Monday, July 25, 2011

THE WAY TO LIVE - (Circa 1908) - The Story Of My Life - Part 9 (*End of Book) - By George Hackenschmidt

In August, 1907, my old knee trouble again made its appearance, but this time the water gathered in the joint itself, so that my knee cap stood away from the joint quite a quarter of an inch. By medical advice I know always wore a bandage, and found it practically impossible to do any serious wrestling practice. Even a slow trot caused me such pain that I could only fulfil my ordinary engagements with the utmost difficulty.

Matters in the Wrestling World were livened up however by the visit of three wrestlers possessing formidable reputations on the Continent.

First came Constant le Marin, then the Galician wrestler Cyganiewicz, or Zbysco. Finally came the big Cossack Padoubny, the winner of World's Championship Tournaments in the Graeco-Roman style.

These were followed by Joe Rogers, a big American wrestler, with whom I had wrestled in New York, but who had since progressed considerably in his knowledge of the game.

All four of these hurled challenges at me, but as I found that Constant le Marin, who had been first in the field, appeared less ready to come to business than he had been to announce his readiness therefore, and as it would have been absurd to match myself to meet them all at once or to lay myself open to their accusations, if I accorded either of them precedence, I suggested that they had better wrestle among themselves, promising to meet the winner.

Knowing full well that they were all formidable opponents, and feeling the urgent need of rest and recuperation after my long and arduous spell of work, I now took a brief holiday, paying a visit to my home in Russia.

Unfortunately I did not find the rest or cure I needed, and consequently returned to England feeling far from fit and well, in time to witness the Zbysco-Padoubny match, to which the proposed tournament had dwindled down.

This, as you are probably aware, resulted in the victory of Zbysco, owing to the disqualification of Padoubny, and I accordingly signed articles to meet the winner.

Meanwhile Rogers, who had been unable to enter the proposed tournament or triangular contest, owing to a poisoned thumb, was clamouring for a match with me, on that eplea that I had promised to meet him while I was in America, if he took up wrestling seriously and was able to prove that he was a serious opponent.

This he had done by virtue of his success in one or two American tournaments in which he had defeated some very formidable opponents and so I consented to meet him.

We came together at the Oxford Music Hall on February 6, 1908, and, despite his great advantage in height and weight (he is quite six inches taller and more than three stone heavier than I was), I did not experience any very great difficulty in pinning him out twice in 7 min. 35 sec. and 6 min. 45 sec. respectively.

I was attacking practically throughout the contest, almost the only aggressive move which he made being an attempt to seize me round the thighs, which resulted in his being thrown for the first time, as I stooped also and quicker than he did, securing a hold just below his knees, lifting him and then pitching him forcibly to the ground, after which I was able to pin him down without much difficulty.

I then sailed to America to fulfil my contract to wrestle Frank Gotch. Prior to the contest itself I fulfilled a night's engagement at the Grand Central Palace, New York, meeting Neil Olsen, a quick little wrestler, who calls himself Young Hackenschmidt, and Steg-Miller, whom I took with me to America. After this I went to Boston, where I wrestled John Perelli, Albert Ouvray, and several others; and had the honour of making the acquaintance of the son of President Roosevelt, who introduced me to his friends. From Boston I went to Philadelphia, and there beat Carl Darschn of Camden, in 3-3/4 min., Henry Paulson in 5 min. 9 sec., and Miller. From Philadelphia I went to Washington, where I was introduced to President Roosevelt at the White House, and to several other leading politicians. There I wrestled five opponents, and threw them all pretty quickly; traveling thence to Baltimore, where, after defeating two or three opponents, I wrestled 15 min. With Gus Schonlein (America). From here I went straight to Chicago to get ready for Gotch.

As to the contest itself so much has been said and written already by various eyewitnesses and also by people who were not eyewitnesses, that it seems to me that I should be serving no useful purpose by either adding to or taking from the remarks I have already made on the subject.

After returning to England I had to prepare for a match with Zbysco, which should have taken place in June. I started hard practice, but in a short time felt such pain in my right knee, round the knee cap, that it was even painful to walk. Any quick turn made me feel as though I should collapse. I cancelled all my engagements, including the match, and went to Aix-la-Chapelle, to undergo a thorough treatment. Examination by one of the leading surgeons proved the necessity for an immediate serious operation, from which I am now recovering.

I have been asked whether I propose seeking to regain my lost championship.

Well, in order to answer that question, I beg to state that the only man I propose wrestling before my final retirement is Frank Gotch, and then to inquire as to the championship which I am alleged to have lost.

When did I last hold one?

When I entered for and won the Championship Tournaments in Vienna, Berlin and Paris in the year 1901, the motive that actuated me was the desire to prove myself a greater wrestler than all the famous exponents of the science who were gathered together at those places. That I won the title of champion at the same time was purely a side issue. So much so, indeed, that I have not since troubled about renewing it.

Throughout my whole career I have never bothered as to whether I was a champion or not a champion. The only title I have desire to be known by is simply my name, George Hackenschmidt.

Iron Nation
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