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Olympic Weightlifting Legend - John Davis

Strength Oldschool

Olympic Lifting Legend - John Davis

Davis, John H. Jr.

b. Jan. 12, 1921, Smithtown, NY

If there can be such a thing as a one-man dynasty, Davis was it. In 1938, when he was seventeen, he won the world light-heavyweight championship. From then until 1953, he never lost a weightlifting competition.

Davis repeated as world champion in 1939 and won the U. S. light-heavy championship in 1939 and 1940. The following year, he became a heavyweight and won three consecutive national championships. World championships weren’t held during those years because of World War II and there were no U. S. championships in 1944 and 1945.

After the war, Davis kept on winning. He was U. S. heavyweight champion in 1946, 1947, and 1948; missed the 1949 competition because of injury; and won four more titles from 1950 through 1953. He also won the world championship in 1946 and 1947. The world championship wasn’t held in 1948. Davis then won it three consecutive years, from 1950 through 1952.

Davis also won Olympic gold medals in 1948 and 1952. In Olympic competition, he was never surpassed in any of the three lifts–the press, the snatch, and the jerk. Suffering from a thigh injury, Davis lost for the first time in the 1953 world championships and retired soon afterward.

He was the first lifter to jerk more than 400 pounds and the second to total more than 1,000 pounds for the three Olympic lifts. Davis also set unofficial records with some unusual stunts, such as jumping over a 30-inch-high table, from a standing position, while holding a 15-pound dumbbell in one hand and two 5-pound dumbbells in the other.

Twice Olympic champion, sixteen times world champion and a world record holder to boot, John Davis (1921-1984) was America’s pre-eminent weightlifter at 181 and heavyweight from the late 1930’s until the early 50’s. His first international defeat was to Doug Hepburn at the 1953 Helsinki World Championships. Injuries ended his phenomenal career a few years later. During his prime, Davis was reportedly capable of nearly 600 in the squat, 700+ in the deadlift, and 425 in the bench. His strength in these movements came about solely from their incorporation as assistance exercises for his weightlifting endeavors.

Article Excerpt:
Jim Murray in June 1954 issue of Strength & Health


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