An Interview with Robert Kabbas




From Wikipedia –
Robert Kabbas (born 15 March 1955 in Alexandria, Egypt) is a retired weightlifter from Australia, who won the silver medal in the Lightheavyweight (82.5 kg) category at the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Kabbas has been one of the most successful weightlifters to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games. He went to three Olympic Games: Montreal 1976, Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984. He was the first of only two Australian weightlifters to compete at three Olympics. The LA Olympics were one of the highlights of Kabbas’ career as he lifted a personal best of 342.5 kg and set a Commonwealth record.
Winning medals at three Commonwealth Games: Edmonton 1978 (Gold Medal), Brisbane 1982 (Gold Medal) and Edinburgh 1986 (Silver Medal), he was also the best weightlifter across all weight classes at Edmonton. Kabbas remains in the sport, still coaching and developing athletes.
Kabbas became president of the Australian weightlifting federation in October 2007


Can you give me some details on your achievements for people that do not know you

Olympic Games 1976, 1980, 1984 (Silver medal). Commonwealth Games 1978 (Gold), 1982 (Gold), 1986 (Silver). Australian champion 1975,76,77,78,82,83.


How did you get involved and why did you start

My father and three uncles practised weightlifting in Egypt, where I was born. I grew up around weightlifters and heard many stories about Egyptian world champions which fired my imagination.


Who was your most influential coach

I only had one coach throughout my career – my uncle, William “Bill” Kabbas. He was by far the best coach of technique that I have ever seen.


What was your strengths and weakness as an athlete

Probably something for others to judge. Concerning technique and physical ability, we always worked on any perceived weakness so that changed throughout my career. Initially I was a better performer at the snatch, breaking the Australian senior record at 17 years of age but my first Commonwealth record was in the clean and jerk.


Did you have any moments you thought about leaving the sport as a lifter

I can honestly say that until I retired from competition, I never considered leaving the sport. I loved it too much and always had faith that I could get through the hard times and injuries.


What was your most enjoyable moment in weightlifting and why.

I love the sport itself so I gained enjoyment through my total involvement, whether it be during training or competition. I also made some great friends who I still count as my best friends today.


What was your worst moment in the sport

Nothing stands out as a real dark moment which deeply affected me then or had any lasting effect. I experienced a number of lows that most athletes encounter if they have a career of any length. I had a run of no totals in 1980 which included the State titles, Olympic Games, Australian championships and Club championships in succession. Tearing a hamstring at the 1984 Olympic trials was a testing time but it turned out OK despite some people’s efforts to keep me out of the team.


What was the best advice you were given

I’m not a good listener when it comes to most advice but I did listen to people that I respected and/or if the advice made sense to me.  When I started training, I received great advice on technique and approach from my uncle and I am forever grateful for the time he spent with me. I still use some of his expressions in my coaching today although I don’t profess to be as good a coach, especially of technique, as he was. Les Martyn (former AWF president) did give me one piece of useful advice when he suggested that I move up a weight category to get my career moving again after it had stalled for a couple of years.My coach agreed and we got the desired results with Commonwealth records in the 90kg category (my normal category was 82.5kg).


Where/ Who  did you draw your inspiration from

There was no shortage of sources of inspiration throughout my career. Initially it was through stories of Egypt’s world champions, told to me through my father’s and uncles’ personal experiences. Louis Martin (GBR) was another early inspiration,  as a Commonwealth lifter who beat the Russians and other Eastern European athletes to win four world titles. Nick Ciancio stood out as Australia’s premier athlete and he raised local lifters’ perception of what could be achieved by Australian lifters in international competition.


Did you ever have a breakthrough and what was it

There wasn’t a single event or moment which could be considered as a breakthrough. I believe my career was built on persistence and constant commitment. I was also lucky to have come through with a group of like-minded lifters of a similar age, keen to improve and make our mark. Other than my personal coach, Hawthorn club coach Paul Coffa was a young, driven coach who organised an international tour for our club’s junior team that took in four countries and included five competitions in three weeks, something unheard of forty years ago. That was a significant event in my career as well as a number of others in that team.


What advice would you like to pass onto today’s lifters

To know where you’re going, you must know where you’ve been. Not many of today’s lifters have any idea about Australia’s weightlifting history and what has been achieved by Australian lifters. Too many set goals based on current local standards rather than setting their sights at a higher level.


If you had your time again what would you do different

I’m not sure I would do anything differently. You can only make decisions based on your thoughts and circumstances at the time. No one gets to have their time again!


How is the sport different nowadays to when you were a lifter

The sport enjoyed a higher public profile when I lifted, with national championships often televised, regular press articles and large attendances at major events, including State titles.

I believe that, generally speaking, today’s lifters have superior technique but apart from a few at the very top, are softer physically and mentally.

Society is different these days so naturally, sport is also going to be different. It’s a world of instant gratification, people expect almost instant results so, therefore, fewer lifters have as long a career as they previously did. As a consequence, they do not reach their potential and the standard of the sport suffers.


Who was your favourite lifter to watch

David Rigert (USSR) was everyone’s favourite. Those who don’t know him can “You Tube” him but the videos won’t convey the electricity he generated on the platform.


Who is your favourite modern day lifter in Australia to watch.

Coaching these days, I mainly get to watch my own lifters and it’s more nerve racking than enjoyable. Other than my lifters, I don’t have any particular favourites. I like to see good lifts regardless of who is doing the lifting.