Kecskemet is in the heart of the farm land of Hungary, and this was the birthplace of Imre Foldi. At the age of 14 he took a job in a food canning factory, but soon met the recruiters from the coal mine and signed up. This is how we got to Tatabanya, where we met.
At that time I was searching for youngsters who were naturally strong and could, therefore, be more easily helped into the international category of weightlifting. I happened to drop into the gym of the apprentice coal miners and there I saw the small, but very muscular youngster who tried to imitate the exercises of the other boys. I then invited Imre to train at my gym. The next day he was already trying to imitate Huszka, but he was too clumsy with the weight.
This was in the early spring of 1953 and Imre was still under 15 years of age and weighed but 115 pounds. Nevertheless, he burned with the desire to excel. He imitated and followed the older Huszka like a shadow. They came to and left the gym together and when I started him practicing the squat style, he was sad that I wanted him to lift with a different style than that of Huszka.
In the first two years he trained three times a week. During the third year, I started him training four times a week, and still later, five times per week.
Imre soon realized that he was not cut out to be a coal miner and was after me to help him become a mechanic. I couldn't talk him out of it, so finally I arranged for him to be transferred to the machine shop. He was anxious to learn about the machines and upon trying one out without supervision, he cut off one third of the ring finger on his right hand. The manage of the machine shop telephoned me and I picked him up and took him to the hospital. This accident put him back more than a year and this is the main reason he cannot keep his snatch poundages up on a par with his press.
However, his burning desire made him forget the pain and his handicap. In 1958 he was able to win his first Hungarian championship with a nice 617.5 total. In 1959, Imre became a member of the Hungarian team that lifted against the Rumanians. He competed as a featherweight in spite of the fact that he weighed little more than 123 pounds. His 650.5 total was not enough to win, but this made him work even harder.
In 1960 he finished second behind Jankovsky of Poland in the European championships with a 700 total. In the 1960 Olympic Games he placed sixth when he totaled 705.5. Next year in Vienna at the World's he had on of his biggest battles when he lifted against the Russian World Champion, Stogov. Both totaled 750.75, but the Russian won because he was lighter in bodyweight by a mere five ounces. This contest was a failure in tactics because on an extra attempt he pressed 253.5 pounds, enough more to win the gold medal if the lift had been made in competition.
By this time, Imre's name had become well known in weightlifting circles all over the world. As a result he received invitations to many other countries to compete against their best. Before the 1962 World's Championships, Imre attended two contests in Helsinki and totaled 793.75 in the first and 788.25 in the second as a featherweight. He was also invited to Warsaw where his total dropped to 760.75 and he lost to Poland's Kozlovsky. His preparation for the World's Championships was disturbed by these travels and too frequent competition. At the 1962 World's he placed second to Miyake in the bantamweight class with a total of 744, but this time beat the Russian, Stogov, who totaled only 727.5.
For the 1963 World's Championships in Stockholm, Imre moved up to the featherweight class for the good of the team. He totaled 804.5 and placed third behind Miyake (826.5) and Berger (810) after some very exciting competition.
"Then I suddenly realized that it was a big mistake to let my bodyweight go up to 134 by having big, tasty meals," he explained to me at the Olympic village in Tokyo. "It was very comfortable to compete in the featherweight class. For more than two years I didn't have to worry about my bodyweight or the food I consumed. Realizing my mistake, I decided to move down again to the bantamweight class where I belonged. It was not easy. The first time I participated again in the bantamweight class at the Hungarian championships in 1964, the sudden loss of weight caused cramps all over my body and I couldn't finish my clean & jerks."
This was an enlightening experience as it helped Imre make the proper preparations for Tokyo. He followed a strict diet -- stopped eating tasty, big meals, stayed away from carbohydrates, and reduced his intake of liquids. To avoid the cramps, his doctor gave him three salt injections. The first he received during training about one week before competition. The second injection was taken the day before the meet and the third on the morning of the competition.
The results were amazing. Imre was the lightest man at 121.75 pounds and he was in excellent condition. During the competition he made a beautiful 253.5 Press and pressed 259 but lost his balance before the referee gave the down signal. His 226 Snatch gave him a 479.5 subtotal and placed him 5.5 pounds ahead of Vakhonin, plus the fact that Imre was the lighter man. Imre clean and jerked 292.25 on his first attempt but failed to hold his jerk with 303.25 on his second, having the weight slightly forward. Everyone watched his third attempt with their heart in their throat. If Imre made this final attempt, it would be a new World's total and Vakhonin must make a fantastic lift to beat him. He carefully set his grip with his right hand on which the ring finger is short and after a strong clean, drove the bar straight overhead for a new World's record total.
Much to my sorrow, his record didn't stand long because the little Russian, Vakhonin, did the almost impossible and made a 314.25 Clean & Jerk, winning the gold medal from little Imre.
The progress shown over the years did not just happen on its own, he worked hard to get where he is.
He trains every day except Sunday, taking 2 to 2.5 hours to complete his training. His training program is set up by his present coach and he follows it very carefully. In January he has five weeks of basic training during which he trains to strengthen the muscles. He does a lot of good mornings, incline presses, squats, and various other assitance exercises, performing few Olympic lifts. He is a firm believer in heavy squats and has done five reps with 440 pounds in this exercise.
In private life Imre is a mechanic. He gets up at 6 A.M. as his work day starts at 7. He works four hours a day, six days a week in the machine shop. After lunch he has his daily, two hour nap.
Enjoy Your Lifting!