Thursday, July 21, 2011

THE WAY TO LIVE - (Circa 1908) - The Story Of My Life - Part 5 - By George Hackenschmidt

I now returned home to rest and went through several courses of treatment for the benefit of my arm, the most successful of these being the Priessnitsch cold-water pack. The measurement of my biceps, which had decreased to 15 3/8 in., rose again to 17 3/4 in., and my weight went up from 14 st. 2 lb. to 15 st. 6 lb. After three months I October, 190l, I was able to take up wrestling again in Moscow. I was in excellent form, and among other events, threw Lassartesse in seven minutes, Hitzler in twenty-one minutes, and the young Frenchman, Rauol le Boucher, a very powerful, young, heavy and skilful wrestler (6 ft. 2 1/4 in. in height and weighing 19 st. 9 lb.), in twenty-three minutes in spite of a furious resistance on his part.

I threw five excellent Moscow amateurs in seven minutes! This last tour de force I repeated shortly afterwards - at the end of October - in Munich, where I defeated five professional wrestlers also in seven minutes. After which, among others, I beat Burghardt (Austria) in six minutes, Cassino (France) in thirty seconds. Hitzler in twenty-three minutes, Rodel in twenty-seven minutes, Blatte (of Munich) in two and a half minutes, Eigemann (from Elberfeld) I less than one minute, Marchand (the Frenchman) in two minutes, and Koch in twenty-five minutes. I was next matched for the second time against the German champion, Eberle, who was now in better form than he had been in Hamburg. I was prepared for a fairly long struggle, in the event of his adopting defensive tactics, but to my surprise Eberle took the offensive against me. I gave him an opportunity of taking the lower hold from behind, and as I tightened this by a sturdy swing of the leg, I got him off his balance. He fell and I turned him quickly on his back. The whole contest, to the astonishment of every one, and especially Eberle himself, only lasted five minutes.

On the following day, in company with the other wrestlers, I paid a visit to "Steierer Hans," a great character in Munich, who in his earlier days had traveled about the world in the role of Hercules, and had been unsurpassed in the lifting of weights with one finger. The worthy soul had now settled down to end his days in peace as an innkeeper. In an underground room he had a museum consisting chiefly of shapeless stones, axletons, and weights with which he performed various tricks for our benefit, accompanying them with amusing patter. Merely for the joke of the thing, I lifting with one hand a stone to which some weights were attached, the whole weighing 660 lb.

In November a small contest took place at Elberfeld, at which I was once more an easy winner.

On November 30, 190l, a contest for the wrestling championship of the world was commenced at the Casino de Paris. I had entered for this, and before it commenced, at an independent performance, I threw five professional wrestlers in six minutes altogether. For this tournament some hundred and thirty wrestlers had entered, and among others I defeated Mario in three and Buisson in three and three-quarter minutes. My first important adversary was Alexandre le Marseillais, a tall and heavy (17 st. 11 lb.), but none the less accomplished wrestler whom I threw after a severe struggle of twenty minutes. I wrestled with one hour without result with Omer de Bouillon, who was in excellent form, but defeated him on the following day in twenty minutes.

I now threw Koch in twenty minutes. Maurice Gambier in a short two minutes, Dmile Vervet in six minutes, and the Frenchman, Raoul le Boucher in twenty-one minutes.

Raoul wrestled somewhat savagely, but this did not avail him much, as I turned him with a "half-nelson," and got both his shoulders on the ground. At last my time came to wrestle with the celebrated Belgian, Constant le Boucher, in the final contest.

On this particular evening I happened to be in good form and as cool as ice. I got a splendid grip, and, to the general surprise of all, contrived to throw the Belgian after only eight minutes wrestling. This was on December 19, 1901. I received a magnificent ovation, and the newspapers devoted whole columns of space to me.

