AN Olympic and Paralympic year is the perfect time to celebrate our sporting champions, including one from Blackpool who is still going strong at the age of 86 ... very strong indeed!
For Jack Duffield of Roylen Avenue, Carleton, was a world champion powerlifter, whose story is all the more remarkable because he only took up the sport at the age of 40 and conquered the world at 69.
Not only was that world title, secured on these shores in 1995, the highpoint of Jack’s sporting career, it was also the end of it. He explains: “I decided to go out on that. You can’t go any higher than a world championship, so I decided to stop. I still train and lift weights but only for fitness.”
Jack, who was British Masters champion seven times between 1985 and 1994 in the 60kg category, broke the world deadlift record in Derby in 1993 with a lift of 185kg, three times his bodyweight.
There are three disciplines in powerlifting, which differs from weightlifting in that competitors are not required to lift above the head. They are the squad, the benchpress and, Jack’s speciality, the deadlift, in which competitors must lift the weight from the floor and stand upright, with a straight back.
1993 was a special year for Jack, as he was also selected to lift for England in the European Championships in Belgium and the World Championships in St Louis, USA. The experience proved invaluable, as two years later he lifted the world crown in Horsham, Sussex.
Originally from Yorkshire, Jack moved to Blackpool in 1959 and has always lived in the Carleton area with Jean, his wife of 59 years.
He worked for ICI for over 18 years and was encouraged to try competitive lifting by a colleague, Steve Flower, who remains a close friend.
“We discovered we had a mutual interest,” explains Jack. “I’d always lifted but just as a means of keeping fit. I had family commitments and I never thought about competing.
“I first got interested by watching other lifters and I bought my first set of weights second-hand. They cost 12 shillings and sixpence. I brought them home on a plumber’s handcart and started training with them in the attic. I still have those original weights and many others.”
But as for the competitive side, Jack is happy just to watch on TV these days ... if possible.
“I wanted to watch the weightlifting in the Olympics but it hardly seemed to be on,” he said.
“I actually think Olympic lifting is more interesting to watch than powerlifting because it takes skill as well as strength.” But whereas many Olympian are household names, Jack isn’t concerned that he doesn’t enjoy such status.
“Maybe a lot of people don’t know I was a world champion, but those who know me well do and I don’t go shouting it around.”