The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Doug Hepburn

Weightlifting

1953


Photo of Doug Hepburn lifting weights above his head

Photo of Doug Hepburn lifting weights above his head

Date
1953
Collection
Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Velikolepno!

Doug Hepburn matched his enormous physical strength with remarkable inner strength. Born with a club foot and a severe alternating squint, Doug rose above the taunts and hardships of his handicaps to seek a place where he could excel. Surgery eventually corrected his eyes but multiple operations that attempted to straighten his foot left him with a permanently atrophied lower leg and a weak fused ankle. In weightlifting he found the ultimate satisfaction.

It became an obsession. He once told his mother "I'm going to be the strongest man in the world!"

Doug had a superior talent for lifting above his head and the clean-and-press became his trademark lift. He developed enormous shoulder strength in part to compensate for his rigid right ankle and a leg that lacked the flexibility required for the other two 'Olympic' lifts, the snatch, and clean-and-jerk.

The self-taught weightlifter began a Canadian and world record spree in the clean-and-press. In 1951, he won the U.S. Open Championship and in the same year at the U.S. Senior Nationals, he set an official world record in the clean-and-press with a lift of 345½ pounds. While the U.S. accepted his world records, the Canadian Amateur Athletics Union rejected his results. He was not considered for the 1952 Helsinki Canadian Olympic team.

Rising above the sting of a mind-boggling Olympic rejection, Doug put on a series of exhibitions to raise just enough funds to travel to the 1953 World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden. With no coach, little money, and a badly sprained ankle from a lifting injury, he departed for Sweden.

In Sweden, the British team coach and the Russians came to the aid of the amiable Canadian. Neither had a heavyweight competitor and the Russians hoped that Hepburn would beat legendary American John Davis, the defending world champion, giving them a chance to beat the U.S. for the team title. The Russian team physician gave Hepburn a full physical before the final and exclaimed, "Velikolepno!" Russian for magnificent!

With three lifts: a world record 371½ pound press, a 297¼ pound snatch and a 363¼ pound clean-and-jerk, totaling 1033 lbs., Hepburn beat runner-up Davis who managed 1007 lbs.

The gold medal was monumental for Doug Hepburn who simply wanted to earn the respect of his mother and his country. A genuine Canadian hero, he achieved his childhood dream and held the title of "World's Strongest Man," given at that time to the world champion.

Vancouver’s Doug Hepburn Wins Marsh Trophy Adobe PDF Transcript


Highlights

1949
Unofficial Canadian press record: 300 pounds
1950
Unofficial world clean-and-press record: 339 ½ pounds
1951
U.S. National Open Champion; Set official world clean-and-press record: 330 pounds; U.S. Senior Nationals Set world clean-and-press record: 345½ pounds
1952
Pacific Coast Weightlifting Champion; Set world clean-and-press record: 361 pounds; World Heavyweight Champion; Set world clean-and-press record 371¼ pounds
1953
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
1954
British Empire Games - Gold medal in heavyweight
1954
Man of B.C.