History of Strength Sports II - Luista Leers

History of Strength Sports II - Luista Leers

-Matthew Cavalier

While surfing the internet, I stumbled upon a strongman/acrobat from history that I thought would be interesting to learn about. Her name was Luista Leers. Born with the name Martha Luise, Luista started her life in Wiesbaden of the western state of Hesse in Germany on October 14, 1909. Having never known her father, she was brought up by her mother and introduced to the performance world through the Reichenbach circus family. Her mother, Gertrude, was an established and prominent performer in Germany. Eventually, Gertrude would marry a man by the name of Guido Krökel. Under Guido, Luista would continue to train and improve her acrobatic performance. On March 8, 1920, Luista would have her professional debut at only eleven years old on the roman rings. By age sixteen, she was known as the maiden of power for her stellar performance and impressively muscular physique. She was known for a one armed planche and an iron cross. The iron cross was thought to be something that only men could do, but Luista was incredibly strong. Because of her strength and crazy physique, she never wore a full length costume while performing. She preferred to wear costumes without the sleeves so she could show everyone how powerful she could be.

By 1926, Luista Leers would start her own professional career. She would perform with the legendary circus group Wintergarten and Scala in Berlin. Luista would eventually find her way to America to work with the biggest names in performance arts. She would perform at the Roxy in New York City. Luista spent four years with the Ringling Brothers and five years with Barnum and Bailey. She certainly had a prolific career in her own right. Her performance was a show of athleticism and power. She specialized in trapeze and Roman rings. With the trapeze, she would hang by her neck and perform a side leg scale (vertical split while holding a leg up). She was also known for being capable of doing an insane amount of back rotations around the trapeze without feeling fatigued. The most rotations she has done was 136, but she was capable of much more without issue. Her performances were done without a safety net, and she was credited with being able to display a high degree of muscular control that was visible while performing. Not only was the maiden of power capable of putting on a powerhouse performance, she was also a beautiful lady with a smile that would captivate her audience.

Unfortunately, the later part of her career did not go so well. In 1936, Luista Leers moved back home to Germany, only to see her country in the middle of World War II. Her family home was destroyed during the war. She was not able to train and her equipment and costumes were destroyed. After the war, she would suffer due to the catastrophic economic depression in her country. A victim of malnutrition and poor circumstances, she would never regain her strength, and her career as a circus performer would come to a close. She would marry and go into business, however. With her husband by her side, she would open a translator agency. Even though she could not perform in front of an audience, she would find a way to express her artistic talent during her quiet life as a sculptor. She was apparently gifted in the art. She would pass away in 1997 at the age of eighty eight.

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“Do not judge me by my success. Judge me by how many times I have fallen and gotten back up.”