RIP, Vasily Alexseyev.
Vasily Alexseyev never looked like Mr. Universe. He didn’t even look like one of those Nordic strongmen you see on ESPN9. He didn’t have the sculpted, rippling muscles nor did he have those six-pack abs that look like you could grate cheese on them. Instead, in his prime in the 1970′s, this Russian goliath sported a 50-inch waist and 23-inch biceps while packing somewhere around 350 pounds on his 6’2″ frame.
Yet in his time, Alexseyev was the strongest man in the world.
People my age might remember spending Saturday afternoon parked in front of the television taking in Wide World of Sports. This was where my first lesson in the power of the vast waistband was learned in the form of the walking spheroid known as Vasily Alexseyev. The Russian super-heavyweight was a hero to bigger gentlemen everywhere; he was living proof that it isn’t what you look like, it’ s what you can do.
Alekseyev, the son of a lumberjack, was born January 7, 1942 in the village of Pokrovo-Shishkino, Ryazan Oblast, Russia. By the age of 12, he was chopping down trees and man-handling the logs for exercise; by 14 he was man-handling woodsmen twice his age as he was already near six feet tall and 200 pounds.
But Alexseyev was more than braun; he graduated the Novocherkassk Polytechnic Institute in 1971 as a mining engineer.
Alexseyev’s formal training as a competitive weightlifter began a decade earlier in 1961 while he was enrolled at the Soviet Forestry Institute. From there, Alekseyev trained at Trud Voluntary Sports Society with coach Rudolf Plyukfelder. Alexseyev developed his own exceptionally rigorous training regimen which involved, amongst other Herculean tasks, diving into a pool with a full bar of weights, then pressing them out of the water.
He burst onto the weightlifting scene in 1970 when he shattered four world records at the 1970 Soviet junior championships. This was the beginning of a series of 80 world records he would set between 1970 and 1977. During that time, Alexseyev was never beaten in competition and he both the World Championship and European Championship titles for those eight years. He also took home the gold medals in weightlifting from the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich and the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
It was at the 1976 Olympics where Alexseyev truly put on a display, snatching a then-Olympic record 407 pounds of barbells into the air. He followed that with a then-world record 561 pound clean and jerk.
If that weren’t enough, Alexseyev cemented the claim to being the greatest superheavyweight weightlifter ever by being the first to Clean and Jerk 500 pounds and the first man ever to total over 600 kg in the triple event.
In 1999, in Greece, Alekseyev was acknowledged as the best sportsman of the 20th century. He was also awarded Order of Lenin (1972), Order of Friendship of Peoples, Order of the Badge of Honour (1970), Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1972). In 1993 he was elected member of the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame.
And he didn’t do all that by eating salads.
До свидания и удача, Vasily.