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Demetrius Tofalos was a Greek weightlifter who survived a serious childhood injury and went on to defeat the great Austrian lifter Josef Steinbach to win the Gold Medal at the 1906 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. The winning effort for Tofalos in the "two-hand barbell lift" (i.e. clean and jerk) was 142.4 Kilograms.
It really was a "clean" and jerk, according to the rules of the time, lifters were penalized if the barbell touched any other part of the body as they brought it to their chest. Tofalos' record stood for the next eight years.
Tofalos was also a very successful professional wrestler although a defeat by American Champion Frank Gotch forced his retirement. Tofalos eventually went on to manage "The Golden Greek" Jim Londos.
Today, a sports arena is named in Tofalos' honor in his hometown of Patras, Greece.
Alexander Zass "The Amazing Samson" shows his stuff with a little nail driving action. Looks like those "Oldtime" training methods seem to have been working pretty well... I doubt "Samson" ever did a concentration curl in his life, but any bodybuilder would kill for that kind of arm development.
Keeping very much in line with the motto "A strong mind in a sound body", in 1908, Archbold Gymnasium on the campus of Syracuse University opened its doors... It was the finest physical training facility in the world at the time, and featured an elevated track, climbing ropes, gymnastic equipment as far as the eye could see, a swimming pool and even several bowling alleys. They actually used to hold entire indoor track meets there. Also of note is the large glass-domed roof which let in plenty of natural light.
An unusual feature that could be found in the basement was an indoor rowing tank, installed so that the crew team could get in some much needed practice in the early spring before the ice melted.
This fabulous gymnasium was named for the oil magnate John D. Archbold, who gave the university the funds to complete the building. Look closely at the top image and you'll also see the top few rows of Archbold Stadium, once one of the largest open air football stadiums in the country and the current site of the Carrier dome.
There are many examples of strongmen who were famous in some parts of the country but virtually unknown elsewhere. One great example is Harry F. Griffin, "The Strongman of Engine Company 13" who was a local legend in Los Angeles and throughout the west coast. When he wasn't fighting fires, Griffin performed many traditional strongman feats, twisting horseshoes, nail driving, chain breaking, bending spikes etc. His specialty, however, was jaw strength, as you can see in this rare picture from 1913. Griffin was said to have the strongest jaw of any man alive.
A look at a German kettlebell club from the turn of the last century and a selection of their awesome equipment. German strength athletes were particularly fond of juggling their kettlebells, hence "German" kettlebells had much larger and more pronounced handles. Also of note is the fact that most of the barbells have thick handles.
The Mighty Atom Joe Greensten had unusually strong hair and frequently demonstrated this fact by using it to lift or pull very heavy objects. Shown here, The Atom pulls a fire truck loaded with people down the street sometime in the late 1920s. In case you are keeping score at home, the fire truck was an Ahrens-Fox (famously made in Cincinnati, Ohio) -- you can tell by the large distinctive chrome sphere at the front which housed part of the pumping mechanism.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words... if you are paying attention to this one, your take away should be that the overhead dumbbell press is an exercise worth adding to your training. Core strength? Yeah, you can see his abs through his shirt. The man at the other end of those awesome dumbbells is Hans Zdrazila, a Czechoslovakian weightlifter who took home the gold medal in the middleweight class at the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan (with a 445.5 kg total).
Even though "working out" was a relatively new concept in the early 1920's, when the Lind-Hendrickson "Big Giant" Grip Machine first appeared, people still understood the importance of building a strong grip... something which far too many folks neglect in their training these days.
Ahmed Madrali was actually the second well-known wrestler with the nickname "The Terrible Turk" (The first being Yusuf İsmail about a decade prior.) In one of the biggest matches of the time, on January 30, 1904, Ahmed Madrali took on "The Russian Lion" George Hackenschmidt at Olympia Hall in London, England. Anticipation for this match was high... not only were these two great competitors, there was also more than a little bit of bad blood as Madrali was managed by Antonio Pierri, who Hackenschmidt had previously defeated in 1902.
A record crowd of 20,000 people were in attendance (which also caused the largest traffic jam ever recorded up to that time.) Unfortunately the match did not end decisively... less than a minute after opening bell Madrali dislocated his elbow after being "thrown" by Hackenschmidt and could not continue. Though not ideal, this victory put Hackenschmidt's name on the map in the wrestling world and increased his fame considerably.
Also, fortunately, Madrali's injury was not serious and he was back wrestling again three months later. In 1905, Madrali made up for this defeat by winning the wrestling championship of southern France defeating "The German Oak" Ernest Siegfried. As evident in this rare picture taken from around that time, "The Terrible Turk" was also clearly a big fan of kettlebell training.
The land down under has had its fair share of great strongmen and one of the most well known was Don Athaldo from New South Wales. Athaldo (born Walter Joseph) overcame a sickly childhood and injuries incurred during World War I to become a circus strongman. Athaldo had a flair for performing, often donning tiger-skin outfits, gladiator boots and a firey red cape. Athaldo performed a number of unusual feats, including carrying a horse up a ladder with the use of a harness and supporting an automobile in the "leg press" position. Athaldo also wrote a number of training courses which were very well received.