Performance Strongman – Part 1

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck breaking bricks using the "Double Forearm Break Style"

Many USAWA members are aware of our own Steve Schmidt’s career as a performance strongman, AKA “Strongman Steve”. He travels around doing strongman shows that often mirror his lifting efforts in the USAWA meets he competes in. As a matter of fact, I’d say that had it not been for Steve’s efforts to become a top USAWA lifter, his strongman career might not have ever happened! USAWA member Eric Todd, who has also joined the JWC for our shows at times, also does performance Strongman shows.

There are two other USAWA members that also have a strongman career as a part of the “Jackson Weightlifting Club”. This includes John O’Brien and Thom Van Vleck. After the “JWC All-Round Challenge” on Nov. 21 the other two more members of the JWC team should also be USAWA members, Brett and Brian Kerby as they are slated to compete in that contest.

The USAWA has a rich history and connection to being what I call a Performance Strongman. Many of the old timers like Appollon, Saxon, and Sandow travelled around earning their living performing, not competing. Today, guys like Steve, Eric and the JWC members do it for other reasons.

John O'Brien using grip pressure only to blow up unopened cans of soda

While just a few of the JWC members do performance strongman shows, they do it to spread the word of Jesus Christ. We are Christian men who believe that God has given us a talent and that we are to use that talent for Him. We are a non-denominational group that often also delivers secular messages such as being anti drug, staying in school, and being good citizens. But we never sacrifice our core message.

Brian Kerby and myself, Thom Van Vleck, are the core members of the JWC evangelism effort. We have been brothers in the Word and Iron since our teenage years and always shared a love of the iron sports. We finally had a chance to go and help Randy Richey and his strongman evangelism team, Omega Force, at the US Strongman Nationals in St. Louis. We ended up being a part of the show and were soon offered to travel with them overseas. Brian and I realized this would not be possible with our family, church, and job obligations and soon realized that God wanted us to share our talents locally.

IAWA Gold Cup

The 2009 IAWA Gold Cup – A Great Success!

by Steve Gardner

2009 IAWA Gold Cup Group Picture

There were 25 lifters taking part in this years Gold Cup World Record Breakers Tournament, which was held in Glasgow, Scotland. All of the hard work and effort put in by this years promoter David McFadzean and his support team at the Castlemilk Gym Club, was repaid in fine style as the 2009 event was a great success. The list of impressive records that were broken and set was of a very high standard, with several new lifters taking part and giving a good account of themselves too! A big welcome into the IAWA family goes out to: The Hughes trio, sister and brothers, Nicola, Robbie and Chris, and also to Alan Higgs and Tom Moffat, they all lifted well. It was nice to see Frank Allen back in action, and also Steve Angell on impressive form. People were pleased to see Karen Gardner perform her first lifting since her Cancer operation a year ago, and Agnes Mcinally who is slowly returning to form after her problems too, Agnes says she has found a new incentive in the sport: helping to coach new lifter Nicola Hughes. Denny Habecker from the USA never fails to delight us on the platform, and he too is recently back from a hip operation. Mark Haydock lifted the heaviest ever trap bar deadlift at 323.5 kilos much to the delight of a heavily pregnant Mrs Haydock (soon to deliver). All in all it was a really nice day, a good competition in a great atmosphere. Well done again to David and his team on a job well done!

FULL MEET RESULTS:

IAWA Gold Cup 2009

Castlemilk, Glasgow, Scotland.       Saturday 7th November

Promoter: David McFadzean (assisted by members of the Castlemilk Gym)

Lifter                                      Class   Div      Lifts

Steve Gardner                         125+    M50+    R/H Ring Finger Lift  80k – L/H Index Finger Lift  75k

Frank Allen                              90        M65+    Pullover at arms Length  45k

David McFadzean                     100      Open     R/H Dumbell Deadlift 105k

Bill Wright                                80        65+      R/H Dumbell C+Jerk 35k

