The Undefeated

20.10.2016 22:18 David_Kocharyan

Rafael Arkadyevich Chimishkyan. Born March 23, 1929, in one of Tbilisi's oldest neighborhoods-Zemelya.

Olympic champion (1952)

Two-time World champion (1954, 1955)

Six-time European champion (1950, 1952, 1954-1957)

Five-time USSR champion (1949, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1960)

Distinguished Master of Sports of the USSR (1952)

International-category arbiter

Honorary vice-president of Georgia Weightlifting Federation

Named "Georgia's Best Weightlifter of the XXth Century"

Honorary Citizen of Tbilisi

Nature granted Rafael Chimishkyan a wonderful gift-optimism. An athlete, a fighter by nature, Chimishkyan, naturally, didn't always leave the platform with laurels. But he was never defeated. Because Chimishkyan always had enough faith and energy to conquer a new apex, to overcome the barrier in his way and to always reach his goal.

That happened every time. When, as a boy, Rafael kicked the leather ball on the grass field of Tbilisi, when as a mature athlete he would break records and crush the favorites. And even illness didn't break his zest for life, at a time when he couldn't train for over a year, and upon returning to the gym learned that he has to start from scratch.

I met Rafael Chimishkyan during that long-ago era when he was at the peak of athletic popularity. Rafael rarely visited Moscow, but when he did, we always met. He always entered our home sharply dressed, with a perfect haircut, his dark eyes twinkled with mischievous joy, and all his movements were marked with strength and surety.

I thought Chimishkyan was born this way. Turns out, I was wrong. Except for optimism, that was a hereditary trait.

Like all boys born and raised in Tbilisi, Chimishkyan started in football and dreamt of football.

But his football career didn't take off. And it's difficult to say where he could have distinguished himself there. He wasn't powerfully built, was small, thin, and his friends at automotive school, where he studied, would mock him: "What kind of driver are you gonna be when you can't even depress the clutch?"

Rafael didn't take offence at jibes. More and more his was drawn to his tall, handsome friend Yakovich, who trained at the Dynamo weightlifting club. Chimishkynan would hang on to his every word, when he would talk of his practice sessions, about how he "grew strength." Yakovich was obviously flattered by his young friend's adoration and sincere interest in his affairs, but he never thought of inviting Rafael to the facility.

And Yakovich was not aware of Rafik's ambitious plans, about how he was determined to prove that he's no wimp. Chimishkyan bought dumbells and kettllebells, and began to exercise every day. Only an accident revealed his secret plans. One day during the summer, he and Yakovich went swimming, and when they disrobed, Yakovich was amazed by Rafael's strong muscles, which were hidden by the loose jacket. Without thinking twice, the same day Yakovich dragged Chimishkyan to his coach Pavel Humashyan.

Humashyan was one of the best teachers in Georgia. He immediately saw the possibility of extraordinary athleticism in the 16-year old young man that came to his facility. Rafael was naturally quick, flexible, and hardy, while strength, as is known, can almost always be increased with training.

-If you'll work hard, you'll achieve something,-Humashyan told Rafael at the very beginning of his athletic career.

-Please tell me, can I ever be the country's champion? - the boy asked excitedly.

Coach only smiled in return.

Work ethic and stubborness led the youth closer and closer to his goals. In 1949 Rafael won his first national title.

-Well, your dream cam true,-Humashyan told him. And now you must conquer new heights.

Before Helsinki Olympics, Chimishkyan was, arguably, one of the most decorated and experienced athetes on our team: two-time Soviet champion, a European champion, an acknowledged leader in his weight class. The coaching council, when deciding on who will compete in Helsinki, chose athletes who can gain the maximum of points. Americans were still leaders in the heavy categories, it was not possible to defeat John Davis and James Bradford. So, the council opted to send two athletes in the weight classes where we were the strongest. Besides Chimishkyan, the honor of representing our great nation in featherweight class was entrusted to Nikolai Saksonov, who went through a hard school of World War II.

