Thursday, July 10, 2008

John McWilliams - "Bix Slote"

John McWilliams
by “Bix Slote” (1946)

In the summer of 1945, John McWilliams, ex-Coast Guardsman from Kenton, Ohio, hurled the discus 161 feet and thereby disproved a theory of medical science. Not only did he debunk the belief of doctors, who told him that he would be a cripple for the rest of his life, but he proved to himself that will and determination could overcome a great physical handicap.

Before the war, McWilliams, weighing 252 pounds, possessed one of the best developed physiques in the strength world. He engaged in all sports in high school and in 1941 was named on the All-American Track Team for his prowess with the discus and shot put. He was offered many scholarships by Mid-Western colleges and would have gone on to great athletic achievements had he not enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1942.

McWilliams’ activities in the service were limited to setting two unofficial world’s records in weight lifting. In an exhibition at Mobile, Alabama, he performed a 710 lb. deadlift and a bend over lift of 318 lbs. At that time he also executed a 320 lb. supine press on an 18 inch bench.

In March, 1943, fate dealt John a blow that all but ended his athletic career. By this time he had risen to the rank of Warrant Officer and it was while he was on duty in a machine shop that the most disastrous accident of his life occurred – a propeller shaft flew off a lathe and gouged into his knee.

He spent the next nine months in hospital, suffering paralysis of the knee. After undergoing several operations McWilliams was told he would probably be crippled for the rest of his life. Time convinced the doctors they were right; his powerful body shriveled and his weight dropped from 252 to 171 pounds. The doctors, however, didn’t reckon with the spirit of their patient.

McWilliams couldn’t believe he would no longer be able to engage in athletics. It preyed upon him; he became determined to regain the strength that had ebbed from his once massive body. Thought the doctors constantly warned him against it, he began exercising while still abed and started his long struggle to recovery. Shortly after his release from the hospital he pulled his weight up to 182 pounds.

The Coast Guard discharged him in November, 1943, and for a year he confined himself to calisthenics, hiking and light weight lifting. In the Fall of 1944 he entered Ohio State University and at the same time continued bodybuilding while affiliated with the Roger Eels Health Studio in Columbus, Ohio. Heavy weight lifting began a few months later and by the Spring of 1945 his leg was strong enough for participation with the track team.

The best mark McWilliams made in Big Ten Competition that year was a fourth place discus throw of 128 feet. During the remainder of the season he increased his distance 10 feet each month and climaxed it with a 161 foot throw the following summer. It is believed by the coaching staff that this year will see the twenty-three year old athlete “pushing world records.”

McWilliams recovery is especially interesting in that he had to prescribe his own treatment. The specialists who warned him against exercise had done so only for his own benefit. The normal course of bodybuilding could not be applied; he had to proceed with caution and design. Much experimentation preceded each group of exercises he used. Though he will never regain full use of his injured knee, John, tipping the scales at 218 pounds, is again exceedingly well proportioned. His own body is a monument to his refusal to accept defeat.

At present McWilliams is preparing to enter the Mr. America contest in June. He is being backed by the Columbus Athletic Club. In the main his training consists of weight lifting and his amazing flexibility dispels any belief that this type of exercise would cause him to be muscle-bound. Three of his favorite exercises are: a 140 lb. reverse curl for 15 repetitions, a 280 lb. bent-arm pullover for 8 repetitions and a 110 lb. straight-arm pullover on an 18 inch bench for 20 repetitions.

Upon completion of his college work in Psychology and Physical Education at Ohio State, it is McWilliams desire to start a health institute, primarily for veterans. To this end, John McWilliams’ experience and education should qualify him well.

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