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Louis Cyr

From Academic Kids

Louis Cyr, baptised Cyprien-Noé Cyr (October 10, 1863November 10, 1912) was a famous Canadian strongman. Cyr never backed down from a challenge and was undefeated in Canada and abroad. His fame was earned before accurate records were kept and before weight lifting was included among Olympic events.

Louis Cyr
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Louis Cyr
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Early years

Cyr was born in St. Cyprien de Napierville in Quebec, Canada. From the age of twelve Cyr worked in a lumber camp during the winters and on the family’s farm the rest of the year. He impressed his fellow workers with his feats of strength. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography notes that according to one of his biographers, his mother decided “he should let his hair grow, like Samson in the Bible.” She curled it regularly.

In 1878 the Cyr family immigrated to Lowell, Massachusetts in the United States. It was in Lowell that, Cyr changed his name from Cyprien-Noé to Louis, as it was easier to pronounce in English. Again his great strength brought him fame. At seventeen he weighed 230 pounds. He entered his first strongman contest in Boston at age eighteen, lifting a horse off the ground.

Rise to fame

Cyr returned to Quebec in 1882 with his family and was married. The following year he and his wife returned to Lowell, hoping to capitalize on his fame there. A tour of the Maritimes was organized, and while it may have benefitted the organizer, Cyr made nothing from it. He then began touring Quebec with his family in a show they called “The Troupe Cyr.”

From 1883 to 1885, Cyr served as a police officer in Montreal. Following this he went on tour with a troupe that included a wrestler, a boxer and a weightlifter. He entered a strongman competition in March, 1886 at Quebec City, against the reigning Canadian strongman, David Michaud. Cyr lifted a 218-pound barbell with one hand (to Michaud’s 158 pounds) and a weight of 2,371 pounds on his back (to his opponent’s 2,071) to win the title of strongest man in the country.

His reputation as a strongman

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"Louis Cyr ready to restrain horses", from The National Archives of Canada

While several of Cyr's feats of strength have been exaggerated over the years, some were documented and remain impressive. These included lifting a platform on his back holding 18 men, lifting a 500-pound weight with his finger and pushing a freight car up an incline. Perhaps his greatest feat occurred in 1895, when he was reported to have lifted 4,337 pounds on his back. One of Cyr's most-talked about stunts occurred on 12 October 1891, in Montreal. On that occasion he restrained four horses—two pulling in each direction.

In The Strongest Man in History, Ben Weider says that Cyr's records remain "uncontested and incontestable." Cyr died of chronic nephritis.

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Louis-cyr.jpg
Monument to Louis Cyr by Robert Pelletier

A district of Montreal is named Louis-Cyr in his honour; it is located in Saint-Henri, the area he patrolled as a police officer. Both the Parc Louis-Cyr and the Place des Hommes-Forts are named after him, the latter being decorated with his image in the form of a statue.

References

  • Weider, B. 1976. The Strongest Man in History: Louis Cyr, "Amazing Canadian."” Translation of Louis Cyr, l’homme le plus fort du monde. Vancouver: Mitchell Press.

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