Doug Hepburn

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Doug Hepburn
Doug Hepburn.jpg
Born (1926-09-16)September 16, 1926
Vancouver, Canada
Died November 22, 2000(2000-11-22) (aged 74)
Occupation strongman, Olympic weightlifting, professional wrestling,
Height 5 ft 8,5 in (1.74 m)
Weight 300 lbs (136kg) active
Competition record
Competitor for  Canada
Men's Weightlifting
World Weightlifting Championships
Gold 1953 Stockholm +90 kg
British Empire Games
Gold 1954 Vancouver +90 kg

Douglas Ivan Hepburn (September 16, 1926 – November 22, 2000) was a Canadian strongman and weightlifter. He won weightlifting gold medals in the 1953 World Weightlifting Championships as well as the 1954 British Empire Games in the heavyweight division. He is also known as the first man to bench press 400, 450, and 500 pounds (raw). During the 1950s he was publicly known as the "world's strongest man" for his many feats of strength. Hepburn has been inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (1953), Canada's Sports Hall of Fame (1955), and the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame (1966).

Early life[edit]

Born in Vancouver with a deformity to his right foot (club foot) and a vision distortion called (cross-eyes), Hepburn had to go through surgery multiple times during his childhood.[1] He began lifting weights as a high school teen-ager at the Vancouver YMCA, and upon dropping out of school, tried to find work that he could balance with his lifting. Having escaped the Second World War because of his foot, he set about becoming the strongest man in the world.[2]

Career[edit]

Weightlifting[edit]

Hepburn entered competition in 1948, and set an unofficial Canadian record (300lbs. clean&press) at his first competition. He took the U.S. Open title in 1947, by pressing 345lbs. Hepburn set another Canadian weightlifting record in 1950 and went on to win a gold medal at the 1953 World Weightlifting Championships in Stockholm with a 1030 lbs Olympic 3-lift-total.[3] After years of trying to attract public interest, the win in Stockholm had finally catapulted him into the media spotlight.[2] During his preparations for the 1954 British Empire Games in his hometown of Vancouver, the whole city got behind him, and he was given $150 a week while training in a gym by then-mayor Fred Hume. At the Games, Hepburn would claim another weightlifting gold medal in the heavyweight division by lifting a total of 1040 lbs (370lbs press - 300lbs snatch - 370lbs clean & jerk) to set a new Games record[3] becoming a Canadian national hero.[2] He was awarded the Lou Marsh Trophy in 1953 and was named British Columbia's Man of the Year for 1954.

Personal weightlifting records[edit]

Strongman[edit]

While training for the weightlifting championships, Hepburn performed as a strongman at two to three shows a week across Canada, ripping licence plates, crushing cans of oil, and lifting weights with his baby finger, as well as more traditional lifting: shoulder presses, squats, bench presses, two-handed curls.[2] His accomplishments as a strongman were nothing short of astounding. Some of his strength feats he made during his career include:

  • World record press of 371 1/4 pounds at the 1953 world championships[5]
  • Two hand press off rack: 440 pounds[5]
  • Jerk press: 500 pounds[5]
  • Squat: 760 pounds[5]
  • Two-Hand strict curl: 260 pounds[5]
  • Crucifix: 200 pounds (100 pound dumbbell in each hand)[5]
  • Wide-Grip Bench Press: 580 pounds (touch and go)[5]
  • Right-hand military press: 175 pounds[5]

In addition, Hepburn claimed the following best lifts in his biography:

  • Press off the Rack: 450 pounds[4]/110/Five_Things_I_Learned_from_Doug_Hepburn.aspx[4]
  • Push Press off the Rack: 500 pounds[4]
  • One-Arm Military Press: 200, and 37 reps with 120 pounds[4]
  • Two-Hand Barbell Curl: 260 pounds[4]
  • Bench Press: 580 pounds[4]
  • Squat: 800 pounds[4]
  • Deadlift: 800 pounds[4]
  • Crucifix: 110-pound dumbbells in each hand[4]
  • One-Arm Side Hold-Out: 120 pounds[4]
  • One-Arm Side Press: 250 pounds[4]

Hepburn also became the first man in history to bench press 400, 450, and 500 pounds. He set a series of bench press world records in the early 1950s: In November 1950 he pressed 400 lbs (181.82 kg), in 1951 he pressed 450 lbs (204.55 kg), and finally 500 lbs (227.27 kg) in December 1953.[6][7]

Like his father and stepfather, Hepburn battled with alcoholism and consequently suffered from depression.[1] After his triumphs in the early 1950s, he became a professional wrestler for a brief period of time.

Wrestling[edit]

After his successes as a weightlifter, he became a professional wrestler. He was originally approached by San Francisco-based wrestling promoter Joe Malcewicz, but Hepburn turned down the offer. He later got involved in the business when he agreed to perform feats of strength at wrestling events promoted by Whipper Billy Watson.

In January 1955, he signed what was announced as a five-year contract with Toronto promoter Frank Tunney. After being trained by Watson and Pat Frayley, Hepburn defeated Frank Marconi in his debut match on March 22 that year. He later fought Fritz Von Erich. Hepburn ultimately quit working for Tunney; he had one more brief stint as a wrestler while working for Cliff Parker in British Columbia before retiring.[2]

Other careers[edit]

Hepburn was a singer and songwriter, releasing a Christmas tune, the "Hepburn Carol". He had literary ambitions and had a large output of essays and poems and other writings. At the age of 37, Hepburn opened his own gym. In his later years, he custom built gym equipment and marketed protein powder and other sports supplements.

Death[edit]

Hepburn died of a perforated ulcer at age 74.

References[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
George Genereux
Lou Marsh Trophy winner
1953
Succeeded by
Marilyn Bell