Thursday, June 6, 2019

My Life Story - Ronald Walker (1953)

Taken From This Issue (April 1953)
Very hard to find, and

Olympic Games 1936

I again met Josef Manger in 1936 in Berlin at the Olympic Games, but between November 10th, 1935, the date of the Paris Championships, and August, 1036, I broke the Two Hands Press record no less than five times. This proved to be a sore point to the Germans, for now with a Press of 297.5 lbs. to my credit against 248 in Paris, I was a definite danger to them and the World Title. 

They knew I could defeat Manger in the Snatch, and Jerk, but to make matters worse I had also broken the World's Record Snatch at 292 lbs. and the British Record on the Jerk at 363.5, so on total I could easily top Manger's best, and there was not much danger from any other country.

It only remained for that fateful day for us both to meet and prove who was the best man . . . and so, in August we met before Hitler. 

Note: I saw an incredibly well done documentary the other night. 
"The Cold Blue
Ever read Catch 22 (Joseph Heller)? 
See the movie (Alan Arkin, Mike Nichols)?
The recent TV series (George Clooney)?

Watch this trailer -

Another trailer here

This doc uses film footage that director William Wyler (Ben Hur, The Big Country, Roman Holiday, etc.) and his crew took on board B-17 bombers during WWII while creating a piece on the Memphis Belle and its men (some of the crew went down in a B-17 and died with the rest of the men on board). The footage has been remastered, man it looks great, and there's narration by some of the remaining guys who were part of the bombing campaign. The U.S. raids were done in broad daylight, often with upwards of 1,000 planes in formation. When the moisture in the air way up there was right, the contrails would allow the Germans to start tracking and marking them for destruction from 50 miles away. Flak. Powerful stuff. 

On each mission the odds were One In Four of dying. Of the total 13,000 plus planes built by the U.S., 5,000 went down while doing their job. They weren't heated in any way. On a good day the temperature inside would be -30 degrees. And there's more, much more. 

Well worth seeing.   

Manger of course was still better than me in the Press by 12 lbs. He held the World's Record at 292 or thereabouts, but his Snatch was 270 and Jerk 330 lbs. Well, as I say, we met and I was in my best form . . . 242 Press first attempt, 264 easy as before . . . but for some reason the judge disallowed - "No Lift." Now I was being shown how I was going to lose this title and I wanted a 275 Press in my total. However, I decided to take the 264 again, but to my amazement and the supporters with me I was again disallowed, leaving me with only 242 - my poorest lift. 

Here it seemed I was being defeated by the judges, not the lifter. Manger, by this time, was getting away with some very doubtful lifts and reached 292 lbs. this way - 50 pounds in front, which was certainly some start! I knew then that I must lift very carefully when I saw the way they intended to handle me. 

I had intended to start the Snatch at 270, but now I decided it better to take 259 to feel my way with the judges. This went up very easily, then 270 went the same. Manger here finished at 270. I then took 281 which was again successful, and broke the Olympic record. It still stands today (1953) and until broken at some other Olympic Games. 

That of course was my last attempt, having gained only 11 pounds, leaving me still 40 pounds behind, and the world of it all was I could have still done more on the Snatch to equal my World Record, my last attempt being so easy.

The Jerk started off. Manger 319 pounds and others getting in where they could, until 330 came up, which I took as my start. Manger also did 330, which put him still 40 pounds in front, but 341 saw him finish, and here I was not holding back to see how the others fared, because here was my last chance of slipping in and getting first place if I played carefully . . . so at 352.5 pounds, I took my second attempt. That got me another 11 pounds with Manger still 30 ahead of me. Here was something like an impossible position to be in; it meant me taking 384 to equal him and win on lighter body weight, and whilst Manger and I were battling it out between us, Psenicka of Czechoslovakia

    Václav Pšenička

was steadily steadily holding on to us with lifts of 270 Press and 275 Snatch. In fact, he was 20 pounds ahead of me! Now I saw the only course of left open to me was to take the Worlds Record poundage of 374. This would give leverage to Psenicka, to win second place on body weight.

This is what I did! 

I cleaned the weight to the shoulder and got set to jerk it overhead. I was confident I could do it. I was confident. I could do it. But suddenly, just as I was about to jerk it away one of the judged jumped in front of me waving his arms about . . . this of course upsets my timing, and down this huge weight came, and with it my chances of second place in the Worlds Championship. 

