• History of Strength Sports

Launceston Elliot

Born on June 9th 1874, Launceston Elliot became renowned for his physique from his early teens. Reportedly tutored by Sandow himself as he matured, he entered the inaugural British weightlifting contest in West London in 1891, aged just 16. 

Elliot came back 3 years later to lay claim to the title and following this win, decided to enter the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, held in Athens.

Joined by fellow British weightlifter and journalist Lawrence Levy, he boarded a boat in Marseille and sailed to Athens. He became the first British athlete to compete at the games, on arrival entering himself in the 100m sprint, in which he came 4th.


Launceston Elliot entered both the single-hand and two-handed lifting competition. Both he and fellow competitor Viggo Jensen from Denmark lifted 110kg in the two-handed lift. Jensen was judged to have lifted it more clearly so was awarded the win.

After Jensen had picked up an injury, Elliot stormed to victory in the one-handed lift. He placed 71kg overhead for Britain’s first Olympic Gold.

Now with a taste of victory, he tried his luck in the 14 metre rope climb and having lost his first bout in the Greco Roman Wrestling contest, he had to be escorted out of the stadium for protesting. Undeterred he returned to the Olympic stage four years later in Paris where weightlifting wasn’t contested so he came 10th in the Discus instead!

Back in England, he won the first known physique contest ‘Best developed Man’ in 1898 with a 48" chest and 17.5” arms. From 1905 until after WW1, he toured music halls and died in 1930 in Australia after returning to farming. His signature act was to lift 2 people on bicycles and spin until then became horizontal!

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