LEFT: Rick Smith, at age 21 in 1977, setting a new clean and jerk record at Hants East Rural High School. RIGHT: The bodybuilder Rick Smith during a 1984 competition in Toronto.
TRURO, N.S. – Rick Smith was an exceptional multi-sport athlete.
In softball and fastpitch ball he threw eight no-hitters and as an Olympic weightlifter, he held several records and won a number of championships.
Smith enjoyed success as a competitive bodybuilder, he also played considerable hockey and excelled in badminton and racquet sports.
The native of Salmon River is home visiting from Saskatoon, Sask., where he's lived for the past 23 years. Midweek, Smith enjoyed a tour of the Rath Eastlink Community Centre.
“This facility offers so much for young people,” Smith, 60, said. “This is absolutely a beautiful building, there are multiple activities all centralized. I'm really impressed; what a great fit for Truro and area.”
Smith broke into bantam softball as a 12-year-old in the late 1960s. His first softball coach was Lee MacDonald.
“I had played in the Victoria Park Little League the year before as a 11-year-old,” Smith recalled. That was 1967, I was coached by a nice man who’s last name was Wilson. The next season I decided to play softball."
Smith, developing into a good pitcher, spent approximately 30 years in ball. He was a fixture on the mound in the Truro Industrial Softball League, the Colchester Major Softball Association and the Truro Commercial Softball League.
There were many highlights for the Salmon River product, including the eight no-hitters.
“The biggest highlight was pitching to Jack Bates as members of Ray MacDonald's Insurance in the championship game against a strong Fletcher's Restaurant team. We won that exciting championship game. My first no-hitter was when I was 17 and pitching for A&W in the Truro Industrial Softball League. My best no-hitter was playing with Ray MacDonalds and pitching to Jack Bates, who I was with most of my career. I had a perfect game going up until there were two out in the last inning.”
Smith said he went with a rise ball, a drop and a change up and that Bates was the best catcher he ever threw to.
“Eldon Chapman, the master of the change up, helped me a lot as a pitcher. Eldon taught me the grip and especially the motion for throwing a change up that would fool batters.”
Rick also did very well in weightlifting, a sport which saw him receive encouragement from his older brother Wayne Smith. Wayne needs little introduction to local sports followers – he lifted weights for 13 years and was an international-calibre athlete for eight years. Wayne was a silver medalist (110 kilo) in the 1978 Commonwealth Games and it was 1980 that he was to represent his country but because of world tension, Canada made the decision to boycott the Olympics.
Wayne, who runs Wayne Smith Welding, is a model citizen who steps up time and time again to give support to local charities.
Rick began lifting weights in 1967 as a 11-year-old. For the next 11 years he accomplished a lot as an Olympic weightlifter, winning Maritime lightweight, middleweight and light heavyweight championships. Weighing between 165 and 178 pounds, Rick set records in three classes, records that went unbroken for 20 years. He was New England champion, he
won a world championship in 1975 in Marseilles, France, which was followed by winning an European championship. In 1976, he placed ninth in the world in the B division in Gdansk, Poland.
“In looking back, I could have done more,” Rick told me. “Unlike my brother Wayne, my competitiveness pulled me towards other sports, I didn’t put the time and effort into weightlifting that was needed. Wayne was very focused in this regard.”
From 1984 until 1986, while living in Toronto, Rick enjoyed success as a competitive bodybuilder. One of his top finishes was placing fourth in an 'all-Ontario competition.' Rick’s career saw him spend six years based in Halifax, teaching paramedics all over Nova Scotia. His teaching career took him to both Toronto and Saskatoon, he still teaches with Saskatoon Polytechnaque.
The former defenceman in small college hockey with the Nova Scotia Teacher's College returned to Salmon River and the Truro area to visit July 18. He plans to return to the west Aug. 3.
Although Rick has faced health issues the past several years, he still has a great enthusiasm for competitive sports. It was indeed good to spend time with the former outstanding athlete from Salmon River.
Lyle Carter's sports column appears Saturdays in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902 673-2857.