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  • History of Strength Sports

Who was George Hackenschmidt?

"The sort of typical figure that we imagine as having been brought from the barbarian north long ago to glad the eyes of spectators in the Roman Coliseum. A true gladiator, if there ever was one" - From: When Greek Joined Russian: Tug of War at the Oxford," Collection of Hackenschmidt press clippings, page 10



Born in Dorpat, Estonia on 2 August 1878, George Karl Julius Hackenschmidt would become one of the 20th Centuries best known wrestlers and strength pioneers.A school running and throwing champion, he couldn't get enough physical activity as a boy. He found a love for wrestling through watching an exhibition match at a touring circus where his local baker took on a professional. After moving to Estonia's capital in 1895, Hack took up gymnastics, cycling and wrestling and began to be known for his strength.


Following some successful wrestling bouts, he moved to Leningrad, Russia to further his strength career. After meeting once before, Hack sought out Dr Krajewski, physician to the Czar of Russia and fitness enthusiast. Influenced by Dr Krajewski, a young George set many weightlifting records and progressed in wrestling. In 1888 aged 20, he competed in the Wrestling world championships, held in Vienna. His physical prowess were not match for this opponents and he won in an overwhelming fashion. After then serving 5 months in the army, he regained this title in 1901 and became a travelling professional wrestler.


"Although popular because of his sheer strength and physical dominance, Hackenschmidt was also revered for his humility, praised for his respectful demeanor, and appreciated for his intellect"As this quote from Jan Todd illustrates, George Hackenschmidt was revered by the media as well as his peers as a serious athlete with respected values and philosophies. In history, he is often compared to Sandow as they both competed in the same era for the same crowds but is often praised above the great Sandow.


Hack believed "the really strong man, the man who can do wonderful feats, never brags about it. He sits quietly in an assemblage of men and does not open his mouth about the things he can do. The man of less strength is always boasting"


George Hackenschmidt published many works on training and nutrition which we will cover at a later date. He remained very active in his advanced years but passed aged 89 in 1968. He undoudetbly left his mark on the strength world forever.


George Hackenschmidt - 'The Russian Lion'

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