On December 27, I wrestled once more with Constant, and was declared the winner after a long struggle. The final result of the tournament being as follows: First prize of two gold medals and 3,000 frs. Hackenschmidt; one gold medal being awarded for having defeated all the four light-weight champions, and the other for beating the heavy weights. Second prize, a gold and a silver medal with 1,750 frs., Constant le Boucher. Third prize, with 700 frs., Omer de Bouillon. Fourth prize, and 450 frs., Raoul le Boucher. Fifth prize, and 300 frs., Hitzler. Sixth prize, and 200 frs., Emil Vervet; and so forth.

By the middle of January I felt it was high time for me to avail myself of an invitation to stay at Alseben in Germany which I had received from Herr Siebert, the trainer for my health had begun to suffer from my severe exertions during the championship contest. My weight had gone down to 14 st. 6lb.

At Alseben, which is a quiet little country town, I was able to give my nerves a thorough rest. The whole business of wrestling had become abhorrent to me. I had wrestled for a long time, without ceasing, hastening from one tournament to another.

I was tired of the arena, especially as my arm daily became more painful. I found in Siebert a man of the widest experience and soon conceived a liking for him. He strongly advised to wait till I had fully recovered my health and taken a thorough rest before coming to any rash decision.

Thanks to quiet and good care, I throve amazingly, and very gradually commenced to train, under Siebert's guidance with weights and dumb-bells.

On January 27, I established a new world's record by raising a weight of 187 lb. behind my back with the knees bent. Not long after, for a wager, I jumped 100 times over a table with both feet close together. In a word, my former depression gave place to the pleasures of life and vigour. I stayed a few weeks with Siebert, and during the time established the following world's records: -

1. 110 lb. lifted fifty times with bent knees. 2. 90 3/4 lb in the right and 89 1/2 lb. in the left hand held out simultaneously right and left at arm's length, but improved this afterwards to 110 and 100 lb. respectively.

About this time my patron, Count Ribeaupierre, wrote to me from St. Petersburg suggesting that I should enter into an agreement with Herr Delmer, of Brussels, proprietor of the "Biceps." I had already an engagement with Herr Delmer, having consented to take part in a wrestling competition in Belgium, but had been prevented by ill-health from keeping my promise. I wrote to Herr Delmer. We soon came to and understanding, and now, restored to health and strength, I quitted Herr Siebert's hospitable roof, once more a wrestler heart and soul.

Early in the year 1902, I came over to England with the object of pitting myself against any opponent I could find.

For a long time this was not practicable, for just then the English took but scant interest in wrestling or, at any rate, in the Greco-Roman branch of the Art, since few first-class exponents of this system had as yet visited Great Britain.

About this time an American wrestler named Carkeck made his first appearance in London. I had know this man in France as an average wrestler. He was about forty years of age, and claimed, among other things, to have defeated Beaucarious, Gambier, and Pytlasinski. I sent more than one challenge to his manager, and also to Carkeek himself, but they were invariably refused. I was on the point of leaving England when it came to my knowledge that Carkeek, believing me to have already gone, had challenged any professional wrestler then in London to wrestle with him either in the Greco-Roman, "Catch-as-catch can," or Cornish styles, and would be sure to make a big advertisement out of my departure. I therefore purchased a box close to the stage (of the Alhambra), and as soon as Carkeek had finished his challenge, I sprang, accompanied by Mr Vansittart, the famous athlete, known as "The Man with the Grip of Iron," on to the stage in full wrestling costume, while my companion, holding a stake of L25 in his hand, challenged Carkeek to wrestle with me, and undertook to hand over the sum he held if I failed to throw Carkeek at least ten times within an hour.

A tremendous uproar ensued, and, though the audience took our part, we were compelled to leave the stage by the police. On the following day I lodged L25 with the editor of the Sportsman on the conditions already announced from the stage. All the newspapers gave favourable notices of my debut, and on March 10 I received an engagement at the Tivoli Theatre, London. Fore some time my health suffered from a climate to which I was unaccustomed, but I nevertheless accepted further engagements, which were freely offered me.

In order to have a useful opponent for training purposes, I summoned my friend Koch from Germany, and we wrestled together almost every day for practice, wrestling continually for some months and defeating all opponents. Then I made the acquaintance of Tom Cannon, the well-known wrestler, who lives in Liverpool and only wrestles occasionally now.



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