Hall of Fame

The purpose of “the Hall” is to provide the ultimate peer-recognition by the Australian weightlifting community to the greatest performers and achievers in the sport whether they be athletes, coaches, administrators, founders and other contributors who have had significant impact on the development and conduct of the sport in Australia.

Harold MacBain


Harold MacBain was a dominant figure in Australian weightlifting with a competitive career that spanned three decades, winning the first of his eleven Australian titles in 1936 and the last in 1954 at the age of 42.

Competing mainly as a featherweight (60kg), Harold was a fine technician and excelled in the “king of lifts” - the clean and jerk. He was acknowledged by his contemporaries as the first Australian to lift double bodyweight in this lift. Harold was also one of Australia’s first-ever weightlifting coaches (notably guiding Vern Barberis early in his career) and following his retirement became one of the most active referees in the sport. One of the first Australians to become an international Category I referee, Harold officiated at the 1956 Olympic Games.

Harold was a promising boxer before turning to Olympic weightlifting and also held the Australian 56kg deadlift record for over 30 years with 230kg.

Vern Barberis


Verdi (Vern) Barberis was Australia’s first Olympic medallist in weightlifting, winning the lightweight (67.5kg) bronze medal at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, following a bronze medal at the 1950 British Empire (Commonwealth) Games.

A 7-time Australian champion, Vern went on to win Australia’s first Commonwealth Games gold medal in 1954 and rounded out his career at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. In another first, Vern was the first Australian lightweight to clean and jerk over 300 pounds (136.5kg) which at the time exceeded the Victorian heavyweight record. His Australian records stood for many years and his Victorian snatch record lasted twenty years.

A graduate of Melbourne University, Vern Barberis was a highly respected teacher and principal. From 1969-1971, Vern also held the position of President of the Australian Weightlifting Federation.

Joe Hensel


Joseph (Joe) Hensel inherited his love of strength sports from his father. In 1944, Joe established the Hackenschmidt Weightlifting Club, later known as the Mayfield Weightlifting Club, home to many national champions over the years.

Joe was already an active official and organiser by the age of 20, while still active as a lifter. He was the first secretary of the Newcastle Weight Lifting Association, a position he held from 1952 until 1983. Other highlights included selection as Manager/Coach of the 1956 Olympic team; Secretary/Treasurer (1957-1965) and Vice President (1953- 1955) of the Australian Weightlifting Federation; Member of the Organising Committee of the 1962 Commonwealth Games; and Life Membership of the AWF.

Joe was an excellent MC and also produced the highly popular and informative magazine, “The Australian Weightlifter”.

Nic Ciancio


Nicolo (Nick) Ciancio inspired a generation of Australian weightlifters with his uncompromising attitude to training and competition, setting his sights on international success and in the process smashing Australian records with disdain.

Nick began his weightlifting career at the Melbourne Weightlifting Club in 1963 under the watchful eye of Les Martyn and by 1970 had won the first of his two Commonwealth Games gold medals, as a lightheavyweight (82.5kg). Moving up to the 90kg category, Nick placed 6th at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, lifting the same total as the two placegetters ahead of him but was relegated on heavier bodyweight.

Nick’s record snatch of 157.5kg, set in 1975, stood for thirteen years. His head-to-head battles with New Zealand’s John Bolton and appearances on television’s “Wide World of Sport” electrified weightlifting fans in the early ‘70s.

Dean Lukin


Dinko (Dean) Lukin is Australia’s best known weightlifter and the only Australian to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport.

Dean began weightlifting in 1976 after his talent for the sport was discovered by his headmaster, Leon Holme, who would go on to become his coach.

From the age of 17, Dean became a full time fisherman, spending months at a time at sea fishing for tuna. Most of his training was done in an old tin shed in his home town of Port Lincoln, South Australia, in between fishing stints.

The 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games first brought Dean into the public eye with his emphatic win in the superheavyweight category. He soon followed up with his memorable Olympic victory in 1984 and went on to win a second Commonwealth Games gold in 1986.

Dean was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.

Leslie Martyn


As head of the Australian Weightlifting Federation (1971-1983), Leslie (Les) John Martyn presided over a period that has been described as “the golden years” of the sport, a time during which Australian weightlifters climbed up world rankings and dominated the Commonwealth.

Les was one of the first coaches of weightlifting in Australia. Combining passion and meticulous planning, he guided his charges to many national and international titles.