Karen Gardner                         80        50+      R/H Mid Finger Lift 40k  –  R/H Index Finger Lift 40k

Nicola Hughes                          90        Open     2 inch bar Straddle D Lift 107.5k  –  L/H Zercher 60k

Chris Hughes                           70        J18/19   2 inch bar Straddle D Lift  155k

James Gardner                         95        Open    R/H Dumbell Deadlift 147k

Robbie Hughes                         60        J14/15   Trap Bar Deadlift 135k

Agnes Mcinally                         65        M50+     2 inch bar Straddle Deadlift 90k

George Dick                            125+    M60+     Steinborn Lift 115k –  Front Squat  110k

Graham Saxton                       110      M45+     Steinborn Lift 137.5  –  2 inch bar Hacklift 202.5k

Chris Ross                              95        Open      L/H Middle finger Lift 102.7k

Mathew Finkle                         70        M40+     2 inch bar Hacklift 120k

Alex Rigbye                            95        Open      2 Hands Thumbless Deadlift 142.5

Tom Moffat                             95        Open      Trap Bar Deadlift 260k – 2 inch bar Straddle D Lift 230k

Steve Angell                           110      Open      Trap bar Deadlift 300k

Joshua Haydock                      70        J18/19    Trap Bar Deadlift 182.5k  – Front Squat  105k

Mark Haydock                         125      Open      2 Hands Thumbless D Lift 200k – Trap Bar D Lift 323.5k

Denny Habecker                      90        M65+     Seated C+ Press B/Neck 60k – Trap Bar D Lift 160k

Alan Higgs                               95        M50+     Trap Bar Deadlift 190k

Andy Tomlin                            95        M40+     Middle Fingers Deadlift 140k

Steve Andrews                        70        M50+     R/H Zercher 100k – L/H Thumbless D Lift 66k

Karl Birkinshaw                       85        Open      Reflex C + Push Press 62.5k – Bwt Reps DLift 83k x 41 reps

Graham Always                       110      Open      L/H Bench Press 32.5k

2 Man Lifts:

David McFadzean and Chris Hughes    (Open 100k Class)     2 Man Hacklift 280k

Mathew Finkle and Robbie Hughes  (Open 70k Class)    2 Man Straddle Dead Lift 250k

Andy Tomlin and Chris Ross (Open 95k Class)  2 Man Straddle Dead Lift 350k

MC Recorder: Steve Gardner  Assistant: Judy Habecker  Drug Testing: Frank Allen

Referees: Frank Allen  Steve Andrews  Denny Habecker  Andy Tomlin  Agnes Mcinally  David Mcfadzean  Karen Gardner  George Dick  Graham Saxton  James Gardner

Granddad’s Tall Tales were not so Tall After All

By Thom Van Vleck

Katie Sandwina and her husband Max Heymann

When I was a kid, my granddad told me stories when I would spend the night. He was a great story teller and often, I fought sleep to listen to them. The topics were many, but since he had an interest in weightlifting, he often told me of strongmen of his day or before.

On one occasion he told me of a woman named Katie Sandwina. What I recall from his stories was she was 6’3” tall and 250lbs. She could carry a 1000lb cannon on her shoulder, lift her husband overhead with one arm, clean and push press 300lbs, and she never lost a wrestling match against a man. He told me that she once beat Sandow in a lifting contest.

Many years later, I read an article in an old Iron Man magazine on Katie and found that much of what he told was TRUE. Here are some of the things I have found out on Katie.

Katie Brumbach was her real name and her parents were circus performers Philippe and Johanna Brumbach. Both were large people and her father was said to have a 56” chest. In her early years, Katie performed with her family and her father would offer one hundred marks to any man in the audience who could defeat her in wrestling. It was claimed no one ever succeeded in winning the prize and it is also said Katie met her husband of fifty-two years, Max Heymann when he tried to beat her in a wrestling match and she knocked him out! They were married for 52 years….maybe he was afraid to leave! It was said that when Katie was just a teen she was over 6ft tall, 187lbs, and had 17” biceps and 26.5” thighs and was even larger after that. From what I can tell, she would feign modesty when asked for her dimensions. Perhaps it was modesty, or showmanship, but I do know that an Iron Man article on her listed her at 6’3” and 250lbs, confirming my grandfathers claim.

