Marijan Matijević: The Croatian Samson Born 146 Years Ago
January 10 marks the 146th birth anniversary of Marijan Matijević, the Croatian powerhouse once hailed as the world’s strongest man. Born in Duboki Dol, Lika, Croatia, Matijević was a force to be reckoned with in the world of Greco-Roman wrestling, earning countless medals and titles.
Known as the ‘Lika Samson’, Matijević’s feats of strength were nothing short of legendary. He could lift 430kgs with his mouth, 600 kgs with his arms, and a whopping 1,130 kgs on his back. His wrestling prowess was equally impressive, having defeated many of the era’s top wrestlers.
Matijević’s training journey to wrestling stardom began in Berlin, where he worked and attended various competitions. His breakthrough came when he accepted a challenge to wrestle a renowned German wrestler. In a stunning upset, Matijević defeated his opponent in just seven minutes, earning him 500 golden marks and a reputation to match.
Beyond wrestling, Matijević was a global entertainer, showcasing his strength by tearing up packs of cards, bending coins, pulling out nails, and tearing pots. His extraordinary abilities earned him numerous accolades, including an Ottoman Star in 1904 and a Golden Cross inscribed with ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ from the New York Athletic Commission in 1927.
Matijević’s strength was so extraordinary that doctors in the U.S. discovered his bone tissue was double the size of a normal human’s. His larger-than-life persona was matched by his appetite, with tales of him consuming 5 kg of meat for lunch and even a whole lamb on the spit.
Despite his fame and fortune, Matijević remained grounded. He once said, “I am a Croat, born in rocky and proud Lika beneath the mighty Velebit mountain where rust is sowed and heroes are sprouting.” He was also known for his generosity, donating significant sums to the Red Cross, hospitals, orphans, and war victims.
Matijević passed away in 1951 from pneumonia at the age of 73. His legacy, however, lives on, inspiring strength athletes and wrestling enthusiasts worldwide.
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