, powerlifting, as well as Olympic Weightlifting. We have many members and lots of quality equipment @ Malbay Strength And Fitness .

Gerry.