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It's Fun To Stay At The YMCA: Charles C. Russell's Unbelievable Feat

Ripley's Believe it Or Not photograph of Charles C. Russell weightlifting wearing a pair of skates
Photograph courtesy Ripley's Archive

With all of the unbelievable stories I come across when looking for things to write about or in doing interviews with so many cool people in the skating world, I sometimes feel like the blog itself is one big version of Ripley's "Believe It Or Not". On May 18, 1939, a man from Chicago DID in fact capture the attention of the good folks of Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" by performing an unusual feat on skates that I think it's safe to say no one's attempted since.

Charles C. Russell is described in the book "The World Of Ripley's Believe It Or Not" as "an ice skating and barbell instructor at the South Chicago 'Y'". Let's slow that train down before it even leaves the station. Ice skating and barbell instructor? That's quite a combination, now isn't it? Apparently it IS fun to stay (and play) at the YMCA. Putting his skills both on skates and in weightlifting to good use, Russell achieved the bizarre feat of hoisting a bar over his head with a woman seated on either end (a total of 265 pounds) while wearing ice skates. To top it all off, both woman played ukuleles while raised in the air. Russell clearly outdid himself. In a previous similarly incredible effort, while on skates he raised his sister with one hand and twelve cups of hot coffee with the other. Talk about a double double! 

Although Charles C. Russell's incredible feat is not known by many in skating circles today, we were importantly reminded many years later of just how much fun it is to stay at the YMCA with Rudy Galindo's campy and simply fabulous Village people program. If you don't feel like weightlifting in your ice skates, you simply can't not give yourself a smile and enjoy Rudy's program one more time. I'm sure Russell would have loved it.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":