Part One is Here:
"To Compete and Achieve is Satisfying.
Helping Others Succeed is More So."
- Jon Cole
Herb Glossbrenner (HG): Jon, thank you for the privilege of this interview, and telling your complete legacy. You have been reluctant to grant a lengthy interview in the past.
Jon Cole (JC): It had to be the right time and the right person. I appreciated the time and energy you have put into telling my story. I thank you for the recognition you are giving the forgotten Iron Men of this world.
HG: I look at myself as merely the vault-keeper to the archives of strength. To accumulate material without dispensation would be a human tragedy. Without our pioneers who inspired us modern day powerlifting would not exist. We owe our heritage to trailblazers like you.
JC: You flatter me. Thank you.
HG: No, Jon, thank you. How did you persevere in your lifetime ambitions despite so many obstacles preventing the realization of your dreams? Was it fate or destiny?
JC: Fate? There is no fate. Between the thought and success, God is the only agent. (Quoting Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton).
HG: What of destiny?
JC: Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.
HG: Who inspired that pearl of wisdom?
JC: William Jennings Bryan, one of my favorite philosophers.
HG: What is the most rewarding part of your career - lifting or coaching?
JC: To compete and achieve is satisfying. Helping others succeed is more so. It is like a projection of yourself through them. They succeed, and it gives your own self-esteem a kick in the pants. Food for the Spirit. The Bible teaches us it is more blessed to give than to receive.
HG: Yes indeed. Who among athletes have been benefactors of your expertise?
JC: I have 19 pages of names in my ledger. Here are just a few:
Mark Gastineau, NY Jets
Dan White, Dallas Cowboys
Len Dickie, Green Bay Packers
Mike Hayes, New England Patriots
Wide Receiver John Jefferson
Pitcher Floyd Bannister
Rick Monday, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ernie Banks, Chicago Cubs
Reggie Jackson, California Angels
Mark Murro and Frank Cavelli, Javelin
Ron Semkiw, junior World record holder, shot put and weightlifting
There are a lot more.
HG: A most impressive list. What about your competitions in the World's Strongest Man competition?
JC: A lot of crazy stuff, not tuned to athletic strength, but most conductive to injury.
HG: Like Columbu's carrying the refrigerator?
JC: Yes, and I was the next man after him. I wasn't anxious at all. Almost everybody got injured, myself included. The public eats it up.
HG? It finished Kaz's powerlifting career. His pec was never the same after the iron bar bend.
JC: Many of the events favored the biggest men, like the Semi or Tram pull. It was a timed event, so I was at a great disadvantage. Once I got it moving it wasn't so bad. Getting it started was quite a strain for me. I'm an explosive athlete and couldn't explode in those events.
HG: Wilhelm won in 1977 and Reinhoudt in 1978. Any comments about them?
JC: Wilhelm was a highly gifted athlete. He excelled in the shot and Olympic lifting. If it weren't for his knee problems he would have been an exceptional powerlifter, too. Reinhoudt was incredibly strong and exceptionally nice. He, along with Bruce, is another great credit to the Iron Game.
HG: You respect your peers.
JC: I do most indubitably.
HG: Who else among your colleagues do you have great respect for?
JC: Among the closest of ones I knew well - Frenn and Patera. We had some great times together. Inspiration from other greats helped me stoke my furnace.
HG: What were among your best training lifts? Did you do better in competition?
JC: I squatted 865 x 3 but never tried to a max single. I did do a perfect bench press paused with 610 in training before witnesses. I also did 855 x 4 in the deadlift.
HG: was your 882 deadlift your lifetime best?
JC: No, at Paramount Studios weighing 258 for the Circus of the Stars TV show, I did 905 on an Olympic bar. We went to a nearby gym, got the weights, and weighed them beforehand. I learned by that time to keep my hips down and the finish went easy. They didn't film it to their satisfaction, so I did it again within three minutes.
HC: What about throwing events?
JC: My best in the shot was 69'11.5". I threw the discus 222' in practice and 221' in the javelin, though I never practiced it. I never tried the hammer, nor did I want to. I felt it was dangerous. Frenn was the master of that implement. I always practiced my throwing for good, consistent technique.
HG: What about the Olympic lifts?
JC: I loved them. I felt they helped my throwing immensely. Tight ankles and shoulders prevented me using the squat style. I wish a had a good coach and learned good technique. I didn't do them in training, but did assistance exercises, pulling, pressing, and lunges. Like . . . high pulls or upright rows for that explosiveness, 405 x 2 x 4. I pressed 505 x 2 from the stands and more on a steep incline bench.
HG: I will never forget your perfect, almost-military press with 435 at the 1972 Seniors, while others gave it the heave-ho.
JC: I liked the Press and never learned the proper Olympic-style technique. It wouldn't have mattered unless I could have improved my cleaning ability.
HG: How did you feel about being called by some "The World's Strongest Man?"
