Adrian Deriaz & Emile Deriaz

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Adrian Deriaz & Emile Deriaz

From “Mighty Men of Old” Vol. I (n.d.) (Author unknown)

Adiran Deriaz

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 “It is not unusual in weightlifting, and for that matter in other sports, that when an older brother of a family becomes proficient in a sport his younger brother or brothers follow his footsteps.  Such is the case of the Di Maggios – Joe, Vince and Dominic; the Baers – Max and Buddy; the Dashing Duseks – Emil, Ernie, Rudy and Wally: the Arcors – Otto and Peter, and the Zybszkos – Stan and Wally.
Left – Adrian Deriaz

Likewise, among the old time strong men, one of five brothers, Emile Deriaz, attained worldwide recognition as a wrestler and weightlifter, only to find his younger brothers close at his heels as competitors, Emile, Maurice, Adrian, Ulysses and Florian were the members of the Deriaz clan of Switzerland that invaded France to garner a crop of wrestling and weightlifting titles. Emile was the best all-around athlete; he could perform a standing broad jump in excess of 10 feet.  He set a record in the one hand swing of 193¼ pounds which later fell to Vasseur, then to Rigoulet.  One of his best feats was the pressing overhead with one hand a 189-pound dumbbell, then shifting from the erect to the prone position on the floor, then to the upright again while still holding the dumbell aloft.  Emile was at his best as a lifter in 1903 and as wrestler in 1907.

Adrian won the Wrestling Championship of France in 1906 in Paris, weighing only 176 pounds.  He was exceptionally good at the one hand lifts and made a one hand clean and jerk of 223¼ pounds, a right-hand snatch of 177 pounds (he was one of the few men in the world at that time who could snatch more than his bodyweight).  In the two hands snatch he made 210 pounds but could clean and jerk 243 pounds with two dumbbells. Adrian was 5 feet 7 inches in height, had a 48-inch chest and it was claimed he had an 18-inch upper arm. 

Emile DeriazEmil (right) was 5 feet 9½ inches tall and weighed 220 pounds; his chest was 53 inches and his biceps 17½.  The Deriaz brothers have always been called “Switzerland’s answer to mass production of strong men.” Emile for a number of years tried hard to shatter the record in the right-hand snatch of 196 pounds set in 1898 by George Hackenschmidt, however he was never able to surpass the mark he made in the one hand swing which is a far more difficult lift and most experts thought him capable of at least 200.  The swing is made with a dumbell and the snatch with the barbell and the Deriaz boys were staunch advocates of dumbell training and seldom handled the long bar; perhaps this is the reason it took so long to break the record of the Russian Lion.

We should briefly mention some of the records set back in the early 1900’s for many of them still stand today.  For instance, Josef Steinbach’s two dumbbells clean and jerk of 167½ pounds in each hand, total of 335 pounds may never be broken or even equaled although John Grimek, early in his career, clean and jerked 142 pounds in each hand, total of 284, Lurich of Russia’s one hand jerk from the shoulder of 266 ranks as one of the immortal feats of the strength world.  The highest recorded one hand clean and jerk with barbell is 250¼ by Hunnenberger of Switzerland.  Michael Maler of Vienna set the one arm military press record of 143 pounds which was erased by Witzelberger of German’s mark of 147, the present record, Wilhelm Turck of Vienna made a two-hand press with dumbbells of 279¼ pounds, 140 in the right and 139¼ left.  Gustave Wain of Estonia performed four deep knee bends with 189 held at arm’s length overhead!  Hans Hensan of Copenhagen in 1889 performed 65 deep knee bends with 277 pounds!

Some of the feats of the “not-so-old timers” also deserve mention, such as Hans Hass of Vienna’s world record one hand clean and jerk of 248 pound while weighing only 160, Rigoulot’ s one hand snatch of 253 pounds, the only case where a snatch lift exceeds the jerk: Ronald Walker of England’s one hand clean of 300 pounds; Stanglemeir’s world record two hands curl with 225 pounds!

© Mighty Men of Old 

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