Donald Dinnie, All-round Champion Athlete of the World

Donald Dinnie, All-round Champion Athlete of the World

Born Aberdeenshire, Scotland July 8, 1837. 
Died April 2, 1916 at 79 years old.
Height: 6’1″ (185 cm)
Weight: 210 lbs (95 kg)
Chest: 45-48″
Biceps: 15″
Thighs: 26.5″

Donald Dinnie has been recognized as “The Nineteenth Century’s Greatest Athlete” and “the first sporting superstar”.  Competed professionally from the age of 16 to the age of 63.  And believe me 63 years old in the early 1900s was like an hundred years old today.  During his half a century long athletic career, Dinnie was involved in over 11,000 successful competitions. 

“The Nineteenth Century’s Greatest Athlete”

Donald Dinnie was an unparalleled all-around strength athlete competing in every type of strength event.  As a professional sportsman, he won over 10 000 awards, competitions, and contests including a 21-year reign as the Scottish Highland Games champion (1856–1876), 2 000 hammer throwing contests, over 2,000 wrestling matches, 200 weightlifting prizes, and about 500 running and hurdle races, plus heavy and light athletics, sprint, long and high jump, pole vault, putting the stone (the Dinnie Stones), caber-tossing, 28 lbs and 56 lbs weight-throwing for height as well as distance…  Donald Dinnie was really a jack of all trades!

Some of his most famous
feats include (Willoughby 542):

  • jerk pressed a pair of
    56 lb dumbbells for 52 reps

  • carried the Dinnie
    stones (one was 445 lbs and the other 340 lbs) 10 yards

  • put a 22lb stone
    42’3″, and 18lb stone 44’8″ and a 14 lb stone 52′

  • did a running high
    jump (scissors style) of 5’11”

  • did a running broad
    jump of 20’1″

  • did a hop, step and
    jump of 44′

  • ran the hundred in

  • 168 lb one arm snatch

  • 252 lb two hands
    anyhow (Greatest)

According to the
inscriptions on a Championship Belt given to Dinnie for being the single
greatest athlete ever to walk the Earth by “the Colonies”, which I assume was a
colonial authority ruling Scotland, Dinnie was:

  • Was the “Winner of
    over 2,000 wrestling contests. In 1882 won the champion medal for mixed
    wrestling in New Jersey, USA. Won the all-round wrestling championship of the
    world as Melbourne Wrestling Tournament in 1885, and was champion of Scotland
    over a quarter of a century.” (Greatest)

  • “Won over 2,000
    contests for hammer-throwing. Best records on level, fair stand- By 4 feet, 2
    inch still handle, 16 lbs., 132 feet. By 4 feet, 8 inch handle, 16 lbs., 138
    feet, 8 inches. By 4 feet, 2 inch stiff handle, 22 lbs., 104.5 feet. By 4
    feet, 2 inch stiff handle, 44 lbs., 46.5 feet.” (Greatest

  • “Won 300 contests for
    throwing 56 lb. weight. Fair stand- length of weight, including ring, 14
    inches- distance 28 feet, 4 inches. By chain, fair stand, 40 feet, 6 inches.
    For height over bar, 13 feet, 11 inches.” (Greatest)

  • “Won over 1,400
    contests for tossing the caber. Unbeaten for over 40 years! Won championship
    of Australia at caber and wrestling at Goulburn, N.S.W., in 1891.Beat all comers
    in South Africa in 1898.” (Greatest)

What if…
Being a world champion wrestler, weightlifter, and in heavy and light athletics.  Comparing his best performances – notwithstanding the fact that he was ineligible as a professional and that Dinnie’s era was long before the 1896 Athens Olympics – it is estimated that he would have won ten medals (seven gold, two silver, and a bronze). 

“The First Sporting Superstar”

As mentioned by David Webster in his book: “Dinnie was the first globetrotting professional athlete to make real money out of sport.”  Indeed, Donald Dinnie satisfied all the conditions of a twentieth century superstar: widespread fame, success, and riches.  Dinnie was a 21-time Scottish Highland Games Champion (1856-1876), held the title “World Champion Wrestler”, and obtained the unofficial titles of “Greatest Athlete in the World”, and “Strongest Man in the World”.  He was so dominant that: “The most popular athletes of the day were present, topped by the redoubtable Donald Dinnie, with whom all competitors at feats of strength appeared as pygmies.” (Reference 1)

The Reality
“Athough Dinnie was a fine wrestler and a wonderfully strong man, he was never at the very top of these fields.  He never reached his potential in either wrestling or lifting because of his preference for the profits to be had as a great all-rounder.” (reference 2)

Fame and fortune
He appeared in Europe, America, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and challenged all comers.  He also made a very good living at all this, earning at least £25,000 in his career, a sum that would be worth about US $2.5 million today. In the 1870-80s he travelled the world earning more in a day than farm labourers could earn in a lifetime.  Earning £320 on the day he tackled Muldoon in a wrestling match.  Being a world-famous tough son-of-a-gun, heavy artillery war bomb shells in the First World War were nicknamed ‘Donald Dinnies’ after him.  And to this day his image continues to endorse commercial products in Scotland.

Modern-day equivalent of Donald Dinnie
The only modern-day athlete that came close to emulate Donald Dinnie would be Mariusz Pudzianowski.  Pudzianowski was probably the greatest World’s Strongest Man competitor ever (5-time World’s Strongest Man champion in 7 years of competition between 2002 and 2008) then became a c-level MMA fighters (MMA record: 3-2 and 1 no-contest) after his retirement from strongman competition. 

Mariusz Pudzianowski (at left)
5-time World’s Strongest Man champion and MMA fighter

Unlike Dinnie who was an elite fighter and strength athlete, Pudzianowski was the VERY BEST strongman competitor but a mediocre MMA fighter.  So in a near future, I can’t see any athlete being the equivalent of Donald Dinnie.  Being a world-class strength athlete AND a world-class professional fighter seems to be an impossible feat in the modern-era.  If Pudzianowski can’t be both… Who can?

1- Zarnowski, Frank. “The Amazing Donald Dinnie: The Nineteenth Century’s Greatest Athlete”. Iron Game History 5 (1): 3-11
2- Webster, David. “Reconsidering Donald Dinnie”. Iron Game History 5 (2): 18-21

One thought on “Donald Dinnie, All-round Champion Athlete of the World

  1. yea right you are today the best wins i mean the one with the best dr. old timers are f.e.bux gama sammartino today maybe severn Henderson in mma thats it but in combination sammartino not top in power but in Combo bye

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