WSBB Blog: Paul Anderson

WSBB Education
Fri Mar 05, 2021

Tags: Legends, Olympic, Powerlifting

Time to Read: 5min

When it comes to powerlifters, strongmen, and olympic lifters, the word “legend” gets thrown around quite often. Few truly live up to the definition of what a legend is, one man who did is powerlifter, olympic lifter, and strongman Paul Anderson. Known for inexplicable feats of strength, Paul was an Olympic gold medalist, world champion and national champion as a weightlifter.

Born in 1932, Paul Anderson grew up in Toccoa, Georgia where he began lifting weights using a homemade weight set his father built for him in order to gain size and strength to play football. Responding quickly to barbell training, Paul was able to win a starting role on his high school football team. After high school, Anderson attended Furman University on a football scholarship.

After college, Paul then moved with his family to Elizabethton, Tennessee where he would meet weightlifter Bob Peoples who recognized Paul’s natural ability to lift weights and began introducing him to the world of weightlifting. Paul began to excel at the sport of Olympic weightlifting, winning the AAU National Weightlifting Championship. In 1955, as the AAU champion, Paul traveled to compete in a weightlifting competition.

At the competition, famous weightlifter Alexey Medvedev matched the Olympic record of 330.3lbs in the two hand press. Paul was next to lift, calling for the bar to be loaded to 402.41lbs, a considerable amount more than his record matching competitor had just lifted. Russian lifters were in disbelief, thinking such a jump in weight was a joke.

Laughs turned to cheers as the American lifter completed the press, lifting overhead the heaviest weight in the world at the time. Not only beating a world class competitor, but beating him by over 70lbs.

Later in 1955, Paul would travel to Munich, Germany to participate in the weightlifting world championships. He would go on to establish a new press record of 407.7lbs, and win the world championship with a 1129.5lbs total. His final accomplishment in the world of Olympic weightlifting would be the capstone of his career, winning the gold medal at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia.

Lifting against famous Olympic Weightlifter Humberto Salvetti. Anderson competed despite being ill with a temperature of over 104 degrees fahrenheit making the competition close. At the end of the meet, the two lifters were locked in a tie. However, because he weighed in at a lesser weight, Paul Anderson was officially declared the 1956 Superheavyweight Olympic Weightlifting Gold Medalist.

Unfortunately, Paul’s Olympic career would be ended before the 1960 Olympic Games due to him accepting money to lift thus making him a professional lifter in the eyes of the Olympic committee. Paul would go on to lift as a professional, squatting 1200lbs, benching 628lbs, and deadlifting 820lbs.

After becoming an Olympic gold medalist, Paul would use his athletic notoriety to have a positive impact on people. He and his wife, Glenda, founded the Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia, Georgia. He and his wife would travel the United States, making numerous appearances every year, using his strength exhibitions as a way to help people and share his faith.

Paul would unfortunately pass away in 1994 at the age of 61 due to a kidney condition that he had dealt with since childhood. Paul is remembered as a world class Olympic lifter, a world class powerlifter, a world class strongman, and a world class human. Considered the strongest man to ever walk the face of the earth, Paul Anderson is a true lifting legend.