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An Interview with Bill Kazmaier

This interview was conducted by Bill Henderson on October 11, 1997.
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Bill H: Well, what have you been up to lately?
Kaz: What have I been up to lately? I sell exercise equipment internationally.

Bill H: Okay.
Kaz: I import two different companies. One called Air Machine, one called Panatta and I export one company called Tricint. I'm active in the exercise equipment field.

Bill H: If you entered this competition today, how do you feel you could do?
Kaz: That's a tough question because I would had to have gone through the preparation and what would be commonly referred to as a comeback and I would have to be sufficiently motivated to do that. That's kind of a huge question because, you know, it's nothing more than conjecture and hypothesis and it's not something that I entertained.
How would I do? I don't know. If you would compare the Kazmaier of the early 80's - we're talking 15 years ago - these boys wouldn't stand a chance. They're nothing like what we were before, but they're the new guys and they're the ones that are coming along, and they're the strongest guys, so it's fun to watch them.

Bill H: I was just talking to your physician and he said he feels you could still be competing now if you wanted to.
Kaz: Yeah, sure, but my life is directed and focused on business and other things. Anybody that follows this realizes there are many many other facets of life and so many other routes to explore, that to be focused for a while and to excel in one thing is great, but if it totally consumes your existence and you limit yourself and your capacity to do other things, it's counter-productive. To me, I'm experiencing the rest of my life. I have as much as you could say, quenched my thirst for power. And I have been playing with some implements in track and field and I really enjoy that.

Bill H: That's good that you don't limit yourself because you always have to have another outlet.
Kaz: Right.

Bill H: Do you still believe that you are the strongest man that ever lived?
Kaz: Well, I'm pretty convinced - I don't know how many other people are. But then, I know what I did and I know what other guys in history did and there's nobody walking around now that is competing who is able to do anything like the things I've been able to do. Even the great Sigmarsson who was very strong in the grip, biceps, and low back wasn't able to press like me, wasn't able to squat like me, was still way behind in the deadlift - in the powerlifts. So, although he was a great strong man, he wasn't a Kazmaier.
Any of the contemporary powerlifters of today are not strong men like I was. Although one of them may wrap himself up into a big bench press with a bunch of shirts on or something, that's not really lifting, that's something different.
So do I think I'm the strongest who ever lived? Yeah, pretty much. I'm number two, because there was a guy about 2,000 years ago who took spikes to the hand and he was pretty awesome. Other than he... I am a distant second, actually.

Bill H: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment or feat of strength?
Kaz: There's so many unusual ones for myself. I don't know. I think...

Bill H: Because you were the first man to bench press 300 kilos.
Kaz: Sure. I was the first guy to do the five McGlashen Stones. The only guy to lift the Thomas Inch dumbbell, broke the world record in the overhead dumbbell press - where the current record was 150 lbs. one time, I did it 156's for ten. So, there's so many different things, which is the best? I don't know.
I tend to like the things where I overcame adversity. After tearing off my pectoral in the bar bend, I came back to squat the world record in the World's Strongest Man and beat Dave Waddington who was commonly referred to as having the world's strongest legs. And two hours later, I came back and deadlifted the coins to beat him again. Not only to do it once, but to do it twice because I knew I was the strongest and I had been shot, as if with a 12 gauge in the shoulder, I was still able to come back and overcome that adversity.
You know, in those times when you're in the trenches and your back's against the wall and you are that wounded animal, at that point when things look their worst, how do you react and what energies do you call upon at that moment? For me, the most phenomenal thing I did was to realize where my power comes from and what it is. And if I could channel it and use it for the right things, then I'll have infinite power. I don't know if that makes sense to you.

Bill H: Since you won the World's Strongest Man title three times, what does it feel like to be known as the strongest man in the world?
Kaz: Yeah... it's sobering when you go to a coffee shop and order a cup of coffee and know it's going to cost you fifty cents and you still have to leave a tip. For guys maybe like yourself and a few that are learned in the strength field and the history of strength, it's refreshing to know someone cares and is educated to what we do. That's one tenth of one percent, if that. That's being generous. It's more like people don't know. I walk down the street and people think I'm either a football player or a wrestler.
When asked what I lift, the common question is, "how much do you press?" And I often say, "which press? Leg, military, bench? You know, what are you referring to?" And they go, "I don't know." But whatever. They're just trying to make conversation.
So what is it like to be the strongest man in the world? There again it's that inner peace of knowing that you can do whatever you set your sights to do. That you set short term and long term goals and as long as we're realistic about those... I mean, I shot for nothing but the stars.

Bill H: Did you accomplish everything that you felt you wanted to?
Kaz: Oh, no, I was hampered by injuries and I still fell short of the things that Kazmaier could have done. But that's okay, because things are bound to happen for the reason that they do. You know, when I was injured in the bar bend I was going for the gold and the money and I didn't need to do that. And I was making a mistake where I could have passed on that event because it was so tough. We were using cold rolled steel and I could've still been bench pressing and doing huge weights, but I elected to go for that path and so I caused my own injury, really.

Bill H: After you did win the three titles in this competition you took off five years before you came back again. What was the reason for that?
Kaz: I didn't take off five years. I was so dominant in those events that, as this year, there are, what I'm told, a need for fresh faces. Badenhorst, Kiri, and Magnusson are all sidelined and no one seems to care. Why and how they were sidelined is something that's disputable and arguable, but they're not here. And Kiri's probably the strongest of the lot.

Bill H: Yeah, I expected him to do very well this year because of how well he'd been doing in Europe, and when he didn't qualify I was very surprised.
Kaz: I see him as the one guy I would have a problem with if I wanted to come back. I think he's the strongest guy. But similarly in the early 80's, they wanted fresh faces. They didn't want this guy named Kazmaier to dominate anymore, so he was just not invited for five years. Which wasn't because of my own retirement, it was a forced retirement - which is really a shame because Michael Jordan wouldn't be asked to sit on the sidelines. Nor would Wayne Gretzky. It would be a travesty in sport if that would happen, and the fans wouldn't let it happen. But in our sport, it's so small that there are a few people that are in control and they are what I would call the Joe Weiders of strength. And they want to manipulate and control and run things. And they've been able to do that.

Bill H: Do you have any interesting stories you'd like to share? Anything of note?
Kaz: I don't know. I'm afraid to share too many of them.

Bill H: Anything that might please the fans?
Kaz: Yeah, for anybody who wants to try to compare who is the strongest man with their information and what they've been able to experience and collect, you know, be forewarned that they really have no way of knowing.
When you are one of the athletes and you're in the arena and you smell the breath of the lion and you hear his roar, and you're released from your cage and you can take him on, you then know from the pits just what it is like and who is the strongest. And when you look into his eyes - I looked into Sigmarsson's eyes, and O.D. Wilson's eyes - I saw wild animals. And I can relate and compare myself to those guys. But for somebody to stand as an emperor in the stands and look at these three lions in the pit, he has no way of knowing which one of these three is the best.
So, as people try to go through history of 100 years and decide who is the champion of all, comparing Olympic lifters to powerlifters to strong men to other strength athletes - in my estimation it's extremely difficult for them to do it accurately and objectively. And all they're able to draw from is what they're able to pull from a page or to pull from a book. So they're limited.

Bill H: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it a lot and it was a pleasure to meet you.
Kaz: Sure.