Norbert Schemansky Marathon. The Legend Turns 91.

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On May 30, 2015, one of the greatest athletes in the history of Olympic weightlifting, Norbert Schemansky will turn 91.

His family contacted us via the Lift Up project about the upcoming celebration and we would like to ask you to share your memories of the Legend and to send him birthday messages via Norbert Schemansky or by submitting comments below.

I doubt that Schemansky needs any introductions to anyone who followed the Iron Game. Medal winner at four Summer Olympics in 1948, 1952, 1960 and 1964, 3-times world champion, Schemansky was a legendary athlete with a long lasting international level career.

As part of celebration of Mr. Schemansky’s legacy in sports, we offer a re-print of the “Norbert Schemansky And How He Changed the Shape of Weightlifting” by Dresdin Archibald, Canada, 2010.

Whenever lifting enthusiasts gather the talk can often turn to the influence of bodyweight on performance. Does it always help to get bigger? Less often discussed is longevity. Lower age limits are often discussed but what about the other end. How long can a lifter remain competitive? With the advent of Masters lifting this point is now discussed more frequently.

There are some names that are always mentioned when the talk turns to elite performances made past age 35. Iran’s Muhmoud Namdjou was still medalling at age 40. Vasily Alexeev won his last title at 35 while Teranenko was a 35 year old Olympian. There are other examples but the best one still stands head and shoulders above all others. That man is Norbert Schemansky of Dearborn, Michigan, USA who I believe was the inspiration for the establishment of the 90 and 110 kg categories as well as the entire Masters program for the over-35s.

Norbert Schemansky was born on March 31, 1924 in Detroit, Michigan. He is of Polish extraction and like most Poles, he liked nothing better than to beat the Russians. While I don’t know the exact details an educated guess would have his grandfather (he has been described as a 3rd generation American) emigrating from a Polish part of one of the old German, Austro-Hungarian or Russian Empires sometime between 1870 and 1914.

They probably settled in Detroit’s large Polish community and perhaps came to work Ford’s River Rouge plant in neighbouring Dearborn.

Early on he was nicknamed “the Ol’ Professor” due to his receding hairline, glasses, scholarly demeanour, and if they knew him well, his IQ of 132. The only dis-similarity was that most profs that I remember from my university days never had forearms like his.

The family ended their name with the more Ukrainian “Y” instead of the “I” usually preferred by the Poles. Despite that his second nickname was then always rendered as “Ski” which is what I will call him in this paper so as to save some typing effort.

That said it behoves me now to give a narrative on his long career with an emphasis on his bodyweight and age and how he defied the experts on both for over twenty years. He stared at age fifteen, training with his older brother Dennis. He did some shot-putting in high school and then spent two years with Uncle Sam in Europe trying to bring Hitler to heel. Ski returned home in late 1945.”

Continue to the full article @ Lift Up .

 

Wanna share your memories about Norbert Schemanski?
Care to wish the Legend a Happy Birthday?
Submit comments below.

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45 Responses

  1. Geoff Fleming, Union New Jersey, USA says:

    Birthdays greetings to one of the sport’s finest participants!

    Every time I watch a film of the near miss with 380lb snatch at the Tokyo Olympics, I am stunned at just how remarkable an attempt it was (especially for a man past 40 years of age)…among so many other fantastic achievements in a brilliant career!

    All the best, Norb!

  2. Movladi ABDOULAEV, Nice , France says:

    Мои поздравления великому атлету Норберту Шемански!

    Для молодых тяжелоатлетов вы всегда будете примером.

    Желаю здоровья и счастья.

    • achidlovski says:

      My congrats to the great athlete Norbert Schemansky!
      For young lifter you will always be a lead example to follow.
      Wish you health and happiness!
      Movladi Abdoulaev, France.

      (translated by Arthur Chidlovski)

  3. Steven Zeigman, White City Oregon, USA says:

    Time for another Gold medal, Norbert!

    I see a 100 in your future. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Champion!

    Enjoy your Personal New Year coming. Somewhere

  4. G.H. Massiha, Lafayette LA, USA says:

    Long live Norbert. As they say in my country, may you celebrate your 120 birthday.

    Here is a link to 1962 world championship, Heavyweight Vlasov, Schemansky, Gubner over 90 Kg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liaIKgkAQ94

  5. Jim Moser, Kihei Hawaii, USA says:

    Mr. Schemansky is a great man. His contributions to weightlifting were remarkable.

