German weightlifter Joseph Manger was known as the favorite of Adolf Hitler himself, and not for nothing. After all, it was Manger in the 1930s who was considered the strongest person on the planet. However, Joseph Stalin decided that the German athlete must certainly be defeated. The choice of the leader of the Soviet state in this matter fell on Sergo Hambardzumyan.
Sergo (born Sarkis) Hambardzumyan was born in 1910 in the village of Bist located in the mountains of Nakhichevan. Since childhood, Sergo has been distinguished by unprecedented physical strength. As an adult, he became engaged in weightlifting.
3 years after he first came to the sports section of Dynamo, Hambardzumyan became the champion of the USSR. During his active years, he has become the champion of the USSR 30 times.
Joseph Manger was born in Bavaria in 1913. In 1934, he took the silver medal at the European Championships. In 1935, he became European Champion in the +82.5 kg category. Up next were the 1936 Olympic Games that were to be held in the capital of Nazi Germany Berlin. Manger won gold at the Olympics as well.
For quite a long time, Manger has been titled as the strongest athlete on the globe. Hitler, in turn, was very satisfied. After all, Manger has been the best proof that the Aryan nation was invincible.
Upon learning that the representative of Nazi Germany has become an Olympic champion, Stalin after some pondering ordered to find some Soviet strongman. Soon, Sergo Hambardzumyan was brought to him.
Stalin told him that it was unacceptable for a German to become a winner and that this annoying oversight should be corrected. It is clear that Hambardzumyan had no choice but to agree with Stalin.
At the end of December 1938, Sergo Hambardzumyan made his fellow citizens the best New Year gift he could. It happened in Yerevan. Manger, as one could have expected, didn’t participate in this meet.
But the Soviet Armenian weightlifter broke his record in absentia. Sergo’s total of 433.5 kg impressed everyone. He was ahead of the German’s record by 8.5 kilograms! People rejoiced. At that moment, Hambardzumyan took the spot of the first strongman of the planet.
In the 1950s, Sergo Hambardzumyan resigned from professional sports due to health issues. Left without the favorite job and any material means, the champion had to work as a taxi driver and at some point supervise a barbecue shop. He passed away in 1983 at the age of 73 from a heart ailment.
As for Joseph Manger, he said goodbye to weightlifting after WWII and began to study finance. After completing his studies, he opened his own business. Manger passed at the age of 77 in 1991.