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Spellman, Frank


SPELLMAN, FRANK (1922– ), weightlifter, Olympic and Maccabiah medalist, member of the U.S. Weightlifting Hall of Fame and the Helms Hall of Fame. Born in Malvern, Pennsylvania, Spellman was orphaned at the age of seven and raised in a Jewish orphanage in Philadelphia. Originally trained in track and gymnastics, in his late teens Spellman came under the tutelage of weightlifter Dan Leone, and in 1942 he won the U.S. junior middleweight title. In December of that year he was drafted into the Army Air Corps, where he served until his honorable discharge in December 1945. Spellman, who had maintained his training, returned to Pennsylvania and was accepted to the well-known York Barbell team. At the 1946 U.S. Amateur Athletic Union (aau) competition, he took first place in the middleweight division, and later that year finished 3rd at the World Championships in Paris, while helping the American weightlifters win the world team title. In 1947, Spellman moved down a notch to second place at the aau Nationals, but moved up to second place at the World Championships in Philadelphia. Now at the peak of his form, in 1948 for the second time in his young career he won the aau middleweight national title. Then, as the No. 1 middleweight lifter for the U.S. Olympic team, Spellman won the gold medal at the 1948 London games. After 1948, Spellman remained a force in weightlifting, finishing in second place in the aau Nationals four times between 1949 and 1954. In addition, he won a gold medal at the 1950 Maccabiah games. Spellman did not compete in the national or world championships after 1954, though he did compete in the California State Championships, taking first place in 1954, 1957, and 1958. At the age of 38 and after a two-year hiatus from participation in any competitions, Spellman decided to close out his career by making one final appearance at the 1961 aau National Championships, in Santa Monica, California. To the surprise of many weightlifting enthusiasts, Spellman overcame the odds to win the middle-weight division for his third U.S. title. Besides his championship titles and two gold medals over the course of his 16-year career, Spellman set four American records and two Olympic world records. From 1957 to 1961, Spellman was the coach and mentor of Carl Miller, who became a highly-acclaimed weightlifting and strength trainer. Spellman eventually settled in Florida, and was still lifting into his eighties and acting as an unofficial coach of aspiring weightlifters.

[Robert B. Klein (2nd ed.)]

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