Friday, May 13, 2011

Famous Strong Men of France, Part Two - Leo Gaudreau





Maurice Deriaz




Famous Strong Men of France, Part Two
by Leo Gaudreau (1940)


Although France had her share of famous and colorful professionals, it was this amateur athlete, Alexandre Maspoli of Lyon, who brought France her first weightlifting fame.

Maspoli was a famous sculptor whose works are in evidence in many parts of France; monument to President Charles Cazalet in Bordeaux; group of wrestlers at the entrance of the Bourg stadium; bust of Phillipe de Lassale in the museum in Lyons; monument to Frantz Reichel in Paris, etc., etc.

Alexandre Maspoli remained champion of France from 1901 to 1920, at which time he was succeeded by an athlete of great merit and quite familiar to present-day weight-lifters, Ernest Cadine, Olympic champion.

In my next introduction I am guilty of presenting two brothers who were not born in France. I need not apologize for this since they seemed to have adopted France as a place to live and die, and were altogether French in training and manners. They are always remembered as French strong men.

The brothers Emile and Maurice Deriaz were the most famous of seven athletic brothers.

The younger of this pair, Maurice, was born in 1885, and Emile in 1879. Both were born in Switzerland. They became established in France at a very early age. At the age of eighteen Maurice was performing prodigious feats with the weights; about the age of twenty he emerged victor over forty-four participants in a Greco-Roman wrestling tournament. In England he threw every one of his opponents up to 200 lbs. in both styles of wrestling.

Emile was equally brilliant as a weight-lifter while still in his teens. He developed into a formidable wrestler and during his career his strength and skill proved too much for the 260-lb. Ahmed Madrali of “Terrible Turk” fame.

These brothers were all-round lifters and have left behind a wonderful list of achievements. Maurice was a better right hand lifter and two-arm bar bell jerker. Emile was the left hand lifter and stronger on the two dumb bells.

Some of Emile’s lifts are, left hand dumb bell jerk 222 lbs., left hand swing 192 lbs., right hand snatch 194 lbs.

Although the method of up-ending a bar bell and rocking it to the back of the neck is called in this country the Steinborn method or style, the trick was an old one in France when Steinborn was knee-high to a cricket. Emile Deriaz used this method to rock 330 lbs. to the back of his neck and jerk it, this was in 1909. He is reputed to have succeeded with a 356-lb. jerk in this manner in training.

On the twin-dumb bells lift he jerked 288 lbs. and he is reputed to have once brought a total of 308 lbs. to the shoulders. These, of course, were continentaled.

In 1905 Maurice broke Maspoli’s right-hand clean & jerk record of 190 lbs. by three lbs., and by January 1912 he was lifting 254 lbs. on the right-hand jerk.

Towards the latter part of 1904 he turned professional and in Munich he astounded the bigger and older Germans with his snatching. His two-arm snatch is recorded at 231 lbs. and one-hand snatch of 198 lbs.

When Arvid Anderson held the jerk record with 328 clean and was able to continental and jerk 376 lbs., Maurice succeeded with a 355 jerk.

His 19-inch neck lends credence to a wrestler’s bridge lift of 268 lbs.. On the two-dumb bells clean & jerk his lift of 275 lbs. is an outstanding indication of his power.

His muscular girths are impressive: biceps 17 inches and forearm 14, thigh 26 and calf 16½, chest 48, waist 35 and neck 19. His height was 5 feet 6 inches and weight around 200 lbs.

Emile was taller and heavier, height 5 feet 8 inches and weight 220 lbs.

Nearly fifteen years ago I paid several visits back stage to talk with Otto Arco during his engagement at the old Federal Theatre here in Salem. Arco had spent much time in Paris and conversed with me in excellent French. He knew the Deriaz brothers very well and praised them highly. As a matter of fact his roommate was, I believe, Maurice (memory fails me, I say Maurice because he is the younger). Arco told me that among great athletes the Deriaz brothers were noted for their unbelievable resistance powers and a seemingly inexhaustible source of energy.

They were not only wonderful weightlifters and outstanding wrestlers, but they were first-class gymnasts, he informed me.

When Pierre Bonnes retired, his world’s champion title fell into the hands of the formidable Emile Deriaz.

Louis Chappellier, the then-secretary of a French weightlifting club, had a solid 222-lb. dumb bell made at his own expense. He presented this to Emile and asked him to train with the end in view of jerking this dumb bell left-handed to break the existing record. It was shortly after this in 1908 that Emile succeeded.

Like most of the old time weights, it is impossible for many lifters to even raise this dumb bell off the floor with one hand, but an athlete of recent times succeeded in lifting it in a sensational manner. Who he is and how he lifted this dumb bell you will learn in the proper place.

It was Charles Batta who taught Emile the stunt of lying down and getting up with a dumb bell held at arms’ length overhead, a stunt which Deriaz could perform with 200 lbs.

Emile Deriaz died about a year ago, he was around sixty years of age. A few days before his death he entertained a few friends with a display of impromptu lifting with beer barrels. This recalled his strongman act wherein he used to lift at arms’ length overhead a barrel of around 250 lbs. In his heyday he had done much traveling to fill some very lucrative engagements.

Traveling as “The Modern Samson”, he allowed his hair to grow long. In later years he still retained his long curly auburn hair and big mustache; these, with his sharply trimmed chin-whiskers and wide shoulders, made him a very impressive figure.

He was given a funeral of great and length ceremony befitting to one of his importance and so loved and respected by friends and kin.

And so on that 4th day of April, 1939, when his body was reduced to smoke and ashes there passed another of that colorful clan whose names are linked in the romance of the iron game.


Charles Rigoulot’s records are too well known to be reviewed at this time. Without competition he succeeded in establishing record poundages that make a very difficult target for his successors to shoot at. After defeating the great Cadine, he smashed record after record. He was all the time more outstanding because during his heyday there was none to give him competition; singlehanded he took the weightlifting world by storm and established a new era in the iron game.

Even if his records are broken the name Rigoulot will be remembered. Never again will the iron game see one man capable of establishing a new record for things and capturing public fancy by his audacity and by his swift and effective treatment of the old order of weightlifting standards.

I mentioned a dumb bell made for Emile Deriaz for the purpose of breaking the existing left-hand dumb bell jerk. As you know Emile succeeded in performing this feat in 1908.

This dumb bell weighs 222 lbs. and like many of the old time weights it presents difficulty in certain ways of lifting. This particular dumb bell, I understand, has defied being picked up with one hand by some very strong men. Charles Rigoulot is one of the very few that succeeded in picking up this weight with one hand – not only this but Charles with the utmost ease snatched this weight with one hand.

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