From 1996 through 2000, the Bad Mother Open really took off. Lifters traveled from California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Canada, Idaho, Oregon, Arizona, and several other places to get in on the action. In fact, we actually created an award called “The Longest Distance Traveled Award” for the annual competitor who journeyed the farthest to be a Bad Mother. It seemed odd at first, that a little local meet would be such an attraction to people. But looking back at it now, I can see why it all happened the way it did.
I think there were a lot of things people liked about this meet. First of all, there were some high-quality performances going on. The 1990s and early 2000s was a special time period for Washington weightlifting. The Calpian club consistently had a large group of national championship contenders in both the men’s and women’s divisions throughout those years. Hell, our men’s team won the Senior National Championship in 2000. We were the best weightlifting team in America. It was pretty common to see multiple dudes with totals well over 300 kilos at the BMO back in those days, along with various female lifters who were international-level competitors.
The funny thing is that I never thought it would be a good meet to hit big record lifts, at least not for myself personally. Year after year, I thought this thing was just going to be a training meet with a lot of ordinary workout totals. It was an outdoor contest with a tiny little warm-up area that we set up practically in the forest behind the amphitheater. The people in our club ran the meet, so there was a lot of preparation and set-up work to do. It wasn’t a national championship, obviously. With all of those things combined, it just never felt like a competition with optimal conditions. Yet despite all of this, we had people loading huge weights on the bar and smashing them every time.
We seemed to attract pretty big spectator crowds too, by weightlifting standards. Having the meet in the Game Farm Park during the summer made it easy, because regular people who were just hanging out with their families would walk over to see what the hell was going on when they heard all the loud music, screaming, and cheering. The party atmosphere of the meet drew people in, which raised the energy of the whole experience.
I’ll be honest, there was a bit of a “train wreck” mentality at the BMO. You know what I mean, where people knew they were gonna see something insane but they couldn’t take their eyes away from it. Let’s see…what were some of examples I can remember? A guy competing while wearing a Green Bay Packers cheesehead? Yeah, that happened. Meet t-shirts with a picture of Raimonds Bergmanis breaking his arm while snatching at the 2000 Olympics? Check. An informal one-handed snatch contest immediately following the competition? That too, yes. Sam Maxwell’s custom-made soundtrack tapes that he played during the meet, with montages of tunes like “Black Betty” by RamJam and the theme song from Sanford and Son? I think you get the idea. We weren’t afraid to get a little batso, and the fans liked that.
I think what people enjoyed the most about this meet was that they could feel how much we all loved what we were doing. The whole reason we did this thing was that we wanted to find a creative way to celebrate a sport we cared about very much. I’m pretty sure I can speak for most of our crowd from that era when I say that weightlifting was much more than just physical activity to us. There was something special going on, something that made our lives different. All the brutal hours in the gym, year after year, all the trips we took together, all the competitions we fought through…those things bonded us together in a way I’ve never felt anywhere else. We ate, slept, and breathed weightlifting. And the Bad Mother Open was a time when our love for it drew us closer together as a family.
That’s why it’s still continuing, almost twenty years after we started it. The locations have changed, along with a lot of other things. Many of the BMO’s founding fathers (and mothers) have moved away or retired. However, the one thing that clearly hasn’t changed is that there are still weightlifters in Washington who feel the same way we did back in the old days. There’s a sense of loyalty, to the history of our club and to the hard work that built it for so many years. It makes me proud and happy to know that so many lifters have made this meet a part of their career. I’m honored to have been in on it, and my biggest hope is that it will live on. Generations of athletes come and go, but the enthusiasm that started the Bad Mother Open never dies. When you feel the same passion inside that we felt, that’s when you’ve become a real weightlifter. And once that happens, you’ll never be quite the same.