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Launceston Elliot was a flexible athlete who took half in a minimum of 5 occasions on the inaugural trendy Olympic Video games held in Athens in 1896, turning into Britain’s first Olympic champion. He had a powerful physique and was described as: ‘essentially the most good-looking man of his era.’

His father, Gilbert Elliot, was a Justice of the Peace associated to the Earls of Minto, who had been identified for his or her distinguished service in India, and Launceston was born in India on 9 June 1874. Whereas Gilbert was staying in a resort in Launceston, Tasmania, his first spouse fell to her dying from a balcony, apparently below suspicious circumstances, and Gilbert married the resort receptionist, Ann, who was of Scottish descent. Launceston was a product of this marriage, and he was mentioned to have been named after the city the place he was conceived. After spending a part of his early childhood in Australia, he noticed his true homeland for the primary time in 1887 when his father started farming in rural Essex.

He turned serious about bodybuilding and attended the varsity of Eugene Sandow (1867-1925), the revered skilled strongman and exponent of bodily tradition, the place he was launched to the game of weightlifting. Sandow was a person of considerate views who advocated moderation in all strategies of well being. Below his professional steerage Elliot was taught to acknowledge some great benefits of acquired muscular energy by a system of actions over primary brute energy. Elliot was a great pupil, and on the age of solely 16 he gave a great account of himself on the first weightlifting championships open to rivals from all around the world, which had been held on the Cafe Monaco on Piccadilly in London, on 28 March 1891. The competitors lasted three days, throughout which era every man tried ten lifts consisting primarily of repetition or alternate urgent of 56-pound and 84-pound weights with every hand. The competition was received by Edward Lawrence ‘E L’ Levy (1851-1932) of Birmingham. Elliot received his first title in 1894.

The Olympic Video games had been held in historic Greece for twelve centuries, till AD 393 after they had been abolished by the Emperor Theodosius and the good stadium at Olympia was allowed to crumble into smash. Britain was extremely influential within the motion in the direction of an Olympic revival. The Cotswold Olympic Video games had been began by Robert Dover in 1636, persevering with for 200 years, and in 1850 Physician Penny Brooke based an Olympic Society at A lot Wenlock in Shropshire. Many new sports activities had been being devised and established in Victorian England, and this ‘golden age’ of sport put an concept within the head of a French nobleman known as Baron Pierre de Coubertin, an adviser on bodily tradition to his authorities, who was turning into involved concerning the advance of commercialism in sport. When he visited England he was impressed with the stature of video games performed purely for leisure functions at public faculties, and he admired the spirit of internationalism proven by Physician Brooke when he met him on a go to to A lot Wenlock. He was decided to revive the Olympic Video games as a strategy to deliver younger folks collectively to participate in pleasant competitors.

De Coubertin labored with untiring power to organise an Worldwide Sports activities Congress, and his efforts had been rewarded in Paris on 23 June 1894, when he chaired a gathering of 285 representatives from 13 nations, and an extra 21 international locations pledged their assist. From this assembly the Worldwide Olympic Committee got here into being. It was determined to carry the Video games each 4 years, London being the preliminary alternative for the primary venue. Nevertheless, de Coubertin wished to stage the inaugural Video games to coincide with the forthcoming Paris World Honest scheduled for 1900. Nevertheless, enthusiasm was such that an earlier date was demanded, and Greek delegates put in a plea primarily based on custom for the Video games to be held in Athens. The request was accepted, and the primary trendy Olympic Video games had been staged in April 1896, on the stadium the place its historic predecessor had met its demise.

Lawrence Levy had been concerned within the Olympic Motion, and it was most likely attributable to his affect that Elliot determined to sail to Athens from Marseilles aboard the ‘SS Congo’. His magnificent look prompted fairly a stir when he arrived within the Greek capital. The official report of the 1896 Olympic Video games states: ‘This younger man attracted common admiration by his unusual magnificence. He was of spectacular stature, tall, well-proportioned, his hair and complexion of unusual equity.’ He most definitely appealed to the Greeks, particularly the females, and an Athens newspaper was prompted to report: ‘His good-looking determine procured for him a suggestion of marriage from a highly-placed girl admirer.’

On Easter Monday afternoon, 6 April 1896, 4,000 keen spectators packed into the newly-renovated Panathenaic Stadium, together with de Coubertin and a number of other different dignitaries, to listen to King George of Greece announce the opening of ‘the primary Worldwide Olympic Video games.’ There have been no official entries, most rivals appear to have travelled to Athens on their very own initiative, and it’s believed that about 250 males took half from 14 nations. Of the 81 non-Greeks solely ten had been from the British Isles, and a few of these had been resident in Athens. There have been 43 occasions from ten sports activities – monitor and discipline, biking, fencing, gymnastics, rowing, crusing, taking pictures, swimming, weightlifting and wrestling. Nevertheless, the rowing occasions had been cancelled attributable to unhealthy climate and the crusing was dropped by way of lack of curiosity. Lawrence Levy supposed to participate within the weightlifting competitors, however there was some issue with group and he determined to officiate as an alternative. He additionally wrote reviews on occasions for the Birmingham Submit. Among the many thousand or so folks exterior the stadium was the Royal Navy crew of HMS Howe docked at Piraeus.