When J. Lowery inquired about the reason for disqualification he was informed that I touched my knee with the bar on the way from the ground to my chest . . . this, as they knew it could not be disproved in any way, there being no marks on me to show one way or the other. 

That was my last attempt. The Worlds Title had slipped through my fingers by the slightest fraction, and what was more discouraging, it reduced me to fourth place. Luhaar of Estonia made a Jerk of 363.75 and won third place.      

Manger - 903.5 total
Psenicka - 887
Luhaar - 881
Walker - 876

If my lifts had been passed I would have had - 
Press - 264.5
Snatch - 281
Jerk - 374
Total - 919.5

The very next day in the gym, attached to the Olympic village where we were living, I had my last tryout before returning home. All the other lifters were present and witnessed me perform - 
Press - 303
Snatch - 303
Jerk - 374
Total - 980. 

This I did to prove that the deal I received the day before was not the true results, but everyone knew that I should have been the winner, and most of them said so. Even Manger himself agreed with this, but that did not alter the results of the previous day. 

I left Berlin a rather disappointed lifter, still trying to decide how I could beat them next time . . . 

Continental Match, Holborn Empire, March 6th, 1937
Ron Walker vs V. Psenicka

Having met Psenicka twice before - Paris and Berlin - the first time I beat him for 2nd place on bodyweight, the second time he beat me in Berlin, him getting second place this time. So we had a fair idea of what each of us was capable of doing.

And so March 6th, 1937, we were matched again. Psenicka is a short stocky little chap, as most continentals are.  

The Press

I opened with a lift of 253.5 pounds. Psenicka followed with 270. These were both passed. My second attempt I took 264, again I met with success. Psenicka responded with a 281, he too was successful. For my 3rd attempt I was not to be so lucky, because with 270 I was disqualified for a slight back bend. Psenicka too failed with 287. The position was now that he had gained 17 pounds at me on the first lift as we headed into the Snatch . . . 

Again I made the first lift, this time with 259 which was passed okay. Psenicka started with 264, this too was passed. I followed this with 275 but lost the balance of it, therefore lost the lift. He took this weight and was successful. I had to get this poundage if I wanted to keep up with him, so I made no mistake this time. For my 3rd attempt I registered 270. Psenicka tried 281 but failed to get it into position. That lift we were level. He is still leading by 17 pounds before the Jerk . . .

We both started at 330 with success, but I let my opponent take his second attempt with 341, with this he failed. Here a ray of hope was showing, I may get a chance to make up yet, so now with new confidence I took 347 for my second attempt, and was again pleased to meet with success. Psenicka elected to take the 341 again and was rewarded. This time he made it. I still had one attempt left. Here was just the position I hoped to get out of. Psenicka was now only 10 pounds in front, so the bar was loaded up to 359 to equal that of my opponent. With success I could just beat him on bodyweight. I cleaned this weight to the shoulder, and got set to jerk it overhead. I jerked off but as it left the shoulder it went forward and out of control. This of course lost me the match by just that 10 pounds. 

Press - 281
Snatch - 275
Jerk 341
Total - 897

Press - 264.5
Snatch - 275
Jerk - 347.5
Total - 887

303 lbs. Two Hands Snatch World Record
Dec. 11th, 1937 - Manchester

My last appearance as an amateur was at Manchester, where I gave a demonstration on the 3 Olympic lifts. This day I intended to have my last real try out for records and a big total.

I started on the press with 264 pounds, then up to 285 but failed - but I was satisfied to leave it at that.   

On the Snatch I began at 275 pounds for my first attempt, which was about my usual starting poundage now, with this I was successful. Then I went straight to the World's Record of 302 which I did to the cheers and applause of everyone present, and to the satisfaction of the referee's approval. This was indeed going to be a record total if things kept on. 

With the Jerk I started with 330, then on to 352, both with success, then up to 374 - the World's Record again, but this time was not to be so successful, for I got the bar into the shoulder but as I was about to jerk this huge weight . . . for some unknown reason I lost the balance just as I jerked it from the shoulder, and of course it came down with a rush. I had done what I had gone to do - make a record total and break World's Records: 

Press - 264.5
Snatch - 302
Jerk - 352.5
Total - 919.

Note: There is a second part to this article, and I'll get to it soon. 



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