    My coach Bill Starr had the utmost respect for Mr. Schemansky. I wish had a dime for every time I heard his name mentioned by my coach.

    The highlight of my weightlifting career was being presented a medal from Mr. Schemansky at the Nationals. Happy Birthday Mr. Schemansky you have inspired myself and generations of young weightlifters.

    Aloha’

    Jim Moser

  6. Aleksey Volkov, Moscow , Russia says:

    Great Norbert! Venerable age you have proved the benefit weightlifting.
    You’re a great athlete.
    Happy Birthday to you. Smile, be happy and be healthy!

  7. Wiktor Sadowski, Rīga Latvia, Latvia says:

    Happy birthday champ!
    We celebrate Generation Norbert as your legacy of greatness!
    What an awesome family!

  8. Frank Rothwell, Hebden Bridge Yorkshire, England says:

    Happy Birthday Mr Schemansky.
    You have been an inspiration to countless weightlifters all over the World.
    Hope you reach the Century mark. !!

  9. Alexander Petrov, Izhevsk Udmurtia, Russia says:

    Поздравляю Норберта!
    Его многие знают в России и помнят его замечательные спортивные достижения!
    Желаю крепкого здоровья, долгих и интересных лет жизни!

    • achidlovski says:

      Congrats, Norbert!
      He is known by many in Russia and his outstanding results are remembered here!
      I wsh you to stay in good health and many years more!
      Alexander Petrov, Russia

      (translated by Arthur Chidlovski)

  10. Krum Krumov, Bulgaria says:

    You were great lifter!

    Congratulations!

  11. STEVE LOFE, CEDAR CITY UT, USA says:

    I have always been impressed my Norbert, since I started lifting in 1970.
    So much , that I named my son Norbert. Also, I love this site. Please get some info and clips of Lee James.

  12. Brian Ballard, Mullica Hill NJ, USA says:

    I have long been a fan of Mr Schemansky.
    In my opinion, he is the most underrated athlete of the 20th century. It is time he got the recognition (and financial rewards) he so richly deserves.

  13. Lance McAllister, Liverpool NY, USA says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Schemansky at the heavyweight championship at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and he graciously autographed my ticket stub. I’ve been a fan since I was 15, and have had the photo of him pressing over 400 pounds at the 1963 worlds blown up and placed in my home gym for inspiration. He is the epitome of the Olympic athletic ideal. God bless you, sir!

  14. Richard penney, Launceston Tasmania, Australia says:

    I am absolutely amazed over what he has achieved throughout his career.

    Phenomenal considering the technique restrictions that applied at the time. I am just totally truly inspired by such an achievement under any conditions never alone the ones that applied in your time. A man ahead of his time and a true inspiration. I never knew just how good you were Norbert and what difficulties you faced. Remarkable. After reading what I have about you I can now say that you surpass the ability that would even bring me to consider you one of the greats….

    you were a man so far ahead of you time that you, in my opinion, cannot be compared to other lifters.

  15. John Vincent, sterling heights michigan, usa says:

    I was not a close friend of Mr. Schemansky but I grew up near where he lived and my coaches and some friends new him. We both banked at the same location and I had the opportunity to talk to this gentleman many times. He was not only a great champion but a pleasure to talk to as well. Perhaps Mr. Schemansky was not recognized as he should have been but he was an inspiration to me (as well as others I knew) and it is always an honor to mention to new weightlifters that I have met this fine lifter and gentleman.

  16. Jose Adames, Killeen Texas, USA says:

    In the early 1960s I used to buy Strength & Health magazine which dealt mostly with Olympic Weightlifting but also covered Bodybuilding, too. I was very much impressed with Norbert Schemansky. Although the great Paul Anderson received more press coverage because of his strong man stunts, Norbert had a great physique and received four Olympic Gold medals. Norbert was as strong as he looked and his arm and leg development was the envy of many bodybuilders. I greatly enjoyed the articles on Strength & Health that dealt with Norbert. I feel that he was never given the recognition that he richly deserved. I hope that someday he is given his just dues and I hope to see his life story on TV ‘Biography: Norbert Schemansky.’

  17. Clay Oliver, Wichita Kansas, usa says:

    I consider Norb the greatest split snatcher of all time!

