If I were to ask who is the godfather of soul? more than likely you would know that the answer would be James Brown or that Marlon Brando was the godfather in Francis Ford Coppolas hit film the Godfather but if I were to ask you who is the godfather of Irish bodybuilding, would you know?
The Godfather of Irish bodybuilding is still going strong and has just guest posed at a contest in August gone for the thirtieth anniversary of the first mr.Ireland title.
Tommy Dillon at 62 years young has in his weightlifting career won several national bodybuilding titles but is more renowned in powerlifting circles having won world and European championships. Tommy started his career in 1969 training in the Garryowen Weightlifting Club in Limerick and if you can imagine a leaky run down almost derelict shed with basic weights (some were old horse and cart wheels) and wooden, creaky benches, benches that were put together in a hurry and always looked like they would not stand the pressure, then you can imagine the Garryowen in its heyday long before its demise.
Many a champion weightlifter and powerlifter emerged from this Rockyesque,back to basics, training ground and one such champion was Irelands first national title holder and best loved athlete to emerge in weightlifting circles. Tommy won the Mr Ireland title back in 1975, 30 years ago this year and to mark this occasion he was asked to guest pose at the Kieran Sheehy Memorial bodybuilding event held in Limerick on the 28th of August last. As the proceeds were going towards special needs athletes in the newly formed NTCSN (National Training Centre for the Special Needs), an organisation that Tommy is a part of, then he had no hesitation in performing at this event even though he had not done any bodybuilding in almost 30 years and at 62 years of age he had succumbed to injuries from powerlifting at the highest level that would have seen mortal men lay down to the ravages that time can bestow a body. Not Tommy, no, not a legend of his likes. This “Albert Beckles” of his generation got into training mode and working around injuries and with only 5 weeks of training he came on stage as sharp as any competitor, sharper in my opinion.
Tommy rocked the house that day and the ever great Dave Fox was overheard to say that if he could be in that condition at a pensionable age then he would be a very happy man.
As I mentioned earlier that Tommy is more renowned for his powerlifting exploits (having won several gold medals on the National and International stages) as back then when Tommy was a national title holder there was no Nabba or IFBB in Ireland and all weightlifting/powerlifting were held under BAWLA (British Amateur Weightlifting Association)rules and bodybuilding was only held after a powerlifting or weightlifting event only as a secondary show, not like today’s events.
As Tommy says “I remember one time we had just finished the Irish National Powerlifting competition and an “orange” box made of wood was put in the middle of the floor and we took turns at posing while standing on this wooden, half dry rotted box. Needless to say that when it came to my turn to pose my foot went through it but I kept the pose and went on to win. Such was the sport back then”. Bodybuilding has come a long way since then.
Tommy as well as being a national bodybuilder and world champion powerlifter is also a category 2 international powerlifting referee and president of the Irish Powerlifting Organisation and presided over the powerlifting event at the Special Olympic World Games held in the RDS, Dublin in 2003.Tommy says " besides the day my wife accepted my proposal to marry me ,along with marrying powerlifting ha! ha!, and the birth of my four wonderful children then the week in the RDS in Dublin was the proudest of my life” Tommy goes on to explain “that to see these athletes to compete without any quibble with coaches or referees and to be content with doing their best was an eye-opener and we coulld all learn from this”, a sentiment that I agree with.
I asked Tommy ,who is at this moment preparing for the world powerlifting championships in November, as to what he owes his longevity in the sport to which he replies “good nutrition, plenty of rest, clever training(avoiding injury) and the love of a good woman” “I have three out of this four as I have sustained many a crippling injury but the love and encouragement of my good wife,Susan,has seen me through and overcome these injuries but more importantly saw me through the wilderness years when I didn’t compete or train for almost ten years due to injuries”.
I have no doubt in my mind that Tommy will be coming home with more gold medals from these world championships to add to his tally of gold from European and world championships. Best of luck, Tommy.