Robert Backus is a 15 time AAU national champion, a Pan American gold medalist, a former world record holder in both the 56lbs and 35lbs hammer throw and a 1991 NYAC Hall of Fame inductee.
Backus was born on July 11th, 1926 in Boston, Massachusetts.
During World War II, Backus attempted to enlist in the US Army Air Force; however, they turned him away, supposedly, for being too skinny. Despite being 6'5" tall, Backus only weighed 160 pounds. Backus started weight training, despite warnings that doing so would make him muscle bound. At his peak, Backus weighed 290 lbs.
Backus attended Tufts University where he began indoor weight throwing. Notably, Backus wore ballet shoes during competition, as proper footwear for the sport had yet to be invented. The shoes provided Backus with ample flexibility and control, helping him to set multiple American records.
In 1957, Backus set an American record in the 56lbs weight throw (45' 2"); in 1959, he set an American record in the 35lbs weight throw (66' 2¾"). These were de facto world records, as the weight throw was mainly contested in the United States.
Backus dominated weight throwing in the middle and late 1950s. He won seven consecutive AAU titles in 56lb weight throw (1953-1959) and six consecutive AAU titles in the 35lb weight throw (1954-1959); in addition to which, Backus also won the gold medal in the hammer throw at the 1955 Pan American Games in Mexico City.
Backus passed away on June 30th, 1999 at the age of 72.