Brumbach took the stage name “Sandwina” after defeating the Sandow during her show. She offered a cash prize to anyone that could outlift her and Sandow took the stage. Katie lifted 300lbs over head and Sandow only managed to lift to his chest. After this victory, she adopted the stage name “Sandwina” as a feminine derivative of Sandow. I sometimes wonder if these sorts of things are staged by the strongmen to give each other credibility, but at any rate, it is agreed the event happened and it launched her career.

Sandwina worked in the Ringling Bros & Barnum & Baily circus until she was at least 60, possibly 64. One of her standard performance feats was lifting her husband (who weighed 165 pounds) overhead with one hand. She performed many other feats, such as bending steel bars and the pull apart with four horses. She would hold carousels of 14 people on her shoulders and support a half ton of cannons on her back. In between all of that, she also bore a son, Theodore Sandwina who not surprisingly became a large man and was a champion boxer.

There is no doubt Sandwina was quite a strong woman and many of her feats were real or at least close to the claims made about her. She may have been the strongest woman of all time!

Mark Mitchell – New USAWA Official

by Al Myers

Mark Mitchell performing a 505 pound 12" Base Squat at a Record Day at Clark's Gym in 2002. This is the best 12" Base Squat of All-Time in the USAWA. Mark also has the USAWA All-Time Best lift in the Reeves Deadlift, with a record lift of 400 pounds.

Mark Mitchell, of the Dino Gym, just recently passed the USAWA Official’s Test. Mark has been lifting weights for over 25 years. He competed as a 3-lift Powerlifter for many years, but now competes mainly in Powersport Competitions. Powersports is an off-shoot of powerlifting that includes the Curl, the Bench Press and the Deadlift. These events are done without the use of supporting equipment (with the exception of a belt) and are Drug-Free competitions. Mark has been involved in officiating USAWA events in the gym for several years, and has even judged at the National Championships in 2006 and 2009. Mark has competed in several USAWA events throughout the years – mostly postal meets and record days. Mark started weight training many years ago in Columbia under the coaching of Bill Clark – so he has been exposed to All-Round lifting for a long time!! Mark has always been a tremendous squatter and holds the Dino Gym Squat Record with a lift of 810 pounds.

Welcome Mark to the recently growing crew of USAWA Officials!

G.W. Rolandow’s Challenge Barbell

by Al Myers

The Rolandow Challenge Barbell now resides in the York Barbell Museum.

G.W. Rolandow was a Swiss born strongman who came to the United States and became an American citizen in 1896. He lived his entire life in New York City. His Challenge Barbell had a thick handle, and weighed 175 pounds empty, but 299 pounds fully loaded. He was able to Bent Press his Challenge Barbell fully loaded – and lifted it in his nightly strongman performances. The Rolandow Barbell was purchased by Professor Attila, and later owned by Sig Klein. Sig Klein often used it when he was demonstrating the Bent Press.

Sig Klein demonstrating a Bent Press with the Rolandow Barbell.

This was written by Sig Klein shortly after lifting the Rolandow Barbell in 1937.

“It was Saturday, April 10th, on my thirty-fifth birthday that I lifted the Rolandow Bell again. It went up on my first attempt. So pleased was I with this accomplishment that I have not up to this present writing lifted this weight since. I have never tried to lift more in the Bent-Press than 209 pounds. It seems that no matter how much weight I would ever lift again in the Bent-Press, I would never again have the pleasure or satisfaction that I derived when I first succeeded with this ponderous weight. This was in 1937. It was about this time that I published “How to Bent-Press”, feeling that such a booklet was needed for the thousands of weight-lifters whose interest I had now aroused in this lift.”

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