Our most physically imposing story subject ever (not counting elephants and whales) is the 35-year-old French-born professional wrestler Andre the Giant, nè Andre Roussimoff, who goes 7'4" and 500 pounds. And it's fitting that our profile of Andre was written by the mightiest man ever to gain a byline in these pages, our 43-year-old expert on strength subjects, Terry Todd, a 6'2", 260-pound former world power-lifting champion.
It's equally apt that the story, which is one of the longest we've run in quite a while, was initially too much for our new space-age computer typesetting system. In the final stages, George Austen of our copy processing department had to spend 10 straight hours coaxing the computer into accepting it. Which is, come to think of it, a lot less time than the 10 years Todd pondered the story before starting work on it.
When he competed in the mid-1960s, Todd weighed 340 pounds and was considered by many experts to be the world's strongest man, but when he met Andre in 1972, he says, "I was stunned by his size. I wanted to write about him." A decade passed, during which Todd wrote two books and more than 60 magazine articles, coached his wife Jan to more than 40 women's powerlifting records and became the director of Auburn University's National Strength Research Center. He also amassed what is surely the world's largest strength library; one batch of books, photos, magazines and clippings, bought back in 1978, weighed in at 18,000 pounds.
Finally, last summer, Todd got around to interviewing Andre. They spent most of a week together on the wrestling tour, Todd feeling "like a rabbit snuggled up to a lion." Todd observes, "Once, while posing for a photograph, I was reaching around him, and I recall thinking, 'What a strange feeling!' My arm was at his waist level, and to reach the other side of his back, I had to stretch my arm almost straight out. And sometimes when we'd talk I'd look at him and get the full impact of being so close to that unbelievable man, and a primordial shiver would go over me. It happened time and again, even after being around him for a long time.
"I've always been attracted to outsized, powerful things. After all, I'm married to Jan, the world's strongest woman; I own two 180-pound mastiffs; and I once had a team of draft horses. That attraction is one of the reasons I got involved in powerlifting and gained the weight I did. That's why I do the things I do now. In February, Jan and I, in conjunction with the Strength Center, will be hosting the Fifth Annual Women's National Powerlifting Championships. Then, in May, we're putting on the Third Annual Strongest Man In Football Contest, and those players are human dreadnoughts. For 20 years I've been around the biggest, strongest men in the world, but nothing I've ever seen prepared me for Andre the Giant."
That's probably going to go double for our readers.
TODD SPECIALIZES IN WEIGHTY SUBJECTS