Few cities in Canada can match Belleville for its weightlifting legacy and John Lewis is a big part of that. Born here on January 19, 1943, he is one of the few city natives who can boast they competed in the Olympic Games. Lewis began his weightlifting career in 1957 at the age of 14 when he joined the legendary Apollo Barbell Club. There, under the watchful eye of fellow Hall of Fame inductee Ken Carr-Braint he quickly moved up the sport’s ladder with the highlight coming in 1964 when he was named to Canada’s Olympic team. Highlights in his career include being a Canadian junior, intermediate and senior champion. He held Canadian records in the senior and junior divisions and in junior competition at the British Commonwealth level. At the Canadian Weightlifting Championships in 1964 he was named “best lifter.” A member of the Canadian team at the 1963 Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Lewis won a bronze medal in the middle heavyweight class and set new Canadian records in the snatch (280 lbs) and total lift (924 lbs). At the ’64 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan he also set new Canadian records in the snatch (303 lbs), clean and jerk (369 lbs) and total lift (969 lbs) while placing fourth in the snatch and ninth overall in the middle heavyweight division.
Lewis was an International Weightlifting Federation Elite Medal recipient (the first Canadian) and the Tom Longboat Award winner for outstanding Native Canadian athlete in 1964. The elite medal is awarded only after international competition where a stringent standard is met. Lewis received it for his 969 pounds total lift in Tokyo. He was Belleville’s first Olympic competitor when he travelled to Japan in 1964.
Lewis now lives in Webster, N.Y. He’s married to Sylvia and has three children (John, Wayne and Melinda). When Lewis returned from the Olympic Games he was greeted at the Belleville railway station by a large crowd that included the city’s most prominent dignitaries. While a band played “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” the lifter was paraded through the city. A grateful city has made several presentations to Lewis for his weightlifting prowess, culminating with his induction to the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame. Lewis joins fellow Apollo Club members Carr-Braint, Art Walt, Price Morris and Gary Walt.0