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ASL Interview with Jim Voronin

The above photo is © Dr. Randall Strossen
andIron Mind Enterprises. Used with permission.
No duplication is allowed.

An Interview with Mr. Voronin
Held on July 1st, 1998

ASL: First of all, I want to thank you for this opportunity.

ASL: Would you care to share with us some statistical and biographical information [such as your measurements, your best lifts (Squat, bench, deadlift, total, body weight, body height, push press, clean and jerk, snatch, etc.), educational background, are you married?, do you have kids?)

Voronin: I'm 6'3" at a bodyweight now of 351, but I've been as high as 364 in l996 for powerlifting. I lost a bit of body fat for the WSM contest doing the cardio work and came in at 340. To date, my best competition squat has been 881, bench 633, and deadlift 727, for a total of 2204. I say to date because I intend to top those off-as Ed Coan says, as long as you set a personal best, the rest of it will follow soon. I don't list gym lifts, because the ones that really count are in the meet, however I have had some great training lifts that made me expect something great. Sometimes my technique let me down(drat). But I'm proud of the fact that my best lifts have been made under the scrutiny at national and international meets.
As far as other lifts you mentioned, I'm not quite sure. I have done 405 for reps in the seated behind the neck, and did a neck raise with 250 for five reps using Ironmind's awesome neck harness. I've also used 200 lbs in a one handed seated dumbbell press.

ASL: I understand that you teach Junior high school. Is this true? If so, what subject do you teach? (I hope it's not English because I am sure this email is full of typos and grammar errors. HaHa) How do you find time to train, eat, etc. and teach?

Voronin: Yes, I do teach eighth grade English, and no you're writing wasn't too bad! It's very taxing during the week, because I'm usually up early and here at 7:45. During the day, you don't have time to rest and relax because the kids need the attention. So at the end of a work day when I don't train, I either relax at home or do cardio now. On the days I do train, I mentally have to forget the day and focus on what is on hand. Some days are easier than others. I carry shakes and food bars to school and usually have them in a coffee mug or eat between class changes, so that helps keep my body weight up and energy for training. I take a lunch because cafeteria food is horrendous. I also have the support of my girlfriend who is very understanding about my strange schedule, and that has been my rock of Gibraltar. She's an elementary teacher, so she really understands.

ASL: Were you always and big and strong as you are now? When did you start lifting and competing? Did you play any sports as a kid or in college?

Voronin: I was big as a kid and started lifting at the age of one when I picked up the end of our couch to find my toys. No, just kidding. I was a big kid though. I started lifting when my high school had a Universal set and I was getting ready for football. I liked it a lot and no one else could really get into it. That should have been a sign. When we got a free weight set, that was heaven! When I was in college, I played a little ball, but was turned off by the whole thing, and started going to the student weight room. I rehabbed a back injury on my own and really got hooked.
My first meet was in college. I had seen the l983 Senior Nationals in Austin. When I saw Kaz, John Gamble, and those guys, I knew what I wanted to do. I competed in the 1985 and 86 ADFPA collegiate nationals, setting a national collegiate record in the bench on the way. I basically trained (overtrained) myself with what I read and picked up on the way. I got more serious when I moved here to El Paso and met my current training partner Scott Warman. Since then, I never looked back.

ASL: Who were your heroes/idols when you were growing up?

Voronin: Hands down Bill Kazmaier. I read of him in the early 1980's in a Strength and Health magazine and knew he had a huge bench, not to mention a huge lift in everything! This guy dispelled the idea that all big men had to carry a gut around. Getting to meet him and hang around with him in Vegas was like the reward of the quest.
I was a fan of the Steelers front line. They were really into the weights when everyone else said it would make you stiff and slow. I guess they showed everyone, because look at the NFL now.
My mother has always been a sort of hero to me. I know that sounds kind of hokey, but she was always there for my sister and me through some really tough times, especially being a single parent and all. She always faced adversity head on and fought back. Plus she told me that if you want something bad enough, you'll work hard enough to get there.

This is a thumbnail image of Jim at the 1993 WPC world-his second bench press attempt at 606 pounds. It is the property of Jim Voronin. Click on it to enlarge it.

ASL: Could you name some powerlifting accomplishments or feats of strength (e.g., ripping phone books in half) that you have done? (Please expand upon your powerlifting career because not too many people know about it)

Voronin: I have to go with what I mentioned in question #1. I just started to mess with the strongman items, so we'll see. I have come recently 1\16" of an inch on the #3 gripper, considering in October that the #2 was stiff! Now I am doing reps with it. Plus, the steel bar bend at the WSM is a personal record. The last bar would have bent more, but it was supposedly stainless steel. Every time I would get a new grip and pull, the bar felt like it was rebounding back up. Even Kaz noticed that it was a different steel from the other bars.
For powerlifting, I was the l991 Junior National Champion at 308. I have been the APF National Champion for the SHW class in l994, l996, and l997. In l995 I had and appendectomy six weeks out from the meet, and it really was depressing since all my training was going so well. I have gotten third in the WPC World Championships in 1991, and second in the years 1992 in England, l993 in France, l994 in Columbus, and l996 in South Africa. (The only bummer about South Africa was that I was having some spectacular training and then I slightly tore a pec doing reps with 500 on my bench. That was tough, but I still competed and got 573.) I have also been in the top ten of the SHW rankings the last six times, and in the top five the last five. Like I said, there is still more to come!

