Eric Golub, right, takes a break from a session with former competitive body-builder Bill Grant at the Coliseum Gym in Newark.
Photo courtesy Ken Aidekman
April 9, 2009
You are not likely to forget Eric Golub, even if you didn’t know he holds numerous medals and records as a Special Olympics weightlifter.
Golub — who stands six-feet, seven-inches and weighs a solid 300-plus pounds — has been involved in the sport since high school. He has participated in nine Special Olympics and has done marvelously well: 13 gold medals, four silver, one bronze, and two New Jersey records in the bench press, the only event in which he can compete because of health issues that necessitate the use of a walker; he was recently released from one of his frequent trips to the hospital.
“He is an absolute enigma,” said his mother, Betty Golub, the education director at Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains. “Eric has all the horrible symptoms of diabetes [but] he’s not a diabetic…. No one can figure out what the problems are.”
His anticipation of the upcoming state qualifier meet in Flemington kept him upbeat, she said. “He is so happy to be home; he kept telling the doctors he had to be out in time.”
Eric Golub, 36, is a client of JESPY House in South Orange, which provides community care and support to adults with severe learning disabilities. He often rises early to catch a ride with Access Link from his home in South Orange to the Coliseum Gym in Newark for a two-hour training session. “I’ve had workouts where I’ve been [there] at 5 a.m. Sometimes I’m there at 4:45, waiting for them to open up,” he said in a telephone interview.
Golub is a doer, not a viewer. He used to be a floor hockey goalie and a bowler before his knees gave out. Now the alley no longer holds his interest and “I watch hockey for the fights,” he said.
Before his health problems made it impossible to work, he was employed at a Foodtown, which sponsored special rate memberships to the nearby Coliseum Gym. When Golub said that even with the discount the cost of joining the gym was too high, his boss decided to sponsor him as a Special Olympics athlete.
Golub caught the eye of Bill Grant, a legendary bodybuilder turned personal trainer, at Coliseum. Ken Aidekman, who also trains at the gym, became friendly with Golub and admires his dedication. “He has such physical problems to overcome. He has a powerful, positive attitude that I’m very impressed with, and there’s a lot to be said for the fact that he uses his training and athletic abilities to get over a lot of the difficulties that he has,” he said.
Aidekman, who runs Highview Capital in Chatham with his brother, said Golub watches Pumping Iron — a 1977 documentary about the Mr. Olympia contest — “religiously. He quotes directly from it on a regular basis and uses it to pump himself up. Bill was in the movie briefly as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s training partner, and Bill’s a very respected name in the body-building world. Eric idolizes him and Bill shares a lot of the same feelings that I do about Eric. Whatever Bill tells him, he does.”
“I’ve been an athlete most of my life, and I enjoy the competition and the camaraderie between the athletes and the coaches; it’s just absolutely incredible,” said Golub. “It doesn’t matter if you’re one of the coach’s athletes or somebody who beat one of his guys for the gold medal the previous year. If you need a spot, they’ll spot you. If you need advice, they’re more than willing to help you. It’s like a bond of brotherhood.”