Poddubny Ivan Maksimovich is one of the most legendary figures in the world of sports, a six-time world wrestling champion, a giant, a strong man, an amazing person with a difficult fate, who was born the century before last and still remains the idol of young wrestlers.
Ivan Poddubny was born in the Poltava region, in the small village of Bogodukhovka in the fall of 1871. The family was large and not too rich, but the father, who came from a family of Zaporozhye Cossacks, never complained about his health, and the children succeeded in it. Ivan received a heroic degree from his father, and an ear for music from his mother.
Already at the age of 12, Vanya went to be hired as a farm laborer, where he surprised everyone with remarkable strength and incredible endurance. In the amusing struggle that the men arranged, he often came out the winner. When he grew up, Ivan fell in love with the daughter of a local wealthy merchant Vityak, but he had no chance of marrying a girl, and his father sent his son away from the village so that he would not do something stupid.
So Ivan ended up in the port of Sevastopol, where he began to work as a loader. Every evening the workers entertained themselves with fist wrestling - and here Ivan had no equal. Rumors about his extraordinary size, strength and dexterity spread throughout the district, and soon Ivan met the famous athletes Vasiliev and Preobrazhensky, who convinced him to start professional training. At the time, wrestling was more of a circus performance than a separate sport.
In 1896, the young strongman received an offer to become an artist of the troupe Truzzi, the famous Italian. Huge crowds came to watch the performances of Poddubny. The audience especially admired the number with the telegraph pole, which was placed on the shoulders of the athlete, and people were hung on the pole until it broke. And all this time Ivan stood rooted to the spot, calmly supporting the weight of a couple of dozen onlookers (along with a heavy pillar) on his shoulders.
In 1900, a fashion for Greco-Roman wrestling appeared in Russia, and athletes began to master this style, becoming real gladiators in the arena. Poddubny also began to train and went abroad for the first time to represent his country in France at the 1903 wrestling tournament in Paris. Ivan put all his rivals in sawdust, but could not pass Raoul de Boucher, with his fraudulent tactics (Boucher smeared his body with oil so that the enemy could not reliably capture him) and dishonest tricks. The judges, despite the anger of the audience, awarded the victory to the Frenchman.
The upset of the good-natured giant was so great that he almost abandoned his wrestling career, but friends persuaded him to stay. And then Poddubny caught fire with a new idea - he decided to take revenge, and soon he succeeded in a tournament that took place in St. Petersburg. Ivan literally juggled with a much smaller Frenchman to the friendly laughter of the audience. After that, Poddubny Ivan Maksimovich never lost a tournament or competition, sometimes giving victory to the enemy only in individual battles.
After the First World War, in 1922, Ivan began performing in the already Soviet Moscow circus, at the same time becoming a mentor for young athletes. Despite his rather solid age (51 years old), he remained an invincible strongman, never sick with anything. The health and heroic appearance of this man amazed all spectators.
In 1924, Ivan went on tour in Europe and the USA. And in 1926, Poddubny became the absolute champion of America in wrestling, striking everyone not only with incredible size, strength and skill, but also with his athletic longevity - after all, this Russian hero was 55 years old then!
Last years and death
Ivan left the arena only at the age of 70, earning a lot of money and worldwide fame. And not at all because of fatigue or health. He just wanted a quiet life. Unfortunately, it didn't work out quietly. It was in this year that World War II began, and the athlete was locked up by the Germans in the occupied city of Yeisk.
The Nazis offered him a lot of money and benefits in order for him to go to Germany to train German soldiers, but Poddubny responded with a resolute refusal. After the war, Ivan lived in terrible poverty, like many people in the difficult post-war period, selling their awards for bread. The hero died of a heart attack in August 1949, in the same Yeisk, where a monument was later erected to him. And the phrase is engraved on the memorial stone: "Here the Russian hero lies."
The strongman's first love did not end in anything, he was forced to leave Alenka Vityak, whom he fell in love with as a beardless youth. When Poddubny began performing in the circus, he fell in love with a forty-year-old flexible circus performer, but she left the young lover when a wealthier man appeared on the horizon.
Tender and touching mutual love with the young gymnast Dozmarova ended tragically - the girl crashed, falling from a height. Ivan's next darling was the capricious actress Antonina Kvitko, who, having cheated on her gullible husband, raked out all the money and awards he had accumulated and fled with the officer.
And only in 1922, Ivan met a woman a little older than himself, the mother of one of his students, Maria Manoshina, got married and was happily married for a long time. Ivan was familiar with many famous people of that time, and, according to them, was a man of a generous soul, rare kindness and childish gullibility.