Rowing History Footnote: Leave it to Sandow, the Strong Man…

Earlier on HTBS there was an entry about the crews who rowed in the 1897 Boat Race. The Dark Blues won, despite the high hopes the Light Blues had to overcome their antagonists. In September the same year, the satirical Punch, or the London Charivari published a funny illustration how the 1898 Cambridge crew would look if ‘Sandow, the strong man’ would be in charge of the Light Blues’ training, using ‘his own system’.

‘Sandow, the strong man’ was actually Eugen Sandow (1867–1925), who was born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller, a Prussian pioneer also known as the ‘father of modern bodybuilding’. He began his career as a circus athlete, but soon shifted over from lifting heavy obstacles to flexing his muscles. On it says: ‘Sandow’s resemblance to the physiques found on classical Greek and Roman sculpture was no accident, as he measured the statues in museums and helped to develop “The Grecian Ideal” as a formula for the “perfect physique.”’

Read more about Sandow here.

View a short clip on Sandow showing off his body art:

In the article “The Making of a Rowing Blue”, published in The Tatler on 5 March, 1902, Walter ‘Guts’ Woodgate wrote: ‘The Farnese Hercules would be a duffer in the boat; he has too much arm and shoulder and too light a loin in proportion. He would try to do all his work with arms, especially with biceps, and would be a bad choice for a torpid or lower division eight.’

Maybe this is why the Light Blues never asked Sandow to coach them? No, to be honest, Sandow did a lot to help rowing and other sports by publishing a paper, Sandow’s Magazine of Physical Culture, which had some very well-written articles on all kinds of different sports.

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