The glowering young Hercules on the opposite page is Gary Jay Gubner, who is very likely the strongest 19-year-old alive. His thighs are as big around as Floyd Patterson's waist, and his waist is as big around as Marilyn Monroe's chest, although shaped somewhat differently. He is 6 feet 2½ inches tall and he weighs 270 pounds, almost all of it useful muscle. Two weeks ago in Walnut, Calif. he used these muscles to win the national shotput championship with a heave of 63 feet 6½ inches; back in April he lifted a total of 1,078¾ pounds to win a sectional weight-lifting championship, breaking national junior records in each of the three lifts in the competition.
Gubner did not, of course, attain such remarkable physical development by accident. He has always been big; he weighed 200 pounds and was more than 6 feet tall as a 14-year-old. "I was always the tallest or the next tallest kid in the class and I was always the heaviest," he says now. "I wasn't fat exactly, just big." At DeWitt Clinton High School in The Bronx he gravitated naturally to football. He took up the shot because the football coach suggested the players go out for track to keep in condition during the off season.
Gary became-so condition-conscious that he spent most of his spare time practicing the shot in a vacant lot near his home, a short way from the uptown campus of New York University. One afternoon, Jerry Monkofsky, an NYU shotputter, noticed Gary at his practice.
"I used to see him putting the shot and I used to think, 'Look at that stupid kid throwing in the empty lot,' " Monkofsky says. "We began talking one day, and I got him to come over to the NYU field to practice. I helped him with his form and put him on the weights, and we've been training partners and good friends ever since."
July 8, 1962
Under Monkofsky's influence and tutelage, Gubner gave up his twin hobbies of stamp collecting and raising tropical fish to devote all of his spare time to weight lifting and putting the shot. He gave up football, too, when he entered NYU; he had never particularly enjoyed the sport. "I don't care much for team sports," he explains. "You can play a perfect game, do everything right and still lose. I like to rise and fall by myself. No alibis."
With Monkofsky's help, Gubner improved quickly. In one season he set 15 consecutive high school meet records; he was soon putting the 12-pound shot so far that the gymnasiums would not hold him. During his senior indoor season he shattered so many gymnasium windows and light fixtures—once he knocked down a basketball backboard—that officials finally decided to move the indoor shot to an armory.
Last year, moving up to the 16-pound shot as an NYU freshman, Gubner became a 60-footer at the age of 18. He qualified for the U.S.-U.S.S.R. dual meet in Moscow when Dallas Long and Parry O'Brien decided to pass up the trip, then beat the Russians with a throw of 60 feet 7½ inches, which would be child's play for him now. Later in the year Gary competed in the Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv and brought back three gold medals—in the shotput, the discus and in weight lifting. Leaving out the discus, he could duplicate this performance in Tokyo in 1964, although it is difficult to reach a competitive peak in both the shot and weight lifting.
"I find that if you work at both at the same time, you progress very slowly," Gubner says. "You can't expect to divide your energy and attain maximum efficiency."
He uses extraordinary weights in his lifting training. In the parallel squat Gary pats 600 pounds on his shoulders, lowers himself about as far as you would to sit in a chair and then stands up again. In the prone press—which should be called a supine press, because the athlete lies on his back—he uses up to 450 pounds. He has lifted a little better than 400 pounds over his head and seems capable of handling more. In a normal week he puts the shot three days—50 times per session—and works with the weights for three or four hours on two more days. When track season ends he adds to his weight training.
"I think," he said after winning the national championship in the shot, "if I improve normally, I can do 70 feet in the shot before I quit."
Bob Hoffman, who owns most of the barbells in the world and is the world's authority on lifting, sees a bright future for him in that sphere, too. "He's our best hope," Hoffman says.