Spellman was a member of the United States weightlifting team at the 1948 London Olympics, competing in the middleweight division. He won the gold medal, and established Olympic records in the clean-and-jerk (336.25 pounds), and total lift (859.5 pounds)..
One of America's greatest weightlifters, Spellman began his weightlifting career in the early 1940s and was one of the sport's dominant figures for two decades. Drafted into the Army Air Corps in 1942, he defeated the British middleweight champion in June 1944, just days before the Normandy invasion.
With an honorable discharge in December 1945, Spellman won the U.S. middleweight title in 1946, setting an American mark in the press (257.75 pounds; this was actually higher than the official world record in the light-heavyweight class!). That year, he placed third at the World Championships and then finished second at the Worlds in 1947. In 1948, Spellman again won the U.S. title, breaking his own American record in the press (260 pounds); he then captured the North American middlweight title in 1949.
Spellman began the 1950s the way he ended the 1940s, as one of the top lifters in America. He won the middleweight gold medal at the Maccabiah Games and broke the American record in the press (261.75) for the third time in his career, finishing second at Nationals in the process. In 1954, he established a new world record at the AAU Squat Championships with a squat lift of 510 pounds; the old record was 505 pounds and the competition was the first AAU National Powerlifting Championships ever held. In 1961, at the ripe old age of 39, Spellman won his third U.S. middleweight title with a total lift of 800 pounds. He won his final championship in 1971, at the age of 49. He is a is a member of the U.S. Weightlifting Hall of Fame, the Helms Hall of Fame, and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Sept. 17, 1922
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)
Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)