  18. Tom Constantinidis, Sydney NSW, AUSTRALIA says:

    Personally I would consider Norbert Schemansky one of the top ten weightlifters of all time . Since I bought my first muscle magazine with my school lunch money in 1960 with Red Lerile on the cover and then with Larry Scott on the cover which I still have I’ve admired the great Norbert Schemansky. How can you not admire a man who competed at top international level for over 20 years and keep winning medals. With that inspiration I still compete in the masters which I won silver this year and hope to win gold in 2011. By avoiding smoking and the like, I retain my weight the same since 20 years of age and can steel do chinups using only my index fingers for 4 reps at 83kg bodyweight.

  19. Chris Boza, Chattaroy WA, USA says:

    The one quality I admire in my Uncle Norb is humility. In this day and age, athletes exude so much hubris, you just shake you head in disbelief. Humility is a trait sorely lacking in today’s society. To understand how this has happened, you only need to look back to Uncle Norb’s chilhood during the depression, his early adult life during WW II, and the trials of supporting a family while competing at the Olympics. Well done and God Bless you!

  20. Bill Witkosky, Livonia Mi, USA says:

    In 1952 I was a member of the Highland Park YMCA. In that year Norm was giving a demonstration at Liberty School. Also there was a trampolein and I was the one bouncing on it ! I considered it to be such an honor to be in the same room with Norm. I did a little weight lifting but not very serious. Great memories!

  21. john forsythe, brighton mi., u.s. says:

    had the privlege of lifting at the astro gym norb helped me get my press up hewas not only a great champion but hadgreat sence of humor also jack katchmar was quite a charactor

  22. Dr. George H. Elder, White River Junction Vermont, USA says:

    Norbert is the real deal by all acounts. Yeah, age makes us feeble, but here is a man who lived as one of the very best at what he did. That memory alone is something to treasure, and I am sure he does. It is well over 45 years since Norb won his last Olympic medal, but there are many of us who will always respect him. It was worth it Norb, although I am sure there were many doubts along the way. But to be at the top of your game for nearly 20 years is remarkable–and damn few people can have a life like that. But as important as those accomplishments are, I have a feeling you felt that your wife and kids were even more important. It seems to me, Bernice was the ultimate source of your strength, and your children are a legacy that will long outlive any recollection or accomplishment. It has been a lifed well lived!

  23. john coniff, wheeling wv, usa says:

    i had the honor of lifting against norb in his final contest which was march 1968 in kittanig pa. i was 22 at the time, norb was 44 he easily won i took third .it was a privilege to be on the podium with him and to shake his hand. he was and is a total class act.

  24. luke belliveau, new smyrna beach fll, usa says:

    he was my grandfathers training pzrtner

  25. Keith Penney, Gold Coast QLD, Australia says:

    I have just reread an account of the 1964 Tokyo games. N.S. Pressed 180k on his 3rd. attempt. Snatched 155, 160 and 167.5 then with a 4th attempt broke the world record with 172.25. This is not shown on your list of his WR.

  26. TRACY KANE, RANDOLPH OHIO, USA says:

    My late father Bill Kane was fortunate to have known Norb while training at the Y in late 40’s/early 50’s Detroit.(I believe both of them were employed by Briggs &/or Strohs)He had the greatest respect for this superlative athlete who seldom had the necessary support from employers,AAU,and public alike.His achievements were astounding given the aforesaid impediments.Norbert’s legacy will continue to inspire…

    God bless him & his family.

    t kane

  27. len rucker, grand rapids mi, usa says:

    I saw norb 1961 Detroit mi break world record in snatch although it was unofficial. the crowd there went nuts.a more timid man I have never met after accomplishing such a feat.

  28. Tim Barton, Farmington Hills MI, USA says:

    There should be a huge statue celebrating Norbert Schemansky in Downtown Detroit like Joe Louis is celebrated. How do we get this done? Anyone out there know?

  29. thomas baker, palatka fl, usa says:

    I started in competitive weightlifting the same year that Norbert shocked the weightlifting world with that amazing snatch record. I remember it being acclaimed as the athletic feat of the century. It was certainly the most beautiful. He was a true inspiration to the sport and one of the greatest athletes of history.

