by Al Myers
The Apollons Lift was one of the very first OTSM lifts approved in the USAWA. This lift is intended to honor the late French Strongman Louis Uni, aka Apollon. In his strongman stage acts he had his Challenge “Apollon’s Wheels” which he could lift but no one else could. The wheels were railcar train wheels connected with a two inch shaft. This event is regularly contested in strongman competitions under differing rules, but we are the only organization that offers it as a official lifting event under consistent rules.
Apollon was a very interesting oldtime strongman. He lived from 1862 to 1928. He was a big man, standing 6′3″ and weighing around 300 pounds. As a young man he first was employed with a circus as an animal trainer. It is said he was the only man the big cats were afraid of. His deep rough voice mixed with his menacing stare and large frame would back the tigers down. He would often get “right in the middle” of the tigers and grab the alpha tiger by the neck and drag him around just to show his dominance over them. This lead to his first strongman act in which he would carry a huge tiger over his shoulder in the circus performance.
One of his most famous strongman feats (along with lifting his famous Challenge Wheels) involved a show in which he was to escape from a cell with iron bars. He would bend the bars with his bare hands and crawl out. He did this performance night after night. Each time the bars would have to be restraightened for the next nights performance. One time a local blacksmith not only straightened the bars but TEMPERED THEM to increase their strength. Whether this was done intentional or not remains a mystery. Apollon tried and tried to bend the bars to escape but it was beyond his abilities until his wife started yelling at him to “quit being lazy and start acting like a real man”. This must have infuriated him as it is told that sweat was pouring from his brow and his veins were popping out of his neck as he proceeded to bend the bars and escape. I can relate to that – wives have a way of doing things like that to their husbands!
All the lifts within our list of Old Time Strongman Events honor an old time strongman like Apollon. This is our way of keeping stories like these alive. This would be a good time to remind everyone about the USAWA mission statement:
The USAWA was formed to continue the long standing tradition of old-time weightlifters like Eugen Sandow, Louis Cyr, Arthur Saxon, Hermann Goerner, Warren Lincoln Travis, and many others. We strive to preserve the history of the original forms of weightlifting, which in the past has been referred to as “odd lifting”. Many of the lifts we perform are based on stage acts or challenge lifts of old-time strongmen.
I really feel that our development of the Old Time Strongman as a branch of the USAWA is fulfilling this statement.