Justin Brimhall is one of those lifters that made coaching fun. The first time I saw Justin and his brother Zack was at a high school football game. I watched him walk down the aisle and sit down, and I can’t really tell you what made me think this, but I immediately thought “those guys would make good weightlifters”. I was sitting with one of my lifters so I sent him over and told him to ask them if they were possibly interested in weightlifting, and if so to ask them to come over and talk to me. They were, and they did, and I invited them to come to MSU and check it out. The both showed up, and yes, they both seemed to have natural talent for the sport. Maybe because their mother was Turkish, and actually lived pretty close to the Turkish training center when she was growing up? Zack was a pretty good lifter and a great guy, but Justin took to weightlifting like a fish to water.
The first time I saw him, he had a ton of curly hair. He was also skinny as a rail. The combination of the skinny body and this huge mop of hair made me comment at his first practice that he was so skinny we could turn him over and use his head for a mop. The nickname stuck. I gave it when he was 14 years old, and even after graduating from college and becoming an officer in the Marine corps I still call him Moppy and so do most of those who lifted with him.
Moppy is one of those guys who had so many interesting quirks to his personality I could write a book just about him. I also to this day can’t so much as think about Moppy without a big smile spreading across my face. He had this one unique ability that he called the “Turkish hop”. It demonstrates a unique combination of athletic ability, balance, and explosive leg strength that I have never seen demonstrated by another human. To do the Turkish hop, first do a pistol, or single leg squat. Then stand from the squat so fast that you are able to JUMP about 5 feet, landing on the other leg then without any hesitation performing another pistol with that leg that ends with another jump. Moppy could do this for 40 yards or more with absolutely no hesitation whatsoever. Just leaping from a pistol with one leg to a pistol with the other. But the real kicker is that he could do this while holding a 25kg plate at arms length overhead. I have never met another human who could come anywhere near being able to reproduce this feat.
Moppy did some amazing things in training, like jerking 170kg for a double as a 16 year old weighing 75kg. He had trouble in competition though. He was one of those lifters who would get so nervous that he would often throw up at some point between the weigh in and the warm up. In part because of this he was never able to do the lifts he was physically capable of when it counted. But in spite of this, I think I speak for everyone who ever came into contact with Justin Brimhall when I say that I am lucky to have known him. He is one of those unique people who just made life more interesting.