22 athletes competed in featherweight category. But, as it soon became obvious, Chimishkyan's main rival was his teammate Nikolai Saksonov. Other participants were not that well-prepared. The Tbilisi athlete ended up having a long and tiring contest against Saksonov. And the duel of two Soviet athletes ended up being showy, esthetical, and tense.

However, a Trinidad athlete, Rodney Wilkes, immediately involved himself in their race, and was even ahead after the first portion.

In clean and press, the Tbilisi athlete made 97.5kg, Nikolai Saksonov-95kg. Rodrigo del Rosario of Phillipines went ahead of everyone, making 105kg on his third try. Wilkes followed him with 100kg.

The contest continued. In snatch, Chimishkyan went ahead, racking up an impressive 105kg. Saksonov got the same weight, being tied after two events with Wilkes at 200 kg.

Then came the decisive part-jerk. All other participants already finished their performances, while the Soviet athletes had yet to take the platform. Spectators eagerly anticipated an exciting duel.

The contest began at 20:00 Helsinki time and continued long past midnight. Fatigue weighed like lead upon the athletes' shoulders. They had to recall all their willpower when called up on stage.

The clock showed 2 a.m. Rafael Chimishkyan was called up. He asked for 130kg. Taking his time, as if aiming, he bent down towards the device. A second later he smoothly lifted it off the platform, curled it, and it lay on his chest. Now it had to be pushed up on straight hands. One more effort-and the bar lay still on Chimishkyan's raised hands. Audience gave the Soviet athlete thunderous applause, as he equalled the world-record total of the Egyptian lifter Mahmoud Fayad-332.5kg. But Chimishkyan had two more tries lefr.

-Chimishkyan is a great athlete!-exclaimed the Finnish journalist as he ran towards the head Soviet coach.-Where did you find him?

-Among the people,-smiled Kutsenko.-We have many like him.

Spurred on by his teammate's success, Nikolai Saksonov joined the fray-he owned the world record in jerk. Saskonov began with 132.5kg, aiming to catch Chimishkyan on the first try. The Sverdlovsk native easily lifted the barbell. Upon being offered to match that weight, the Tbilisi athlete told the judge:


Audience grew silent. Chimishkyan went for 135kg. All attention turned on athlete's every movement, spectators were shocked at the way Soviet lifters behaved-bravely, almost recklessly. Chimishkyan's first try was unsuccessful. After taking the bar up on his chest, Rafael couldn't fix it up on straight hands. That was understandable-the athlete was tired: the clock's hands were near 3a.m.

-Concetrate!-yelled on of supporters to Chimishkyan.

But Rafael was sure that he will conquer the barbell. At the last try he took the bar on his chest with precision, and following the judge's signal, raised it.

The judge took his time at allowing him to drop it. And Chimishkyan stood there on the platform, calm and collected, with a huge weight on straightened hands. This weight surpassed the world record by five kilos, and added a new one to three-event record-337.5kg. Nikolai Saksonov, who had two tries left, tried to catch up with his teammate, but failed. The 22-year old Dynamo athlete from the capital of Soviet Georgia became the second Olympic champion in the history of Soviet weightlifting.

His rivalry with Nikolai Saksonov continued for a few more years and now forms one of the most exciting pages in weightlifitng history. At times, Rafael would fade into background, as it happened, for example, at the USSR Championship in Tallin, also at World Championship at Stockholm. But he immediately drew lessons from defeats and soon became first again.

At the 1954 World Championship in Vienna the journalists dubbed Chimishkyan "A Little Miracle"? Why miracle? I. Borisov explained:

На чемпионате мира в Вене в 1954 году журналисты прозвали Чимишкяна "маленьким чудом". Почему чудом? Это объяснил И.Борисов:

There is a way to measure strength: weight, lifted by the athlete, is divided by his own weight. The hire the result, the bigger the might. Journalists divided 143kg.60g. (Chimishkyan's weight), and were surprised-such a coefficient was yet to be reached in weighlifting history. Isn't that miraculous?

But the real miracle was the victory of our debuting weightlifters in Helsinki. The started the glorious traditions, followed by the new generations: to fight selflessly, bravely, in honor of the sport, in honor of our great Homeland...

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