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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Phil Sabatini

A lift dedicated to my good friend and competitor Phil Sabatini. (video below)  The man I have been at war with for so many years, has now laid his sword down in retirement.  It's a sad day for me.  It's a sad day for the sport.  We have fought against each other in some extremely tight battles, and we have also been teammates on the USA team in 2010.  I will miss him.  It has been an honor to fight with and against him.  A certain understanding brews between us with very few words being spoken.  We understand that at the end of the day we are enemies, and we must do whatever it takes to win.  It's not personal, just business. 

My loses over the span of my career have been from his sword digging into my stomach.  My eyes widen as I watch the blood drip down my stomach while my knees hit the ground.  I can see in his eyes he feels for me as he watches my body drop to the ground in defeat.  Every time he digs the sword deeper into my stomach my jaw opens wider and wider while I try so hard to grasp for air.  A single tear rolls down Phil's face as his strength starts to bleed out of him, and his emotions get the better of him.  He apologizes in a whisper, but there is no need to, for I would do the same to him.   Respect is everything.  He respects me, and I respect him.  He is a true warrior, and so am I.  If there was anybody to lose to it would be him.  He pulled the sword out from my stomach and wiped the bloody blade off with his singlet.  He stood over my body as the crowd roared in celebration.  He threw up his hands in victory.  He raised his sword high for all to see. Then looked down and nodded his head at my dead body.  A warrior's nod, a warrior's respect.  He bent down to close my eyelids with his hands, and right when he got close to me, I pulled my small dagger out from my boot and stuck it right into his neck.  At that moment we just stared at each other as we both slowly started to stand up, using each other's body like a ladder.  He placed his hand on his wound, and then looked at his bloody hand in disbelief.  The blood was pouring from his neck, just like my stomach.  He then took his sword and drove it into my stomach again.  This time, blood came squirting out of my mouth as I bent over.  I would have fell face down but he held me up to only twist the blade around even more. As I was laying over his shoulder as if we were hugging, I built up the strength to throw him off of me creating a few feet of space.  One hand was grasping tight to our weapons, and the other was resting over our wounds.  A moment of silence came over the whole arena as we both stood motionless.  And then it happened, we both ran full speed at each other creating a splash of blood that sprayed onto our faces. Our teary eyes and last gasping breaths were inches from each other as a smile appeared over both our faces.  We laughed out loud, as we were both just glad to get the blood shed over with.  No more words were spoken, just a slow dying laugh that soon ended when both our bodies laid over each other on the dusty ground.  Our hearts stopped beating as we laid there dead with chalky hands and USA on our chests. 

Thank you Phil for pushing me over the years.  I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for you.  Thank you for being such a great competitor, and even a better friend.  I know you and your wife have a little baby girl now, and you have much bigger battles ahead of you than weightlifting.  You are my fucken hero brother.  You are my role model.  You are a family man that I some day hope to be.  You are a man I envy in every way possible.  Like I said in the video when I retire, we will drink a beer together on the porch and tell old war stories.  We will be old men sitting in the audience watching the new young weightlifters battle it out.  We will smile as memories race through our heads.  Thank you for beating me.  Thank you for not punching me when I beat you.  Thank you for everything.  Salute. 

Here is the 160kg snatch that I dedicated to Phil at the USAW Course.  Love you brother.

Phil Sabatini two thousand and forever


  1. Dear Jon,

    My name is not important. Neither am I. I am just another has been athlete, coach, weightlifter. I wanted you and the cal strength, Mdusa people to know how much you have helped some of us out there. I identity was almost stripped from me in a horrific motorcycle accident. I found myself diving head first back into olympic lifting. Your intensity while training and just for life alone reminds me of someone. Me. There are people out there that take nothing for granted and train and live hard everyday. We are looked down upon by todays soft society. I want to personally salute you, donny, glenn, kevin, spencer, rob, tom. Your daily living and intensity during training is what makes great athletes. Even if you do not win olympic medals. Your coach jackie was right, the trip to the top of the mountain will mean more than being up there alone. I just want to wish you good luck and big weights in the future. Salute.

  2. Wow, thank you so very much. Your kind words and support mean the world to me. Its people like you and comments like yours that keep me going every fucken day. Its comments like these that force me to push through the hell of training. I would like your name if thats ok. and I dont think there is such a thing as a "has been athlete, coach, and weightlifter". once a soldier, always a soldier. once a Marine, always a bad ass Marine. I am glad that you or ok from your accident, and that you are back lifting. hell yes my friend. You are inspiring to me. thank you again. Salute. - Jon North

  3. Hey John,

    A new member to your blog and follower of the calstrength crew on youtube for the last couple months. Just want to say thanks for your hit and catch vids! As a beginner oly lifter they've certainly helped with achieving new PR's and better technique; additionally, i'm sure they are helping others in the community out there as well.

    Just a question about "hit" portion of the tutorial vids: specifically, where does the bar impact the hips? Lately, I've been hitting my hips just above my schlonger, as you can imaging, it causes a fair amount of discomfort. Is this due to a narrow grip positioning on the bar lower when at full extension?

    I've played around with wider grips to circumvent "the broken dick," and it seems that more in line the bar is with the upper portion of the hips at full extension, the less discomfort occurs without sacrificing the "snap" on the bar.

    If you have the time, are you able to provide me a little direction on this?

    Attitude Nation Salute!

    Matt James

  4. Jon,

    My name is Tim. Thank you for your kind words. Ever since I started recovering from the accident my foot has been improving. I am now squatting, snatching, and clean/jerking more and more each week. Your hit and catch drill instantly added 20 kilos to my lift. I honestly can say your attitude has fueled my fired to keep lifting everyday. There are no light days. You said I don't need no articles telling me how to lift. I don't need shit. Only soldiers to slam bars with. Salute