JC: I always considered myself an athlete first and a strongman second. There are too many variables to measure strength. I'm sure there must be somebody out there maybe in the hills of Kentucky who on a daily basis lifts a 440 lb. Ford engine in and out of a car without a hoist and thinks nothing about it. There are probably big lumberjacks who could lift heavier logs than Don or Bill. To give a title to one man for excelling in his specialty is not a true picture.
HG: Now it's time to ask the biggest question. I always save the best for last.
JC: I'm ready.
HG: What inspired you to the ultimate challenge to Paul Anderson?
JC: At the apex of my career when I had just set the world record total in powerlifting. I wanted to set myself apart from the others and gain more notoriety for my business. I once saw Paul lift a whole bunch of people sitting on a big table so I thought I could break his backlift record of 6,270 I'd heard about.
More on Paul Anderson's Claimed Lifts:
HG: Did you pursue it?
JC: I found out that sort of stunt was out of my league or anyone else as far as that goes; it was a farce.
JC: So I decided the best possible challenge would be a test of the combined total of the Olympic and powerlifts. So the challenge was issued.
Note: Steeve Neece commented on this in the article linked above:
"Let it also be noted that back in 1972 Jon Cole publicly challenged Anderson’s claim as the world’s strongest man. Claiming business pressures, Anderson proposed an alternative where during the course of a year he would periodically visit the York gym and do one or two lifts at a time before supposedly impartial witnesses, his best marks during the course of the year being added up against what Cole did in official contests. It never came off – and was unacceptable anyway."
HG: It never took place. What happened?
JC: Well, Paul was way ahead of everyone else. I thought a great deal of him. I thought it would be my greatest challenge. Call it a confident arrogance. I thought I had a fighting chance. No one had dared challenge him before so I thought I would. My promoters were the Civalier brothers - Bill, Jerry, and Mike.
HG: I recall that Terry Todd was Paul's advocate.
JC: Yes, both sides mismanaged it badly, which caused dissension. There was backbiting from both camps. I was unaware of Paul's rigorous schedule and speaking engagements. It was his livelihood to keep his Youth Home in the black. When Paul said he didn't have time, I misinterpreted it as a brushoff. So I was even more persistent. He finally agreed to test himself in the lifts, an impromptu negotiation. I wasn't satisfied and wanted it in a one-on-one encounter before AAU officials adhering to the rules. Todd came out saying that Paul would beat me by over 300 pounds in MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT magazine, and that upset me.
HG: Do you realize that it might have been the greatest thing that ever happened for the Iron Game if it had transpired? The commercial possibilities of bringing in revenues could have kept Paul's home going for 20-30 years. If handled properly all could have benefited tremendously.
JC: I realize that now. I only wish that I had a chance to tell Paul how much I respected him not only as an athlete, but for all the great he has done to benefit others. He could have gained many more honors and titles had he remained an amateur. There was no malice toward him by me.
HG: He knew. I told him that years ago.
JC: How did you know that I felt that way?
HG: Because we've tuned in on the same wavelength. Here's what Paul said to me: "I'd read about Jon and knew of his great lifting. I had obligations that I couldn't postpone. They were my top priority. Jon was the only one who ever issued a challenge to me that had the firepower to back it up. I wish we could have given it a go. I guess the Lord willed it that way. His strength is greater than either of us could ever hope for."
JC: Paul now dwells in his Father's mansion. His reward is eternity. God rest his soul. Herb, thank you for this interview, it means a lot to me.
HG: Coach, believe me, the pleasure is all mine.
And what of Jon Cole today (1994)? He has not remarried. The prominent lady of his life is his grown daughter residing with him. Jon expresses his gratitude to Brick Darrow for his loyal support during his competition days. He considers the Lord to be his best friend.
His favorite companion is "Bear", his huge canine - an original German Shepherd/Timber wolf mix. Jon rescued him from euthanasia years ago and has never regretted it.
Now his livelihood is buying old wrecked cars, restoring them into vintage automobiles, and reselling them. He also does some one-on-one coaching. He has thoughts of opening a health food store to include computerized programming for clientele workouts. Jon believes there would be a great Arizona market for a health club which caters to those over 55. Restoration of health and vitality during those "golden" years would be most meaningful for Jon.
Every once in a while Jon Cole has the yearning to dig out the old metallic disc and just for old times sake sail it upwards toward the heavens. In closing let us hear what the greatest powerlifter today has to say about Jon:
"We owe Jon a great deal of gratitude for his contributions to the Iron Game. His grandiose super-excellence in the arena of strength helped redefine our concepts of human limitations. Powerlifting originals like Jon paved the way for those such as Bridges and myself"
- Ed Coan.
Yes, Jon, we all thank you. May your legacy live on Ad Infinitum.
Gratitude is one of the things that cannot be bought; it must be born with men or else all the obligations of the world will not create it. - Lord Halifax.
Jon Frederick Cole
April 1st, 1943 - January 10th, 2013.