On This Day

The Day Myanmar’s Bodybuilding Pioneer Met His End in a Motorbike Accident

By Wei Yan Aung 19 November 2020

YANGON—On this day in 1947, Walter Chit Tun, a pioneer of bodybuilding and weightlifting in Myanmar (then Burma), died at the age of 49 after his motorbike collided with a car.

His unexpected death was a source of great sorrow for bodybuilders and weightlifters, as the India-Burma weightlifting competition was being held in Yangon (then Rangoon) at the time of the fatal accident.

The ethnic Mon man, who was inspired as a child by a muscular actor in a Western movie, had pursued bodybuilding since he was young. He studied at Rangoon’s St. Paul Convent School and continued to Rangoon University. He introduced bodybuilding to Burmese people during World War I.

While studying medicine at Calcutta University, he broke world records in weightlifting competitions, even attracting maharajas to learn bodybuilding techniques from him. The local English newspaper of Calcutta even praised his physique in an issue in August 1922.

Walter Chit Tun was also the first doctor-cum-actor in Myanmar’s film history. He played the lead role in a movie on the life of blacksmith Maung Tint Te, a very strong muscular blacksmith who later became a Nat and was widely worshipped by Buddhists.

To vividly portray the character he played, the 5-foot, 10-inch-tall doctor barely wore anything in the movie except to cover his private parts. Though Rangoon audiences applauded his acting and his body, Mandalay audiences were reportedly too embarrassed to watch the movie.

While working at Rangoon Mental Hospital (Tadalay), he trained numerous enthusiasts regardless of race and religion and turned out new generations of bodybuilders. He displayed his strong physique at nationalist events to arouse nationalist spirit during colonial rule, and served as a referee in weightlifting competitions, becoming a popular name in the circles of politics and sports in Burma.

One year before his death, he even showed off his hard muscles at a boxing competition in Rangoon University. Myanmar Encyclopedia, which was written after his death, described him as the pioneer of bodybuilding in Myanmar.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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