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The Great Antonio, pulling four buses loaded with passengers along St. Catherine Street, Montréal, 1960
For years, Montrealers were entertained by the familiar sight of the Great Antonio pulling a bus down a busy city street using only a chain hooked to the bus and the other end thrown over his shoulders. Who was this unusual strongman, easily recognized by his large size, long hair and beard?
Born in Yugoslavia to Siberian immigrant parents, his real name was Anton Barichievich. He moved to Canada in 1945 and travelled the world performing feats of strength. For a short time he was an international celebrity with movie roles in Quest for Fire and Abominable Snowman. He made appearances on popular shows such as Ed Sullivan, The Tonight Show and NBC's Real People. Wearing a size 90 suit and size 28 shoes, the Great Antonio weighed 495 pounds (225 kilograms) and was six feet four inches (1.9 m) tall. The Great Antonio made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1952 for pulling a 433-tonne train along 19.8 metres of track in Montreal. He also set a record in 1960 for pulling four loaded city buses. He nearly became the North American heavyweight wrestling champion in 1971, but the title bout, held in Calgary, ended in a public riot.
The Great Antonio died of a heart attack in Montreal in September 2003. Strong enough to lift six one-tonne trucks, the Great Antonio claimed he was "the strongest man in the world." He was certainly one of the most unique.
The Great Antonio, in his giant rocking chair, at home with his wife in August 1971
The Great Antonio in 2002
Bowers, Vivien. Only in Canada!: from the Colossal to the Kooky. Toronto: Owl Books, 2002.
Hustak, Alan. "Oddball Strongman Great Antonio Dies at 77." The Gazette. September 9, 2003.
"Montreal Helps Out Street Legend for Last Time." CTV News with Lloyd Robertson. September 16, 2003. Bell Globemedia Inc., 2004.