ASL: Do you plan on continuing to do strongman contests or was the 1997 American Strongman Finals it?

Voronin: Yes, I plan on doing more of the strongman contests! The contest in Vegas was an introduction and I learned a lot from it. Now I have a much better idea of how to train for it. It is a new outlet for me as far as strength training goes. The public can relate more to these type of contests and they get really excited. However, I still have some good lifts in me for powerlifting and there are all sorts of goals that I want to reach in both sports.

ASL: Do you have any powerlifting or strongman competitions or contests coming up?

Voronin: Yes, this will be a known as the summer of strength. I will go to the APF Senior Nationals in July in Illinois, and then four weeks later, I will be in the Strongest Man Alive contest that Chris Mavromatis is putting on in St. Louis. Training for both of these has been both fun and a challenge so far! Winning the Seniors will qualify me to compete in the WPC Worlds in Graz, Austria, so I'm pretty pumped up to do well, especially since my body is healing up and training is going aces so far!

ASL: Could you tell us about your WSM Competition experience?

Voronin: First of all, the WSM contest is nothing, I repeat, nothing at all like a powerlifting contest. That is one of the most physically and mentally taxing things that I have ever experienced. I was missing powerlifting! My hat is off to the guys who have been doing this for awhile. For all those guys who say, "Aw, hell, I lift weights and I know I could do that easy," THINK AGAIN. It is a totally different type of training. I enjoyed every minute of it, no matter how hard the events were.
It was a real honor to be out there and being considered for the contest. I only wish I had more time to prepare for it. The camaraderie of all the guys was something that I always enjoy, and this time, most of us were all sort of in the same boat since quite a few of us were first timers.
I only wish, and some of the other guys said this as well, that some of the events were more strength oriented type stuff. Some of the events in recent years have gotten away from strength and gone more on stamina type of events. This is important, but I think that the public really loves to see some heavy objects moved and some good one to one competition that involves strength. I hope that the sport retains its integrity and that people looking to make a fast buck don't slip in the back door and take advantage of the athletes. This is what has happened in powerlifting, which explains why there are like a million federations and multi champions. In the 1960's, 70's, and 80's, you knew who the top dogs were because they all lifted under one roof. Now, the names come and go so fast that you can't keep up with it unless there are some Coans, Karwoskis and other names. Right now everyone knows who Magnus, Badenhorst, Manfred and others are. The travesty will be the day when someone gets a quizzed look on their face like "huh?" Hopefully we can prevent that from happening.
One last thing-a person should show a little respect for the meet directors. Without them there would be no contest. There were some people in Vegas who were really putting down the guys who were overseeing the contest at every turn. This was really disheartening for the new guys there. It kind of puts a dark cloud over it when you do that. If there is something wrong, there are ways to settle it without bringing people down.

ASL: Do you remember how and when you were invited to compete in 1997? If invited, would you compete again at WSM?

Voronin: I was called by Harold Connelly the organizer of the contest after Mike Lambert (editor of Powerlifting USA) brought up my name to him. I was really excited! The invitation was based upon my performances in the last few years of powerlifting and my consistency on the platform. That hard work pays off. I was glad for the opportunity because Dr. Doug Edmunds had invited me in l994 and I had to turn it down due to my commitments at school and teaching. I was thankful for the chance again.
As far as the WSM this year, yes I would compete again in a heartbeat, but I was told by a rep from TWI that they would not be carrying the United States version due to production costs and expenses, which is really sad because a lot of people have come up and told me how much they really like the show. I'll have to see about other contests, do well in those, and hope opportunity comes.

ASL: How do you think you would have done in the world finals?

Voronin: I can't really say how it would have gone in the finals. I don't like to make wild claims or guesses. It all depends also on how much training I did or would like to have done. I probably would have done well on the pure strength events, but the events that require some special training would have bitten me.

ASL: Do you have a funny story about the WSM Contest or something the viewers would not have seen on TV?

Voronin: There are a lot of things I can relate from the contest. Tom Ingalsbe already told you about Kevin Toth calling Gerrit Badenhorst by Magnus' name. That was something. I was kind of upset that they edited out one of my better throws from the barrel toss. I had let go of the barrel too late and wound up slamming into the boards, cracking it pretty good. The television men weren't too pleased with that.
I do remember when we went to eat at the buffet for ESPN. When Phil Martin did his scene for the camera from "When Harry Met Sally" I was across the room at the food table. Yes, he really did do the whole thing and then ate the bread. I looked over to this old retired couple who had no idea what was going on, and when Phil started that, you've never seen two senior citizens move so fast! Plus, the people don't know is that Phil's garment came off partially during the sumo event. So America didn't see his other attributes thankfully!

ASL: Is there any message or greeting you would like to give your many, many fans out there?

Voronin: Lifting, training and being strong are great, but you should also strive to develop yourself mentally and as a person. Try to present a good package that doesn't disgrace yourself or others because people do remember. Finally, don't let people tell you that you can't do something or that it is impossible. Believe in yourself and then make the others believe. Lift in good health!

ASL: Thank you sir for allowing us this opportunity. Best of luck to you in the future.