Have you ever carried a fridge up to the 8th floor on your own? Neither have I, but this is one of the things that Aleksandr Karelin could do. Some of his other exceptional feats include gold medals in three consecutive Olympic games, a career wrestling record of 887 wins and 2 losses and the Karelin lift.
The Karelin lift (a reverse body lift) was named after Karelin when he became the first super heavyweight (130 kg+ / 287 lbs+) in Greco-Roman wrestling to ever successfully complete the manoeuvre. When the Russian exhibited his signature move for the first time on American soil, he was nicknamed “The Experiment”, as wrestlers in the US did not believe that a human being could perform the lift on a 130 kg opponent.
Karelin’s competitors were not only in disbelief, but also horrified. In Greco-Roman wrestling you lose points if you turn your back to the mat, yet, Karelin’s opponents would happily roll on their back when the Russian was trying to execute the Karelin lift. It may have saved them a broken neck and a few points, — as the lift earned Karelin the maximum 5 points — but the voluntary submission of points was considered extremely cowardly. “Yes, I see fear in the eyes of most of my opponents,” Karelin told Sports Illustrated in an interview in 1991.
Karelin’s dominance of international Greco-Roman wrestling spanned from 1987 to 2000. After losing to the reigning champion Igor Rostorotsky in the USSR championships in 1987, Karelin went undefeated in competition until the Sydney Olympics, where he lost to American Rulon Gardner in the final. Karelin retired from wrestling following his devastating defeat to Gardner to focus on a career in politics.
Karelin’s legendary athlete status has surely helped him in parliamentary elections, but the man is no meathead either. During his wrestling career, Karelin would spend his free time studying, listening to classical music and writing poems. His favorite writer used to be famous satirist Mikhail Bulgakov and he also greatly enjoyed the poems of peasant poet Sergei Yesenin.
“[Karelin] is a highly talented man. His knowledge and his feeling for poetry, literature and music are incredible. He is witty, full of puns and constantly embellishing his language with passages from books and music,” said Karelin’s interpreter to Sports Illustrated in 1991.
By the time he ended his wrestling career, Karelin had obtained a law degree and a PhD in sport-related pedagogy. Funnily enough, his PhD explored countermeasures against the throws that his opponents were never able to defend against…
The Karelin lift in action (starts at around 0:15):
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