From Australia’s Jewish Past:
SPORTSMAN & SIDESHOW STRONGMAN
First published in J-Wire February 24, 2022
Samuel (Sam) Burmister, was born in Estonia in 1897 and participated in the 1912 Olympics for Russia as a wrestler
With the situation in Russia worsening for Jews, he set off on a world tour ending up in Australia in 1925. He found the local wrestling scene so inviting that he decided to further his wrestling career in Australia.
Between 1925 and 1934 he had an active professional career, including winning the Australian Heavyweight title in 1929. He was also World Jewish Wrestling Champion several times and the press labelled him as “a low-set, bull-necked, heavily-torsoed fellow”. He was well-known and popular with audiences for his “vigorous methods’’.
He then returned to Russia for a period, returning to Australia in 1937 and settling in Brisbane.
In addition to his professional wrestling career, Sam was also a vaudeville performer and sideshow strongman, under the stage name “The Modern Samson“. Anecdotally, one of the highlights of his routine included driving nails into a pine board with his fists and allowing a motor car to be driven across his chest. He also had a small cameo role in the 1925 Australian film “Those Terrible Twins”.
In the late 1940’s, Sam switched from competitor to trainer, using his techniques to work with a number of Australian rugby league players.