Victor Schreiner (A Letter)
© by Arthur Drechsler
July 31, 2003
After a long and brave struggle with one of the most virulent forms of brain cancer, Vic Schreiner passed away on July 29th. He was 59 years old. Vic was one of the most outstanding lifters in the history of the Metropolitan LWC (and was recently recognized as such by being inducted in the Met LWC’s Hall of Fame). He was one of the pioneers of Junior (then teenage) lifting in the US. After beginning his lifting career in High School, he went on to enjoy the coaching of Sandor Gere, probably the first Eastern European coach to have a real impact in US lifting (Sandor had escaped from Hungary following the Soviet Union’s bloody suppression of that country’s revolt against Soviet control in the 1950’s, after having been Head Coach of the Hungarian National Team and developing such athletes as Imre Foldi, Olympic Gold medallist and 5 time Olympian). Shortly after coming to the US, Sandor started a team of Juniors and Victor was one of his prize pupils. Victor thrived under Sandor and by his final year as a Junior, in 1963, he had set several Jr. World Records, though only one was officially recognized by the IWF.
The following year, Victor won the 1964 Jr. Nationals. He continued to progress and he looked like a real contender for the Senior National title in 1966. But a freak warmup room injury to his back at the Nationals effectively put him out of the competition and out of lifting for many years. He decided to begin training again in 1981, when his son, Victor Jr., developed an interest in the sport. Interestingly, Vic’s back fully recovered only when he started to train again. He was soon winning local competitions but some setbacks led to another retirement several years later. However, by the early 1990’s he was back at steady training again, winning medals at the National and World Masters level.
He was an amazingly strong man, particularly as a Master and particularly in impromptu styles of lifting. I saw him snatch 117.5 kg. in sandals when he was in his 50’s as well as do a rock bottom squat with 230 kg. (never did any other kind, nor did he even wear a belt), both at a bodyweight a little over 90 kg.
Vic’s enthusiasm for lifting was unbounded. Many times, after a Saturday workout at LBH, he’d regale young lifters with stories of old time lifting, his coach Sandor, and a host of other subjects. He had a great way of summarizing his enthusiasm and point of view with the turn of a phrase. In fact, one of his quotes made it into the Weightlifting Encyclopedia, when, after expounding on the importance of strong legs, he pronounced “Squatting is the basis of all life on earth as we know it”.
If anything surpassed the great strength of Victor’s body, it was the strength of his character. Perhaps that is best illustrated by his handling of a family crisis. His oldest daughter had her dress catch fire from the gas stove in the Schreiner home when she was 5 years old. Hearing her screams, Victor wrapped his body around his burning daughter, putting out the flames but burning himself seriously in the process. He then rushed his daughter to the ER of a local hospital - she had been severely burned over much of her body. In those days, few burn patients survived such serious injuries. Despite his own condition, Victor and his wife, Elaine, began vigil over their daughter. Knowing that any infection or medical error would destroy any small chance their daughter had to survive, one or both remained at her bedside 24 hours a day for the next several months. No one was permitted by the Schreiner’s to enter their daughter’s room without sterile precautions being observed. All treatments were double and triple checked. When either Vic are Elaine (never both) was away from his/her daughter’s bedside, he/she was reading or talking to medical professionals to learn more about the daughter’s condition and what could be done to help her survive and then to regain a normal life. And in the end, through an enormous triumph of will on the part of parents and daughter, that daughter did survive. Today she is a strong and vivacious woman, active at the highest levels of New York politics.
Vic is survived by his wife Elaine, his daughters Laura and Debbie, and his sons Victor Jr. and Jack. He is also survived by those in the lifting community who loved him so dearly for his honesty, his kindness, his enthusiasm, his unique sense of humor and his character. He will be missed but never forgotten. There will be a competition held in the Met LWC in Victor’s honor in early 2004.