After a successful tour of the Scottish Highland Games where Walter Knox dominated the circuit, he was on the lookout for a high profile matched competition for an all-around championship. He saw in a Glasgow newspaper a challenge for just that type of event by an Australian, "Weller". Walter immediately wired to accept his challenge, but only if it was held in Scotland or England. That was the end of the story in my book. It never happened.
Well, I have been corresponding with Doug Fox, an Australian lacrosse historian, and asked him who this "Weller" was. He sent me all kinds of information.
Clarence Weller, or "Weber" as he was known there, was a renown strongman in Australia. Four years younger than Walter, he was at the height of his powers in 1913 when Walter proposed a matched contest. Weber had taken up "Sandow's" weight-lifting program in the 1890's and had honed his body into an impressive power machine.
Throughout the years leading up to WWI Weber set dramatic world records in weight-lifting: 251 pound clean and jerk, a 160 pound one-armed lift overhead, holding 60 pounds in each hand straight to the side in an iron cross pose. He toured Australia doing strength demonstrations and accepting matched strong-man competitions, never losing.
But he was more famous as a wrestler. He was the director of a physical culture institute where he taught wrestling. Again he toured the country taking on all comers.
Australian champions wrestler, and Australian champion cyclist too. He was accomplished at many sports.
At six feet and 168 pounds he was a lean and muscled athlete. Early in his athletic career he did track and field, being adept at all races from 50-440 yards, the high jump, pole vault and all the throwing events. He was an all round athlete.
Hence his challenge to anyone in the world to a multi-sport contest for a $500-a-side stake (Walter said it was for $2500). But, Weber said later, he never issued the challenge. Someone else sent it out in his name without his knowledge, he said. Possibly a gambler who wanted to see a match like this and was using Weber's honour to corner him into accepting a challenge like Walter's. Or Weber did issue the challenge and was looking for a way out. Who knows, but when Weber received Walter's acceptance of the challenge he said he intended to accept it, and even planned a trip to Scotland the following year (the year Walter won the World All-around title from Cramb), but never seemed to get there.
All this begs the question, how would that match have turned out?
Walter, in an interview, said, "He has enough athletics on the card for me to win, and in addition I can swim and cycle well, while I doubt he can beat me at weight-lifting." The card also included "physical culture" but not wrestling, curiously, though Walter probably would have expected to win a wrestling match too.
Obviously Walter had no idea who Weber was. Weber would likely have out-classed him badly in weight-lifting and "physical culture". Swimming would not have been included if Weber was not a strong swimmer, Walter never even said if he could swim before. Cycling? Walter was notoriously weaker at the longer running distances, he was a sprinter, so cycling, an endurance event, would have been tough.
But 8 or 10 track and field events? Walter may have swept them. Weber dabbled in track and would not have had the best technique, Walter's ace in the hole. With world record marks in the sprints, shot put and pole vault, Walter was top tier in the world in all the track and field events. That was all he needed to win.
It would have been a fascinating contest between two magnificent and egotistical athletes. Neither accepted losing well.
Walter was four inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter. Then look at Weber below, Walter would have looked pretty ordinary next to him. But when Walter started performing Weber would have been pretty surprised.
I'd put my money on Walter.