Night of the Olympics
In 1956, Paul weighed well over 350 pounds, his neck size was 24 inches, his biceps were over 24 inches, his chest 58 inches, and his thighs were 36 inches. In the best condition and form of his life, Paul was ready for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. All the experts of the day believed that Paul merely had to show up to win the Olympic gold medal.
Paul and his teammates arrived in Melbourne, Australia 18 days before the lifting competition. Shortly after his arrival, Paul began to feel feverish and unsteady but he could not pinpoint the reason. Less than two weeks before the competition, he awoke in the middle of the night burning with fever. He was treated by a doctor but for twelve days the fever raged as his body weight dropped by 30 pounds. He felt miserable and weak. There was constant talk of sending him back to the States since no one could determine what was wrong.
Three days before the competition, the doctors told Paul that he would not be able to lift and that they could not allow a man in his condition to compete. Paul asked the doctors to postpone their decision until the last possible moment and they agreed. Without the doctors’ consent, Paul put himself on four aspirins every three hours. The aspirins did bring the fever down and by the morning of the day he was scheduled to lift, November 25, 1956, his temperature was nearly normal. The concerned professionals said that would not forbid Paul’s competing if he would agree to take all responsibility.
The super-heavyweights were scheduled to lift at 8 p.m. but the meet was far behind schedule. Paul’s first lift arrived around 1 a.m. The effects of the aspirins had worn off and his fever had returned. Feeling dizzy and cold, he perspired profusely. Paul held on with each lift but was trailing behind an Argentine lifter in the point count. At 3:30 a.m., he approached the platform for his final lift. He had three chances to successfully make this lift. He would have to break the existing Olympic record to win the Gold.
On his first attempt he tried to drive the bar overhead but never got it past his chin. The bar crashed to the floor and the arena was silent except for the echo.
His second attempt, he rushed to the bar and pulled it to his chest. The weight felt heavier than before, the bar rumbled to the floor and he stomped away, bitterly disappointed. Paul waved his teammates away as they rushed to encourage him.
As he contemplated the possibilities of losing, his mind raced. He used his officially allotted rest period of three minutes to walk up a long, dark corridor. Paul felt as if God was reminding him of everything He had ever done for him. God had made him what he was. Everything Paul had accomplished had been because God had let him survive Bright’s disease as a child. God had given him loving Christian parents. In spite of these countless blessings, Paul had ignored God.
He found it impossible to pray. He tried twice but his heart was hardened by ignoring God for so long. At this lowest point in his life, a point to which many people must come before they realize a need for God; Paul recognized how unworthy he was of Christ’s love. He then returned for his third attempt at the lift.
The arena was silent. When Paul pulled the weight to his chest, he knew immediately that it was futile. He couldn’t put it overhead. Now he was desperate. In a split second, he found that he could be sincere with God. As quickly as the words raced through his heart and mind, he told the Lord he was aware of all that had been given him and he had returned nothing. Paul continued by pledging to God that he wanted to be part of His kingdom and from here on out; he was making a real commitment. Then Paul realized his immediate need and said, “I’m not trying to make a deal, Lord, no deals, but I must have Your help to get this weight overhead.” Paul made a true commitment to serve God for the rest of his life.
He gave the final push and drove the bar overhead, and it stayed. The crowd went wild as Paul returned the bar to the floor. He suddenly was the Olympic Gold Medalist.
In his autobiography, “A Greater Strength”, Paul remembered the smile on his face that early morning was not as much for the joy of victory or the relief the ordeal was over but for his new relationship with Christ.” What he had really won was not an Olympic Championship measured by the poundages of man but the strength of God’s Holy Spirit.
Throughout the remainder of Paul’s life, he would share his faith by saying that it was a tremendous thrill to win the Olympic Gold Medal for his country and to stand on the winner’s platform as the national anthem was played and the American flag was raised.
He would continue on by sharing that the greatest thrill in his life is knowing Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. “If I, Paul Anderson, the World’s Strongest Man, can not make it through one day without Jesus Christ, how can you?”
"If I, Paul Anderson, the World’s Strongest Man, can not make it through one day without Jesus Christ, how can you?”
Paul Anderson proudly standing on the podium at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.