  30. Gary Echternacht, Titusville NJ, USA says:

    I remember an older, but still good Schemansky coming to a meet in Iowa in the mid-60s. He was hosted by Larry Hanneman and after the meet several of us gathered in Larry’s basement for beer and conversation. There Schemansky held court, telling stories. Personable, funny, and entertaining. It was the only time I’ve ever been in awe of a person. Yes, he was a great weightlifter, but he is even better as a person.

  31. Paul Bjarnason, Vancouver B.C., Canada says:

    Anyone who knows anything about the history of Olympic lifting knows just how great an athlete Norbert Schemansky was. He was also a great inspiration to many Canadian lifters during the 1950s and 60s, including myself (Canadian Champion, 1966 & 1970). Our only world champion, Doug Hepburn (1953, Stockholm), who lived in my home city of Vancouver, considered Norb the greatest ever Olympic lifting technician. I know that Joe Puleo was lucky enough to train with Norb, and I confess to feeling a bit deprived in never having had a chance to meet the great Schemansky in person. I wish Norb many more healthy years of enjoyment with his proud grandchildren!

  32. Yevgeny Chernyshov, Kaliningrad , Russia says:

    My congratulations to the great lifter, legendary athlete! Many times read about his battles with Vlasov in 60’s.

  33. rick burt , maple ridge british columbia, canada says:

    Congratulations. Live beyond 0ne hundred.
    You are the greatest lifter of all time, an example of what can be achieved by true dedication to any sport.

  34. Oleg Pisarevsky, Arkhangelsk , Russia says:

    I’m certainly very glad to have the opportunity to congratulate this great athlete and wish him long to be a living symbol of the great weightlifting power 50 years of the last century. He went down in history as the first man lifted 200 kg. For me American athletes Shemanski, Bednarski, Sheppard are mega stars. I am heartily hope that Norbert is in full health and wish him best.

  35. Jerry Fleming, Staten Island New York, United States says:

    Happy Birthday to Norb Schemansky! An incredible lifter who never received the recognition he deserved in a long career.

  36. Allan Tang Jespersen, Svendborg , Denmark says:

    Happy birthday Norbert!
    I have known your name almost all my live. My father was a weightlifter and he was in Coenhagen in 1952 when you and the US national team visited Idrætshuset. I mayselv vere in Budapest when you liftet against Yuri Vlassov, and I remember your perfect split style. When I was a Young boy, I was dreaming and wanted to look like you and be as strong as you were.

    YOU have been a great example for all weightlifters.

    Have a nice birthday, and good luck in the future.

  37. Misha Khishchenko, Rochester NY, US says:

    Dear Norbert!

    Happy Birthday and many happy returns. You are a true inspiration for many athletes all over the world. Thank you so much for great battles and memories You were a true amateur athlete of your time competing against professionals from the USSR and other Easter block countries. It is too me equal ‘Miracle on ice’ when the Americans beat Soviets in hockey in 1980 Well done,

    Norbert Misha

  38. Robert Kabbas, Melbourne Victoria, Australia says:

    Best wishes on your birthday Mr Schemansky.
    One of the greatest; respected and remembered worldwide.

  39. Douglas Heeren says:

    Happy Birthday Norb. I compete at age 52 and I use the split technique. Many ask me how I learned the split technique and my reply is always “from watching video of Norbert Schemansky”.

  40. Victor Rosenberg, Cleveland Heights Ohio, USA says:

    Beyond repeating that you’re a great guy and one of the greatest weightlifters ever, I’d like to tell you my two favorite quotes of yours: Take a heavy press and really press it. And if it doesn’t go, that’s isometrics. And one I like because by analogy, it expresses my feelings about advice given in self-help books: If you want to be a strong presser you press; if you want to be a strong squatter you squat.

    As they say in Poland: Sto lat! (100 years!)

  41. achidlovski says:

    What can I add to this? We all remember and love Mr. Schemansky, You can see that people were writing from all over the world – from Ireland and Russia, Bulgaria and Australia, Canada and Spain, from many states in the USA! Happy Birthday, Mr. Champion!

    Arthur Chidlovski

  1. May 17, 2015

    […] those who are not on top of the subject matter, legendary American weightlifter Norbert Schemansky will turn 91 on May […]

  2. June 8, 2015

    […] to the legendary champion. The warmest wishes were sent to Norb from all over the world during our Norbert Schemansky Marathon organized for his 91st […]

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