28 Mar: The World’s Strongest Man

Edward Lawrence Levy, a bald and bespectacled 40 year old choir-master from Birmingham, became the first ever winner of an international weightlifting contest at Cafe Monaco in London on 28th March, 1891. 

The event was an attempt to separate the serious sport of dumbbell lifting from the popular performing ‘strongmen’ at sideshows and variety halls, but it did not immediately take hold: the competition was described by the newspaper Sporting Life as “very slow”.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly recall the career of ‘perfect human specimen’ Eugen Sandow; dig into the movement for muscular Judaism; and work out exactly how Levy would fare in a modern Olympic competition… 

Further Reading:

• ‘The Untold History of the First Weightlifting Competition’ (BarBend, 2019): https://barbend.com/history-first-weightlifting-competition/

• ‘This Hebrew School Teacher Was the First World Weightlifting Champ’ (National Library of Israel, 2021): https://blog.nli.org.il/en/lbh-el-levy/

• ‘The History of Weightlifting’ (Bodytribe, 2013)::

Image: Levy with his 1891 British Amateur Championship trophy. From E. Lawrence Levy and Muscular Judaism, 1851-1932, part of the National Library of Israel collection