by Charles Coster (1955)
Although the lightweight Olympic lifter Ibrahim Shams of Alexandria, Egypt, belongs in the past, lifting records are being eclipsed constantly and
His claim on our attention is immediately established when we realize that the clean and jerk of 338 ¼ established on the 9th of May, 1939 at 142 pounds bodyweight ahs withstood the onslaughts of all comers for 16 ½ years. Even the
Shams, like his compatriot El Touni, was one of the earliest Greats of modern lifting. Touni, the 5’6” middleweight was thewed like the Farnese Hercules, but Shams at 5’9” weighed 25 pounds less, being the lean Thoracic-type built on greyhound lines.
They came to fame around the same time and often lifted on the same international platform, but were the very antithesis of each other as far as personality and lifting styles were concerned. Touni’s great muscles enabled him to put up a good lift at almost any hour of the day or night without undue mental preparation. Shams, on the other hand, possessed great stores of dynamic nervous energy and he learned to use and develop the “invisible latent aid” to a phenomenal degree as his weightlifting career unfolded. All world records, however remarkable, must eventually be broken, but when a clean and jerk stands for nearly twenty years in an age of terrific competition there must be something fabulous and uncanny about it. When I first heard of this lift I remember wondering, “If 338 pounds can be clean and jerked at 142 pounds – what equivalent poundage can be elevated at 148 pounds bodyweight?” The answer, according to the “Formula” is 349 pounds.
It was obvious that this youthful Egyptian lifter was miles ahead of anyone else in formula-bodily-lifting-efficiency at that time and I came to regard him as Ibrahim Shams – The Miracle Man.
I first came into personal contact with the Miracle Man in
He blossomed rapidly, and under the coaching of Aziz Talaat of
He was only 21 years old when, a year later, he made further records. And round about the time Terlazzo was also doing things. Within a few weeks the clean and jerk record changed hands about four times. First it was Terlazzo, then Shams, then the American, until finally, during the Egyptian Nationals Shams excelled himself to notch 220, 258, 338 and an 816 total.
To what dizzy heights would these two have risen if the Second World War had not intervened it is impossible to estimate. But I have correspondence from Trainer Talaat in my possession which is both illuminating and fantastic. Here is a brief extract.
“Shams is a lightweight Rigoulot and is in such a degree of ability, which if I said, many would not believe. The form of our weightlifters is in the Camp of the Caesars is most astonishing and enjoyable. I would like to demonstrate by my pupil Shams, who, I am sure, by his new lifts will create a new ‘theory’ of weightlifting in relation to bodyweight.”
The Miracle Man did not make another international appearance until 1946 at
Emaciated and weak, he could only lift 176, 220, 275. The press represented a commencing weight, the snatch was a second attempt lift, and the clean and jerk was also a first attempt poundage. He cleaned 292, but failed with the jerk.
Yet, a few days afterwards in
His speed in lifting was considered phenomenal. It was impossible to follow his movements. Once the weight left the ground, with a shout to Allah, it was at arm’s length overhead. Realizing that he was at a disadvantage on the press, he did his utmost to negate this defect by rising to super-human heights on the quick lifts. It seemed at times as though he had the power to induce a state of self-hypnosis when facing a crisis-point on great occasions.
It was at
The lightweight crown was taken cheaply at
The following year Attia Hamouda was on the team instead of Shams and Joe Pitman of the
Let these things be the measure of his greatness as a lifter, just as his seven sons set the seal to his vital power. And if one of these lads should perchance turn out to be another Miracle Man –