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Savannah weightlifting community mourns loss of 2x Olympian

As the winter Olympics charge on, our community is mourning an Olympian of our own: Oscar Chaplin III a two-time summer Olympian.
Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 9:17 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -As the winter Olympics charge on, our community is mourning an Olympian of our own: Oscar Chaplin III a two-time summer Olympian.

Chaplin died suddenly at his home Saturday. He was 41-years-old.

Michael Cohen, a former Team USA Olympic weightlifting coach put his legacy best: “Ain’t too many two-time Olympians in the city of Savannah.”

Chaplin represented Team USA in weightlifting in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic games.

A 1998 graduate of Jenkins High School, he holds multiple All-Time junior and senior American records.

“I worked with Oscar all the way up and through his success as a junior athlete, where he won the Junior World Championships- the last American male to win the Junior World Championships, and then when he made it to 2000, and again in 2004 Olympic teams,” Cohen explained.

Cohen, who is also a former Olympian, said he considered Chaplin more like a son.

“Oscar was a very quiet individual. He didn’t get excited very often. He stayed cool, calm and collected. He was very much in to working with everybody- even as an athlete, he took his time to work with other people, and you must understand, when he came along he was a sensation,” Cohen recalled. “I mean, he was the the single best male weightlifter in the United States.”

Cohen said Chaplin was deeply religious and loved his family dearly and enjoyed life.

He believes that his former athlete would want to be honored by his mantra.

“Give everything you had. You know, if you want to be successful, if you want to be the best you can be, work your technique, work your positions, listen, and you can go as far as you want to go,” Cohen said.

Once Chaplin retired from competition, he returned to the sport as a coach, making his way back home to Savannah a few years ago.

Cohen estimates through his career of working with athletes, Chaplin impacted thousands of weightlifters, leaving his legacy for the next generation.

Family reaction

You don’t see many two-time Olympians from Savannah, but Oscar Chaplin was that exception.

The family says he was dedicated to the sport but above all, he cared about his community.

“He was almost like the hand going in the water. Very little disturbance but still a great impact,” said his sister Sue Ebanks.

“My wife and I we’re at peace with it. He was a believer and he had a good life so we’re at peace with it but we’re just thankful for the time together. We had a good run,” said his father Oscar Chaplin, Jr.

“He didn’t care about the medals, he didn’t care about the accolades he cared about lives he cared about people. He cared about things that were tangible. Things that really, really matter,” said his brother Jim Chaplin.

Chaplin came from a family of weightlifters, they say it was just natural.

“You start. You walk over to the bar grab your hands on the bar and you try to clear everything out but what our parents did for us that not many people know is they put Philippians 4:13 on the bottom of our weightlifting shoes, on the top of our weightlifting shoes so when you grab the bar you saw I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Jim said.

They say the first time he picked up a bar he did a full clean at 10-years-old.

“I said hey man, how’d you do that. He said I was watching you man and he got started from there,” Oscar Chaplin, Jr. said.

He retired and came back to Savannah as a coach a few years ago, the family said he would want people to know that he gave his life all that he had.

“And I don’t even think he cared whether his name was remembered but the difference was made,” Ebanks said.

The family will hold a public memorial service on his birthday, February 22 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at St. Paul CME Church.

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