Mario Martinez was one of America's all-time greats.
When I was a young coach, I often heard the cliche, "All things being equal, the stronger athlete will win." Of course since I was strength oriented and loved strength training, I readily agreed and thought getting stronger was the answer to any problem. Now, 40+ years down the road, I still don't think there is such a thing as too strong! No coach has ever said, "He/she could be a great player if he/she wasn't so strong."
But, I now believe that the determining factor of success is skills. The problem with the above quote is that all things are never equal in real life. The athlete who has honed his skills can beat a stronger, but less skilled athlete. When I played football at BYU, the strongest athlete on our team was a 3rd string lineman. Our starting guard could barely bench press 225 lb. and I never saw him do a squat or clean, let alone a snatch. Of course that was a long time ago, but still, just being strong at lifting is not enough, even in Weightlifting. Recently I watched a clip of Mario Martinez and Dean Lukin on Youtube. It was 1984 and the communists boycotted. Mario was definitely a strong dude and one of America's all-time great lifters. But Lukin's superior technical ability is apparent as he pulled in and jerked the winning weight. I also believe the Ken Patera had more raw strength than Alexeev but was not able to use it to full advantage in the competitive lifts.
I remember well, sitting on the stand at an NSCA convention in Las Vegas awhile back next to Bo Jackson who was to give the keynote message at the opening session.
Bo stood up and announced that he had never lifted in college or even as a pro until he had to rehab his hip replacement. He said, "I owe this body to my grandparents." Of course the audience gasped as they were all trying to make a living by making people stronger. The keynote speaker was not supposed to say that he never lifted!
So not to be misunderstood, I love lifting and all things strength. I believe that the value of strength training is to allow an athlete to develop better sports skills and to execute them better. I believe that being stronger can help prevent many injuries and help an injured athlete recover faster. I believe in striving to get stronger. But I don't think an athlete in any sport should ever forget that the specific skill set must be developed and maximized for success. Just being stronger is not enough.
How many lifters lifters would love to have a body like Bo?