HISTORY OF WEIGHTLIFTING (PART-2)
From: George Kirkley "Modern Weightlifting" 1961
Courtesy of Dr. Mel Siff
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PART 3 OF WEIGHTLIFTING HISTORY
Where stands Britain in World and Olympic weightlifting?
The records show this. Our first serious effort came in 1928 when a team, got together at short notice, took part in the Ninth Olympiad. New to international competition and rulings, it acquitted itself honourably without any sensational success.
Reorganization of British weightlifting by a group of enthusiasts enabled the British association to enlarge its programme and, in 1935, two men went to Paris for the European championships. It was here that the sensational Ronald Walker of Wakefield made his international debut among the best of the world's heavyweights, and he astonished the weightlifting world by coming second.
A year later in Berlin the unfortunate Walker, after establishing an Olympic record on the Two Hands Snatch, achieved fourth place. The rest of the team, Holroyd, Marsh, Griffin and Laurance all did what was expected of them. Britain was now recognized as an important weightlifting nation.
In the world's championships the following year in Paris, Holroyd was fourth in the featherweights, while Griffin, Gotts and Ward were unplaced. Once again, bad luck and injuries dogged Ronald Walker and he fell to fifth place behind such I giants' as Manger (Germany), Psenicka (Czechoslovakia), Schattrier (Germany) and Luhaar (Esthonia).
After the war a serious effort was made to get back into the international field and in 1946 a representative team of seven went to Paris for the world championships. But with severe competition from Egypt, U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. they had to be satisfied with middle-of-the-list placings. A year later in Philadelphia our one representative, George Espeut, was awarded third place following an after-contest decision, but in 1948, on our own soil, Britain really established herself as the third weightlifting nation in the world.
It is true that the Russians were absent, but the British team, ably coached by old-timer W. A. Pullum, covered itself with glory. Julian Creus took second place in the bantamweights, Jim Halliday was third in the lightweights and Alf Knight did well in coming fourth among the heavyweights; while the other members of the team -Greenhalgh, Hallett, Kemble, Eland, Watson, Peppiatt and Roe-all performed creditably.
With this great success there also came a turning point in British weightlifting affairs. Internal dissension led to wholesale resignations of prominent members of the controlling body and many enthusiasts left the game. It is not my purpose here, in a textbook, to discuss the rights and wrongs of this unfortunate affair; but its effect on British weightlifting was obvious and very regrettable.
At the world's championships in Holland (1949) our three man team were not among the winners (Russia was again absent), but we had two fourths in Peppiatt and Roe, while Knight placed fifth. The following year, in Paris, we regained a little ground with Megennis (sixth in the bantamweights), Creus (third in the featherweights), Roe (seventh in the light-heavyweights) and Barnett (third in the heavyweights).
In 1951 three of our stalwarts travelled to Milan once more to witness the Americans winning the majority of the world titles. Here the reliable Creus placed third in the featherweights, Harrington was twelfth and last in the light-heavyweights, and Barnett could manage only fifth place in the heavyweights. Once again the Russians weren't there, and once again the American lack of good lighter bodyweight lifters was obvious, Namdjou of Persia, Gouda and Shams of Egypt winning the first three classes.
Olympic year and Helsinki in 1952 brought a tragedy for British weightlifting. Against the strongest competition ever met in a weightlifting meeting before our lifters faltered and although Creus placed ninth in the featherweights, and Megennis seventh in the bantamweights, our two top stars, Halliday and Barnett, failed to make totals-something previously unknown in British lifting. With Evans placing eighteenth in the lightweights, this was a bad year for Britain.
At Stockholm in 1953 it was again a great battle between the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., and though once more the evergreen Julian Creus placed fourth in the featherweights, and newcomer Willoughby took fifth place in the light-heavyweights, our only other competitor Cope placed sixth in the bantamweights. A year later there was little sign of improvement. In full force at Vienna it was the old story of two giants in battle and the rest of the nations tagging along.
Britain drifted to ninth place in the featherweights (Megennis), eleventh in the lightweights (Helfgott), fourteenth in the middleweights (Williamson) and sixth in the mid-heavyweigbts (Barnett).
On to 1955 in Munich, and here there was nothing to shout about, although Phil Caira, making a long-delayed debut in the international field, placed eighth in the light-heavyweights. Cope slipped to fifteenth in the bantamweights, Megennis placed sixth (out of eight) in the featherweights. Helfgott placed sixteenth (out of twenty) in the lightweights and Barnett went down to tenth (out of twenty) in the mid-heavyweights.
At Melbourne in 1956, our five-man team was part of a tournament that produced the most sensational standard of Olympic lifting ever seen up to that time.
Light-heavyweight Phil Caira, amply fulfilling his earlier promise, placed fifth with a British record total. Veteran Julian Creus, at nearly forty years, performed creditably in sharing twelfth position with Maurice Megennis in the featherweights. Lightweight Ben Helfgott placed thirteenth, while mid-heavyweight Syd Harrington secured ninth position. As a team our lifters produced their best form, their general low placing merely emphasizing the fact that the rest of the world was advancing with tremendous strides.
In 1957, with the championships held in far-away Teheran, Britain was not represented. At Stockholm the following year, despite the comparative nearness of the venue, we had only one representative, lightweight Ben Helfgott, who placed seventh.
1959 brought us a sensational victory for mid-heavyweight Louis Martin, our coloured champion from Jamaica, who upset all forecasts by defeating a below-par Vorobyev, winner of many previous world titles. This victory at Warsaw was Britain's first-ever world championship success.
Finally, at Rome in 1960, we fielded a fulI team of seven lifters for the Olympic Games. However, the results were somewhat disastrous, with bantamweight Allan Robinson failing to pass the scales and middleweight Blair Blenman and light-heavy weight Sylvanus Blackman not making totals. Robinson competed in the featherweight class, placing eighteenth.
Lightweight Ben Helfgott (eighteenth), light-heavyweight Phil Caira (fifteenth) and heavyweight Dennis Hillman (fifteenth) all lifted below their best form. Only Louis Martin, third to the rival he had defeated the previous year, Vorobyev, was impressive. He gained a bronze medal for Britain in the mid-heavyweight class.
This, then, is a general picture of the world of weightlifting, with the mighty men of Russia well on top, the U.S.A. declining and the 'Iron Curtain' countries, particularly Poland and Bulgaria, taking their places among the leaders.
PART 3 OF WEIGHTLIFTING HISTORY