Launceston Elliot was a weightlifter and Scotland's first Olympic champion, returning triumphant from the first modern Games in Athens in 1896.
Born in Kaladgi, India, in 1874, his family was an established part of the Scottish aristocracy, and the young Launceston grew into an exceptionally well-built youth and talented lifter.
After returning to Britain, his first triumph came in 1894 at the age of 17, when he won the British Weightlifting Championships at the Royal Aquarium in Westminster. Two years later he travelled to Greece for the Olympics and won gold in the one-handed lift and silver in the two-handed. He also placed fourth in Greco-Roman wrestling and took part in the rope-climbing event, and while he did not make the final of the 100m, he placed third in his heat.
He was also popular off the field; his fans in Athens included the Crown Prince of Greece and a lady who proposed to him.
Two years after the Olympics, Launceston set a new world record for single-handed lifting, and also set four new weightlifting records at the Amateur Championships in 1899. In 1900, after competing in the discus at the Olympics, he decided to turn professional, using his strongman skills to establish a highly-successful performance act, the highlight of which saw him picking up a bar with a bicycle and rider at each end.
With the rest of his troupe, he performed across Britain and Europe and visited South America. He may also have taken the show to the United States, although reports are unconfirmed. After his retirement, he settled down as a gentleman farmer, first in England and later in Melbourne, Australia, where he died in 1930. He is buried in the city’s Fawkner Cemetery.
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