James Connolly of Boston turned the primary Olympic champion when he received the triple soar on the primary day of competitors. Occasions within the working occasions weren’t anticipated to be quick as a result of the bends had been too sharp to be negotiated at velocity. Launceston Elliot was one in every of 15 males who entered for the heats of the 100 metres, and the primary Briton to compete within the Olympics was Charles Gmelin (1872-1950) of Oxford College, who got here fourth within the third warmth. Elliot was additionally eradicated within the heats. The sprints produced an incident of comedian farce when a dapper French runner insisted on sporting white gloves as a result of he was performing in entrance of royalty. Charles Gmelin turned the primary Briton to compete in an Olympic closing when he lined up for the 400 metres on the second day. Britain’s sole competitor within the discipline occasions was George Stuart Robertson (1872-1967) of the London Athletic Membership. He was a classics scholar and an Oxford blue for the hammer. Nevertheless, there was no hammer occasion on the Video games so he entered the discus and got here sixth. He additionally discovered time to put in writing day by day reviews on the motion for Subject journal.

There have been simply two occasions on the weightlifting programme, the one-handed carry and the two-handed carry, each scheduled for the second day, 7 April. Within the first occasion Elliot raised 71 kilograms – 156 kilos, together with his proper hand. The closest anybody bought to that was 57.2 kilograms – 126 kilos, by Viggo Jensen of Denmark, so Elliot received by almost fifteen kilograms – thirty kilos, to change into Britain’s first Olympic champion. Each males met once more within the two-handed occasion, which prompted the primary occasion of an Olympic judging controversy. Each males lifted 111.5 kilograms – 245 kilos, however as within the two tied athletics occasions, the choice of the referees went in opposition to the Briton. Elliot was mentioned to have moved his foot throughout his try and the choice went to Jensen on the energy of his ‘superior model’. Elliot thus turned the primary Briton to be positioned second in an Olympic occasion, and he lifted essentially the most weight when each disciplines had been added collectively. Apparently, King George volunteered to assist clear up the equipment, and after lifting one of many heavier weights, he threw it fairly a substantial distance!

Elliot and Jensen met for a 3rd time after they competed within the rope climbing occasion three days later, as a part of the gymnastics programme. Sadly, neither man managed to succeed in the highest of the rope. On the next day, Elliot entered the wrestling competitors, which passed off outdoor in a sand pit, and though it was technically a Greco-Roman occasion, leg holds had been allowed. Elliot met Carl Schumann, a formidable Germany who had received three Olympic gymnastics championships and had positioned fourth within the shot putt. Elliot had a slight psychological benefit in that he had crushed the German within the weightlifting. Because it was, Schumann ‘grabbed him spherical the center and threw him to the bottom within the short while’ – and went on to win the competitors.

The prize ceremony on the tenth and closing day of competitors passed off in pouring rain on 15 April. King George offered every champion with a silver medallion and an olive department and runners-up acquired a bronze medallion. Third positioned athletes went unrewarded and the presenting of gold, silver and bronze medals was not launched into the Olympic Video games till 1908 in London. George Robertson recited a self-composed Greek ode, for which he acquired a laurel department from the king, as a parade of champions introduced the Video games to an in depth. Robertson was knighted in 1928, and when he died on the age of 94 he was the final identified survivor of the primary Fashionable Olympic Video games.

Launceston appears to have shunned the eye he attracted among the many wealthy and prosperous girls of Athens, as a result of in 1897 he married Emelia Holder, the daughter of a Kentish clergyman. His Olympic successes boosted his confidence and he went just about from energy to energy in his sport. In 1899 he set 4 new weightlifting information on the British Novice Championships. His magnificent physique introduced him a lot fame, and he turned one of many males displayed on nickelodeon playing cards which made widespread viewing in arcades at first of the 20 th century. Music Corridor or Selection Theatre was on the top of its recognition on the time, and Launceston created a speciality act with the well-known circus strongman, Montague Spencer, with which they toured Britain, Europe and South America. Amongst surroundings representing a Roman enviornment and dressed as gladiators, they enacted a fight-to-the-death wrestle, utilizing mock-up weapons of the time, such because the cestus, trident and internet. On the finish of the present, Elliot gave exhibitions of energy, the finale of which was to droop a bicycle and rider on every finish of an extended metallic pole which was supported throughout his shoulders. He would increase them off the bottom and begin to revolve, gaining in momentum till the 2 cyclists had been horizontal.

In 1923, he and his spouse went to reside in Australia, making their residence in Melbourne, the place he turned a revered member of a gaggle of well-known sporting characters. In 1930, he developed most cancers of the backbone and was admitted to hospital for specialised emergency therapy. He did not get well from a severe operation, and died on eight August 1930, aged 58. He was buried within the Fawker Cemetery in Melbourne. Due to his household reference to the Earls of Minto he’s the one Olympic weightlifter to be listed in Burke’s Peerage, and as Britain’s solely Olympic weightlifting champion he has a place of prominence within the Scottish Athletes Corridor of Fame in Edinburgh.

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Supply by James W Bancroft

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