Amongst numerous other highlights and Government appointments, Les has held the position of President of the ACGA,; President of CAS; General Manager, Australian team 1978 Commonwealth Games; Inaugural chairman of the Coaches Association of Australia (all sports); Member IWF Executive Board (1981- 84); Life Member of the ACGA, CAS, AWF and CWF; Recipient of IWF Honour Gold Medal and is a Member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.

George Vasiliades


George was born in Cyprus, and in 1961 he migrated with his family to Australia. His first experience of weightlifting was at Belmore South Primary (Sydney) where he was taught by a teacher from Finland whose uncle was an Olympic weightlifter. At Kingsgrove North High one of the teachers was Gary Noake, who represented Australia in hurdles at the 1964 Olympic Games. He encouraged George to take up weightlifting.

On the 29th of November, 1969, George set the Junior World Record for the Press - 97.5kg in the 52kg bodyweight class. The record stood for two years.

George was twice Commonwealth Games Champion. In the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh he won gold in the 52kg class with a 290 total (3 lifts). In the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch he won gold in the 60 kg class with a 230kg total (2 lifts).

In 1970 George represented Australia at the World Championships in the USA where he finished in 4th place.

George also represented the AOC at the Munich Olympics in 1972 - The last Olympics to include the Press, where he totaled 355kg in the 56kg class to come 6th. The 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th placegetters were from communist countries, and the 2nd was from Iran (where weightlifting was sponsored by the Shah). These placegetters were all professional athletes, whereas George had to train part-time.

  • George's 4 children all became champion weightlifters:
  • Costas Australian champion 2002 and 2003 [Constantine]
  • Maria (now Papacosta) Australian champion in 1998 and 1999. 48k division, and in the 42k division she lifted 62k. Maria represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games.
  • Anthony NSW champion in 1997-1999
  • William NSW champion
Sam Coffa


In 2010 World Weightlifting Magazine wrote “Sam Coffa is a small man with great wisdom, vast experience, mighty enthusiasm and gigantic zeal. One of the longest serving officials on the IWF, Chairman ʻcumʼ Father of the Technical committee and the most active member of the IWF executive board.

Samʼs athletic career is impressive, having represented Australia at the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games (Perth), the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 1964 World Championships.

  • Sam lists his main milestones as:
  • Marching behind the Australian flag at the Olympic Games
  • Becoming Mayor of the City of Hawthorn
  • Being elected First Vice President of the IWF
  • Being the host Federation President during the Sydney 2000 Olympics and the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games
  • Sam has been the recipient of many honours over the years including:
  • Member of the Order of Australia (AM) - for services to the Sport of Weightlifting, Youth and the Community
  • Gold Medal from the International Weightlifting Federation for services to the sport
  • Sam is a Life Member of the:
  • Australian Weightlifting Federation
  • The Australian Commonwealth Games Association
  • The Victorian Commonwealth Games Association
  • The Victorian Wrestling Association

Sam has also been inducted into the International Weightlifting Federation, Hall of Fame.

Not to mention his 23 consecutive years as President of the AWF.

Deborah Acason


Deborah Acason (nee Lovely) has excelled in weightlifting, throwing a discuss, a hammer, rugby and track cycling.

Deb was a promising junior in track and field, where she won bronze medal in discus at the inaugural World Youth Championships at just 15. In an effort to build her strength for throwing she started weightlifting, and broke a number of Australian youth and junior records before committing to her new-found sporting love.

Fourteen years later, Deborah is the most experienced and successful AWF female lifter, the first female to represent Australia at two Olympic Games and win medals at three Commonwealth Games.

Her first Olympic effort was the 2004 Athens Games where Deb placed 13th before claiming a memorable Gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

In 2008 Deb joined the worldʼs best in Beijing, where she set new national records earning her 8th place at her second Olympic Games. During the event Deb blew out her shoulder attempting a Jerk and on returning to Australia underwent a shoulder reconstruction followed by a lengthy period of recovery and rehabilitation.

Never one to give up in the face of adversity, Deb set her sights on the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. Timed to perfection, her performance at the Final Trials in Brisbane was impeccable, earning her a place in the Australian Commonwealth Games Association Team. Later in Delhi, Deb took out the Bronze medal giving her the full set of Commonwealth Games medals.

In 2013 the Deb and her family Miles, Western Queensland. Engaging with the new community they have set up a new Weightlifting Club. Debʼs personal motto is “Do your best in everything you do and achieve what you can”.