Ronald Walker (22 Dec. 1907 - 25 Oct. 1948)

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Ronald Walker By Ian Hampson

Ron Walker

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Heavy-weight Olympic Weightlifting Champion

Yorkshire born Ron Walker was an Olympic Weightlifter who, in his lifetime, held 26 British Heavyweight records. 

From 1938 he ran a postal Physical Development Course in London. After years of deteriorating health starting in 1940 he finally succumbed to cancer of the stomach and died in 1948. He is still held in very high regard in the world of weightlifting. 

Ron Walker from Wakefield was one of only four Yorkshire lifters to represent Great Britain at the Olympics, and his achievements rightly rank him as possibly Yorkshire's best ever lifter, and certainly amongst its best ever sportsmen.

At the time of his death in 1948 he held no less than 21 British Heavyweight records. This included One Hand Snatches of over 200lbs, and most importantly today, a Two Hands Snatch of 297½lbs.

This Snatch of 135kg in December 1936 was the first ever World Record on one of the Olympic Set performed by a British lifter.

advantages of many of today's lifters. He smoked heavily, but displays the impressive physique of the early Olympic lifter - big shoulders and arms but no pecs! In addition, Ron had near legendary thickness in his back muscle development, from work shoveling coal onto delivery carts.

Three points about Ron make his achievements even more remarkable:- His Olympic lifts were performed using the "Split" Clean and Snatch techniques, rather than the more modern (and more effective) "Squat" techniques, and the Clean was a real Clean - no hitting the legs with the bar!

He lifted more weight than recorded in the record books - lifts were often not ratified as records because of there being few referees and sets of certified scales around. Although lifting as a "Heavyweight", Ron rarely lifted at much over 14 stone, and would have comfortably made the 90kg class nowadays. The Heavyweight lower class limit was just 82.5kg in pre-war days!

Ron first lifted as a novice in 1929. In 1930 he was British Twelve Stone Champion, and in 1931 started his run of British Heavyweight titles.

Berlin Olympics 1936

Ron Walker placed 4th in the Heavyweight Class at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 . He was easily the lightest of the (main) competitors, and was much better at the fast lifts than the Press. Without the Press, he would have won! Articles in the lifting press at the time accused the referees of being partisan, as a German and an Austrian turned down good looking lifts which would have given Ron gold ahead of the German World Champion.

The team consisted of: F. Marsh Featherweight, H.E.K. Laurance Middleweight, N. Holroyd Featherweight, A. Griffin Lightweight, R. Walker Heavyweight.


Photo from the British Olympic Association Report.
Contributed by Ian Hampson

Ron still held the YNE Snatch record when the new weight classes were introduced in 1993. He still holds several British All-Round Records, as well as YNE Records. Curiously, the British Records are recorded in the 100kg Class, and the YNE Records in the 110kg Class! British Records Ron still holds.

Results of the 1936 Olympics:

Name Nation Bodyweight Press Snatch Clean & Jerk Total
 Josef Manger GER 105.0 132½ 122½ 155 410
Vaclav Psenicka CSR 104.2 122½ 125 155 402½
 Arnold Luhaar EST 120.0 115 120 165 400
Ron Walker GBR 88.5 110 127½ 160 397½
Nine others including John Grimek

Ron Walker

Ron Walker posing next to his trophies.

(Ron's Olympic Snatch Record was broken by the great American Norbert Schemansky in 1948). He set his final British (professional) Record in 1947, and finally succumbed to cancer shortly after the 1948 Olympics in London, at the age of forty. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Harehills Cemetery, Leeds.

©Ron Walker by Ian Hampson

Ronald Walker, Courtesy of British Pathé

Photo Gallery of Ronald Walker


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Ronald Walker 22 Dec. 1907 - 25 Oct. 1948

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