NORBERT SCHEMANSKY, FEBRUARY 25, 2007
Remember when you folks told you, ‘Never hit a guy with glasses’?
Norbert Schemansky is one of the reasons why. He looks like he could cream you. At 82, the bespectacled former weightlifter still maintains an astonishing muscle mass, though he’ll be quick to point out that recent health woes have caused a certain shrinkage in his still-powerful looking biceps.
Who’s Norbert Schemansky? One of the most inspiring Americans of Polish decent that we’ve come across while filming ‘Our Polish Story’. The list of his accomplishments is astonishing; the wealth of awards and medals that grace the modest Dearborn bungalow where he’s lived nearly fifty years, is hard to believe.
Try this: Four medals (including a gold) in four Olympics, taking a bronze in 1964 at the age of 40… after having back surgery that doctor’s insisted would end his career.
Frequently referred to as ‘the world’s strongest man’, Schemansky racked up more than three hundred trophies and medals throughout his career, and set seventy-five world records and was crowned world champion four times, U.S. champ nine times, North American champion seven times. He still appears in Guinness Book of World Records for his Tokyo Olympic medal.
Coming from an era before endorsements and steroids, there’s no doubt that all of his records would still be standing. “The temptation these days is too much. Steroids didn’t come out until after I retired, but it’s obviously part of competition these days, no matter the sport. I have always said, if the committees want to find out who’s clean and who isn’t, let them all start taking steroids. Whoever doesn’t improve dramatically has already been taking them…”
As for the endorsements, it’s just a fact of life. Schemansky maintained regular blue-collar jobs for most of his life to support his wife Bernice and four kids.
A proud veteran, Schemansky was a 90 mm. gunner in World War II, and displays a case of medals he won throughout that ultimate test of strength and courage. “I won in war and I won in peace,” he maintains proudly.