Russell L. Knipp, an Olympic weightlifter who set nine world records during the 1960s and '70s and later served on the U.S. Olympic Committee Athlete Advisory Council, died Sunday of a heart attack while playing golf in Santa Ana, Calif., where he has lived for 36 years. He was 63.
Mr. Knipp, who was born and raised in Brookline and graduated from South Hills High School, was widely regarded as one of the best pressers ever in Olympic weight lifting.
"He was a champion among athletes and among men," said his former wife, Jan Knipp, of Santa Ana. "Through his warm generous spirit he changed the lives of countless others. All whom he encountered, however briefly, felt all the richer for it."
During his career as a world-class weightlifter, Mr. Knipp competed on two U.S. Olympic teams, in Mexico City in 1968 and Munich in 1972. He won no Olympic titles, but earned 17 gold medals in international competition and was a three-time U.S. national champion and two-time Pan American Games champion, his family said.
"He has many, many awards and accomplishments in weight lifting," said his sister-in-law, Sally Knipp, of Brookline.
An Army veteran, he published several articles and a book on Olympic weight lifting and weight training. For several years, he traveled across the country as a missionary and as director of the Athletes in Action weight lifting team, the athletic ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
"He set the teenage world record lifting weights with the Pittsburgh Boys Club, which was in Lawrenceville at the time," said James Knipp, his brother. "He often came back to Pittsburgh and trained and worked out with the Steelers as well."
Mr. Knipp is survived by his son, Russell Robert Knipp, of Santa Ana; his father, Robert P. Knipp, of Brookline; a brother, James Knipp, of Brookline; and a sister, Kathleen McWhorter, of Castle Shannon.
Memorial services will be held today in Santa Ana. Burial will be in Jefferson Memorial Cemetery in Pleasant Hills.
Tim Grant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1591.