Joe Nordquest  

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Joe Nordquest

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

Joe Nordquest“Can a totally disabled man every be a weightlifting champion?  At first thought the answer must obviously be “no”!  But there was a man, a man of the most resolute determination, a man so fired with the desire to achieve a niche in the Hall of Strength that total disability proved no handicap!  That man was Joseph Nordquest.  You need only look at the set of his jaw to realize that here was a man who could do anything he set out to do.

When a child he lost his left leg in an accident. (An insurance company accepts a lost eye, leg or arm a total disability).  With that tremendous handicap Joe Nordquest started on his career as one of the strongest men America ever saw.  He was fortunate in that his brother, Adolph, had already established himself as one of the nation’s best iron men, so barbell and dumbbells were right at hand. (Adolph so closely resembled Sandow facially, that humorous incidents arose such as people seeing Sandow on Broadway, when the same day he was lifting in London.)

Joe started his lifting career as a middleweight but soon developed into a heavyweight.  Strength fans like to debate on Joe’s possibilities had he not lost a leg.  Many believe he could have shattered Saxon’s bent press record.

Joe was a good hand-balancer and tumbler.  One of his best feats was performing a handstand on a table about 30 inches high, then jumping to the floor and still remaining in the handstand position.  Perhaps there are some lighter tumblers who can duplicate that stunt or even better it, but who at 209 pounds? Joe Nordquest curled 180 pounds two repetitions on several occasions and it was this exercise that built his beautiful upper arms.

Joe set and still holds the official United States record in the bent press with the mark of 277¼ pounds.  He had performed 300 in training but never duplicated the feat in a contest.  Imagine how difficult it must have been for him to complete this lift which requires such perfect timing and balance when he had but one leg!  Joe military pressed 124¼ with the right hand which also stands as the official American Record. Few men ever took a record away from Arthur Saxon, but Joe prone pressed 388 pounds to erase the former’s mark of 386.

Of Swedish stock, Joe was 5 ft 7 ½ ins. tall, weighed 209 pounds, had a 47 ¾ inch normal chest, 35-inch waist, 18 ¼ in upper arm 15 ¼ in forearms and 29 ½ inch thighs.  Truly the most Herculean of American iron men. Several years ago, long after he had retired form the Strength world, Joe required a new artificial leg.  It was during the depression and Joe’s financial condition did not permit him to make an immediate purchase, however, when this fact was mentioned in STRENGTH AND HEALTH magazine, the weightlifters of America instantly responded and donated Joe the expensive artificial limb.

Today Champion Joe Nordquest is recuperating in a sanitarium in Ashtabula Ohio, from an ailment brought about by blood poisoning and it is the hope and wish of every true strength lover in America that he will soon be better and in spite of his age, again try his hand at lifting."

(c)Mighty Men of Old

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