Thursday, April 11, 2019

I'm Married to a Weightlifter - Sandy Cantore

Mr. Sandy Cantore, er, Dan Cantore

From This Issue

Bob Hise and Sandy Cantore
Bob Hise at USA Strength & Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame: 

This article is dedicated to all the wives, girlfriends, and lovers of men who are athletes, those in particular who are Olympic Weightlifters. My name is Sandy Cantore, and I am here to sympathize with all of you who have been set aside at one time or another for a set of weights.

I met my husband Dan in high school (Eagle Rock - a Los Angeles school). At that time he was into track and field, and cross country. If anyhow would have told me then that my 110-lb. boyfriend would be a national champion, and of all things, in weightlifting, I would have laughed in their face! Running track was a full time thing, even then I spent many hours at a time waiting for him to finish a workout. I followed him all over to see him in meets, stopwatch in hand. I guess, due to all that early training I had in track and field, it has become my second love to weightlifting. 

When Danny first started lifting weights, at the L.A. "Y" under capable coach Bob Hise, I was really surprised. He was so skinny, weighing a heavy 115 pounds! It hardly seemed possible that he could move those weights around, but he had an amazing amount of natural strength and coordination. He became very interested, and began by entering novice meets. Winning most of these along with Coach Hise's encouraging words gave him incentive to go on to bigger things. This all led to more workouts, longer workouts, and less time with me. I thought he'd outgrow lifting, but instead it became an obsession. It soon came before school, his family, and me. 

When we got married, Danny's coach, Bob Hise, told me I'd become a "Weightlifter's Widow." At first I didn't understand, but it didn't take me long to catch on. By being married, I thought I would see him all the time . . . no chance! When we got back from our honeymoon, the honeymoon was over, believe me. He even brought his workout bag on our honeymoon. Adjusting to married life was no easy task. Danny worked from four to midnight, so I didn't see him evenings, and he trained during the day, so I didn't see him then, either. He began traveling to meets. It seemed like he spent more time away from home than he did at home. I wanted to be a good wife, so I tried to keep my gripes and complaints about lifting to myself, but it was really hard.

Over the next few years I grew to really hate lifting, and everything and everyone associated with it. Socially our lives revolved around other lifters; doing things with them, day in, day out, seven days a week. I shared him, and deeply resented it. It seemed to me that all the lifters got together to support each other's bad habits, and egos. 

Drugs entered our lives, too. At first we were socially accepted, but drugs almost destroyed us, along with everything else. At the time I didn't want to have anything to do with weightlifting and completely ignored the fact that Danny was well into the national rankings. So many people in lifting had come between us that we soon found ourselves divided. 

Oddly enough things took a turn for the better when we moved to San Francisco. Being in a new place with only a few friends and acquaintances, we drew from and depended on each other. We reevaluated our lives, and ourselves. Danny met new friends at the gym, then Alex's Sports Palace. Being away from our friends and Coach Hise in L.A. was difficult at first, and Danny had a hard time adjusting, but I loved it. It was the first time in three years that I saw him with any regularity. It was easier for me to get into lifting now, knowing that I didn't have to share him with his friends. His training that first year in San Francisco was steady, not terrific, but okay. He lost the Senior National title in 1970. I felt guilty.  I thought I had done this by taking him away from his friends, training partners and his coach. We both were looking for some kind of direction and order in our lives. We found our answer in Jesus Christ, and living and believing in God. It was when our faith turned to God instead of other people that our life together had some kind of meaning.

I became more involved in lifting. It was easier for me to help my husband now. I began attending meets regularly, keeping score, selling tickets, etc. I was actually a part of it all now, rather than an outsider. I really felt good about helping Danny, and supporting him in lifting. Despite my efforts and good intentions, Danny bombed out at the '71 Seniors. I got my first taste of politics in lifting, and it proved to be an educational experience.

1972 was a big year, it was an Olympic year. I never really thought about it much, the Olympics; something too big and too fantastic to let creep into my mind. As the year began, Danny really concentrated on planning his workouts; cycling and peaking for the season. By early April he had finished school and graduated from the University of Cal-Berkeley. This left nearly two months of good training before the Olympic tryouts. With no school to worry about he spent the time to train. From this time on, we both became super psyched.

Danny trained four times a week with Roger Quinn, which was really beneficial.

There's an article by Roger Quinn, from this same issue, here:

Danny added 50 pounds to his total in 10 weeks time! We were a pretty good team . . . Danny trained and rested, without working or going to school, and I worked full time and supported the three of us - Danny, myself and our five year old daughter, Jami. Everything paid off . . . proper diet, rest, and a lot of psyche . . . and the results were fantastic!

I really wanted Danny to make the Olympic team, and tried to do everything I could for him. I actually felt like a part of Danny now. When he went to the Seniors, part of me would be with him. I didn't go to the tryouts with him, I was too nervous. Besides, he didn't train and work so hard just for me to go along and make things complicated. To this day I still won't go to a Senior Nationals with him for that reason. When Danny finally called to let me know he had won, and had broken four American records while doing it, I could hardly believe it. The best part of all was that we both were going to Munich . . . to the Olympics!

Going to the Olympics made everything worthwhile. This was my reward for being, as Pa Hise had said, a "Weightlifter's Widow." Munich was a great experience for us both. We were nervous about the competition. This was Danny's first time in an International meet, and what a way to start - at the Olympics.

The competition was stiff, but I thought he did very well, 9th overall. The important thing was that he didn't bomb out. He proved himself worthy of International competition. We really had a great time sightseeing in Munich, but meeting people from all over the world was the greatest thrill. What we learned and experienced from our trip to the Olympics is something we will never forget.

Last year, 1973, was a good year. Danny won the Senior Nationals, and went onto the World Championships. He placed 7th, and won the Pan American Championships, bringing home three gold medals. I am so proud, and at times I'm really impressed with myself when I think of who I'm married to!

Weightlifting has now become a very real part of my life. I really love the sport, and enjoy good competition. I feel I've really stood by my man and encouraged and helped him to do something he enjoys passionately, and I must admit it hasn't been easy. I've had to give much of myself and sacrifice a lot of my own personal ambitions. There's been many a time I've stayed at home while he traveled to really great places. Selfishness and jealousy creep in, and aren't easy to cope with. I've really had to be mature about these things, but I realize that all I can do for Danny makes things a little bit easier for him, and believe me, I'll do anything I can to make him a champion.

At a weightlifting banquet in Los Angeles, Coach Bob Hise introduced Danny for an award, and he added, "Behind every great man is a great woman."

Not great, just patient . . . very patient.              


  1. Sandy was Dan Cantore's dedicated wife until her death some years ago. After her death Dan moved to Hawaii. I was in the same club with Dan in L@

  2. I was in business with Dan and Sandy in the eighties I still love both of them.


Blog Archive