The 1996 Olympics helped transform the city of Atlanta into what it is today.
It also left more subtle marks on Savannah.
One of those marks is a small, brick building near Memorial Stadium, which has hosted some of the world’s best athletes.
It’s a gym once made for Olympians, now open to everyone.
“We had hundreds of teams and thousands of athletes, both Olympic and Paralympic,” said Michael Cohen, the executive director of the Anderson / Cohen Weightlifting Center. “One of the things that the commissioners wanted to see was they didn’t want kids from Chatham County and Georgia to go somewhere else to get world class coaching.”
Cohen was the director of the weightlifting center during the run-up to the ‘96 Olympics. It’s a position he still holds today.
“Having something that was part of the Olympics in ‘96 that is still here today, still supported by the county that runs and manages the facility is a great honor,” Cohen said.
Cohen’s Olympic memories go back much further than Atlanta, though; all the way to his time on the 1980 American squad that ended up sitting out the Olympic games in Moscow.
“Once you are an Olympian, you are an Olympian for life, so you have the distinction and you have the honor,” Cohen said.
Right next to the photos of Michael are pictures of his father Howard, a national champion lifter that lends his name to the gym.
“My father coached me in the weight room,” Michael Cohen said. “I was no longer his son, I was his athlete. Outside the weight room, I was no longer his athlete; I was his son.”
The Anderson / Cohen Weightlifting Center allows Michael to offer that same opportunity he received to kids across Chatham County.
“In this facility, we have kids as young as five working out,” Cohen said. “That’s under the auspices of a world class coach and people that know what they’re doing.”
With enough time and training, someone in the gym might lift themselves up to Team USA someday, just as Michael Cohen did all those years ago.
In addition to competing in the Olympics, Cohen also coached the women’s weightlifting team at both the 2000 Sydney games and 2004 Athens games.
He is now on the road for roughly 125 days per year teaching clinics.