by Dennis Mitchell
John Grimek was born June 17, 1910 in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He got his interest in weightlifting and body building from his older brother George. John stated that his brother was bigger and stronger than he was, but just didn’t have the interest in the Iron Game that he had. John’s first competition in weightlifting was in 1934 where he took a first place as a heavy weight in New Jersey with a total of 710 pounds. Later that same year he entered his first National meet in Brooklyn. His press of 242.5 pounds was the highest of the meet. However he failed to total due to his lack of training in the snatch and clean and jerk. The following year he placed second to Bill Good in a five lift meet with a total of 1,072 pounds. The five lifts were the one hand snatch, the clean and jerk which had to be done with the opposite hand used in the snatch, the two hands press, snatch and the clean and jerk.
John then moved to York PA. to improve his training. In the 1936 National meet in Philadelphia he pressed 285.5 pounds, snatched 220 pounds, and clean and jerked 308 pounds. He placed first in the heavy weight class while weighing just two pounds over the light heavy limit. His press was a National record. Later the same year he competed in the Olympics in Germany. Though he did not place he lifted more than any other American lifter. In 1937 he reduced to the light heavy weight class for the Sr. National meet in Detroit. In this meet he was to light and was not at his best. But in 1938 he won the Jr. National meet with an 810 pound total in the light heavy weight class. At this time, before physique contest were added to the lifting meets, John continued to compete in lifting. In 1938 still lifting as a light heavy weight he made a total of 830 pounds. (261 press, 245 snatch, and a 325 clean and jerk). John’s best meet was in the 1940 Sr. National meet held in Madison Square Garden, where he did a 285 pound press, snatched 250 pounds and a clean and jerk of 325 pounds. He placed third behind Steve Stanko and Louis Abele. However he did win the Mr. America physique contest, and at this point decided to put his efforts into body building.
In 1941 he once again won the Mr. America contest. The AAU then made a rule that once you won the Mr. America contest you could not enter it again. The first Mr. Universe contest was held in 1947. John could not enter because the AAU said that he was a professional because of his work with the York Barbell Co. However the 1948 contest was open to both amateurs and professionals and he became Mr. Universe. In 1949 he won the Mr. USA contest in a highly publicized meet as it had become a battle between the IFBB organization and the York Barbell organization.
John died November 24 1998, having never been defeated in a body building contest.