DON "ROONEY" HUGHES
A STRONG MAN
03 July 2000
Four months ago, I had the great pleasure of
receiving an e-mail from a man named Don Hughes. He told me an amazing
story, which deserves to be written and heard. Hughes has dedicated his
whole life to The Strength Sport and the People in it; he possesses
enormous knowledge. I'm very grateful he accepted to share some of his
life and experiences with all of us.
Don Hughes went through a tough start on life.
He came from German-Norwegian origin, to California during the war. He
suffered the loss of his biological parents, and at the age of 5, he was
adopted into a Scottish-Irish family (now passed away), whom he speaks
of with great love.
Growing up, Don was asthmatic, and the doctors
told him he could not play sports. He told them: "Go
to hell - watch me!" - and he continued playing
all the different sports he wanted.
In the US Military, he served his duty, educated,
and continued playing sports: Olympic Lifting and Powerlifting. Ever since,
he has stayed with training and working in different athletic fields.
For the past ten years, Mr. Hughes has been
coaching at Stanford University. He is presently working under the Department
of Strength and Conditioning, were some of his areas are: Lifting, Throwing
and Swimming. He also still competes, in The Highland Games and Track &
Don is by no doubt a very stubborn, persistent
and proud man. I say that with respect. This is a man who doesn't give
up. His career in The Scottish Highland Games, started in his late forties...
"It's very strange, but I matured later in
my life. Serious weightlifting became a Religion to me when I started the
Scottish Games in my late forties. Cletus Abboti, now passed away, introduced
me to the Games. Jim Mc Goldrick, five time World Champion in the Highland
Games, trained me for the events, he was a kind man who took good care
of me and my training, he coached me in the throwing events. Because of
my background in Olympic Style of Lifting and Powerlifting he thought I
could do well, even if I was one of the smaller athletes."
Now he's 66, at his strongest
ever, that is quite unbelievable!
Mr. Hughes competes in the Masters 50 plus.
His size and weight is 5'10, 190 pounds.
He has collected gold - silver - and bronze
awards over the years, in both Highland Games, and Track & Field sports.
Some of his achievements are:
Master All American Awards - 5 time Master
All American Track & Field.
Scottish Athletic Award 95.
Masters Champion -Brotherhood of the Hammer.
Medals from the National Master Track &
Field Weight Throws.
94 National Masters overall Winner - Ultraweight
Among the Top 3 in the World #56lb Weight
"If God made me a huge man, I would be in the
Strongman Contest, but my heart is there.
It's hard for me to say much as I'm not on
the top like the other Athletes, but still proud of what I can do, and
passing it on to help others."
The Strongman Walk is an event he holds
dearly. There are not so many athletes in his class who can do this event,
but Don thinks it's fun and thrilling, and he gladly takes the challenge,
whenever it may come.
In the 23rd. US Invitational Heavy Events
Championship '97, he participated in the Strongman Walk, as the oldest
and the lightest. In the Highland Games '99, he also did the Strongman
Walk. The total weight was 350 pounds - 158 kg. Don said he didn't walk
as far as the Big Guys, but he got their respect. I sure can believe that!
Don carrying 158 kg/350 lb in the Strongman Walk, Sacramento
Highland Games '99
Mr. Hughes is very proud of his work at Stanford,
he takes great pride in his students and he speaks very warmly about them...
"You have to be a good Hands on Coach, and
be aware of your Athletes. They have to feel you care, and have an open
door at anytime for them. I also helped in the Strength Coaching, at Logan
High School, Union City, Ca. under Lee Webb, head Track & Field Coach.
What a great bunch of Athletes. Just good Kids. I still keep in touch with
them. I miss all of them a lot. I get calls and letters from some of them.
My door is always open, even if I'm here at the University."
With these words, it's not hard to understand
that Don received: The Student Athletic Service Award at Stanford in
His friends speaks of Don as a warm, friendly, skilled, talented
and helpful Man; he can be very strict and hard headed too, but if you
are lucky enough to meet Don Hughes, I know he will stay with you forever.
He holds many years of wisdom in his
heart. After a lifetime with burning interest in training, competing and
coaching - anyone who seek advise, would find a master in the field.
Don would be humble though, he knows that
simple answers in black and white, aren't always good. Sharing ideas
and experience, between young and old, Athlete and Coach, is a word he
prefers. He speaks of his Friends in Strength, with Capitol letters. He
always address them as The Great Athletes, Coaches, Lifters, Throwers,
Strongmen etc. It wasn't hard for Don to talk about the numerous people
he has met, but it took a while before he was willing to talk about himself.
I'm thankful he agreed to share some of his life with us, he has experienced,
and been around long enough to tell us: "It's never too late
for anything. If you have a goal and faith in yourself, you can reach far...
even though you've suffered loss and pain, even though you've been injured,
even though you're not young anymore." I admire such courage and strength.
It's strength coming from inside, and any person who can fight on, will
find something special in the end, being Sport, or anything else in life.
Mr. Hughes is still competing and still
growing stronger. In April he won the Johnny Mathis GP, with a throw
for distance on 6,6 m(28.8ft)/25.5 kg(56lb). At the Los Gatos Masters Meet,
he did 6.7 m. His personal best throw for distance 56lb, he did at the
Kelfield Meet this year, 6.8.4 m.
The world record is 6,9 m - and Don has sworn
to beat it... these are his words: "I
WANT TO BREAK THAT WORLD RECORD IN THE #56 WEIGHT THROW - THE HELL WITH
I believe him, and I wish him good luck!
He also mentioned something about doing another
Strongman Walk... if only the weights were heavier... like 172 kilos...
Although Don is a very serious Coach and Competitor; Humour
and Sparks are two important qualities. This is a quote written
by David Webster, Milo Magazine (Vol 5 number 3, Dec '97):
"Bobby Dodd and Don Hughes added significantly
to the scenario with their obvious good humour and sportsmanship. I can
always relate to the old-timers - no generation gap there! The trouble
with them is they don't know when to stop. We will have to shoot them to
put them down when they go past their "sell by" date."
Have to agree - when will you stop Viking
Maureen Kay, his companion, whispered something
about Don wanting a house in the countryside, with room in the yard for
a horse and a dog. He loves travelling, camping and fishing... It sure
sounds much more delightful than hitting in the fifth gear at the age of
We want to thank Mr. Hughes, for giving WSL this special chance,
to write about a special Man, with very special devotion and love
for his Friends, his Students, his Sport and his Work.
YOU ARE A HUGE MAN, MR. DON "ROONEY" HUGHES!
ALL THE BEST TO YOU!
Happy Birthday nr. 66 on the 31st of July :)
Read on about more...
INTERVIEW WITH DON HUGHES
FRIENDS IN STRENGTH
WORDS FROM FRIENDS
THE KINGS OF STRENGTH
You can write Mr. Hughes at:
Don "Rooney" Hughes
c/o Arrillaga Family Sports Center
Stanford, CA 94305-6150
Voice (650) 725-1048
Office (605) 723-1499