#6. Lou Ferrigno
Louis Jude “Lou”(born November 9, 1951) Ferrigno is an American actor, fitness trainer/consultant, and retired professional bodybuilder.
As a bodybuilder, Ferrigno won an IFBB Mr. America title and two consecutive IFBB Mr. Universe titles, and appeared in the bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron. As an actor, he is best known for his title role in the CBS television series The Incredible Hulk and vocally reprising the role in subsequent animated and computer-generated incarnations. He has also appeared in European-produced fantasy-adventures such as Sinbad of the Seven Seas and Hercules, and as himself in the sitcom The King of Queens and the 2009 comedy I Love You, Man.
After graduating from high school in 1969, Ferrigno won his first major titles, IFBB Mr. America and IFBB Mr. Universe, four years later. Early in his career he lived in Columbus and trained with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 1974, he came in second on his first attempt at the Mr. Olympia competition. He then came third the following year, and his attempt to beat Arnold Schwarzenegger was the subject of the 1975 documentary Pumping Iron. The documentary made Ferrigno famous.
These victories, however, did not provide enough for him to earn a living. His first paying job was as a $10-an-hour sheet metal worker in a Brooklyn factory, where he worked for three years. He did not enjoy the dangerous work, and left after a friend and co-worker accidentally cut off his own hand one day.
Following this, Ferrigno left the competition circuit for many years, a period that included a brief stint as a defensive lineman for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. He had never played football, and was cut after two games.
During competition, Ferrigno at 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) weighed 285 lb (130 kg) in 1975, and 315 lb (142 kg) in 1992.
Ferrigno competed in the first annual World’s Strongest Man competition in 1977, where he finished fourth in a field of eight competitors.
In the early 1990s, Ferrigno returned to bodybuilding, competing for the 1992 and 1993 Mr. Olympia titles. Finishing 12th and 10th, respectively, he then turned to the 1994 Masters Olympia, where his attempt to beat Robbie Robinson and Boyer Coe was the subject of the 1996 documentary Stand Tall. After this, he retired from competition.
#5. Franco Columbu
Franco Columbu (born August 7, 1941) is an Italian actor, former champion bodybuilder and World’s Strongest Man competitor.
Columbu was born in Ollolai, Sardinia (Italy). Starting out his athletic career as a boxer, Columbu progressed into the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, powerlifting and later bodybuilding, winning the title of Mr. Olympia in 1976 and 1981. At 164 centimetres (5 ft 5 in) in height, Columbu is shorter than most of his bodybuilding competitors, but that did not prevent him from achieving widespread success.
In 1977, Columbu competed in the first World’s Strongest Man competition and was in fifth place in total points during the competition; a remarkable outing, considering that Franco weighed much less than all his competitors. Then came the refrigerator race, which called for a downhill race in which a heavy, bulky, unwieldy refrigerator is strapped to the racer’s back. While ahead, Franco stumbled, and was shown on national television collapsing with a grotesquely dislocated leg. This ended his participation in the World’s Strongest Man contest (in the end, he finished in fifth place). After a court settlement, he received a reported $1 million in compensation for his injury. After Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comeback victory in the 1980 Mr. Olympia, Franco followed suit and won the 1981 Mr. Olympia.
Columbu is a longtime friend of Schwarzenegger, whom he met in Munich in 1965 and against whom he competed in several international-level bodybuilding competitions. For the Mr. Olympia competitions however, he competed in the under 200 lb (90.7 kg) category, whereas Schwarzenegger was in the over 200 lb category. The final champion was determined by a pose down between the two class winners. The IFBB has since abandoned weight classes. Arnold and Franco were inseparable during the early to mid-1970s and were training partners. Columbu served as the best man at the wedding of Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver in 1986. Columbu and Schwarzenegger had been encouraged to come to America by bodybuilding guru Joe Weider in 1969; Weider sponsored them with an $80/week stipend and the two European bodybuilders began a bricklaying and patio business called European Brick Works in 1969, according to a report in The New York Times.
From the time he arrived in America in 1969, Franco Columbu was considered one of the world’s strongest men. He held a number of powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting world records. He also performed a strongman act in which he routinely blew up a hot water bottle by inflating it orally, lifted vehicles onstage (while someone else was changing a tire) and deadlifted over 320 kg (700 lbs) for repetitions. He designed a comprehensive workout for men in 1988 to flatten the stomach, narrow the waist, and eliminate love handles. He is both a chiropractor and a weightlifter and his career parallels that of American weightlifting champion Karyn Marshall, who has used chiropractic therapy to train for competitions and who became a chiropractor herself.
#4. Sergio Oliva
Sergio Oliva(July 4, 1941 – November 12, 2012) was a bodybuilder known as “The Myth”. This sobriquet was arguably given to him by bodybuilder/writer Rick Wayne but Oliva himself has doubted this claim. Supposedly Wayne had begun calling Oliva “The Myth”
Twenty-year-old world class weightlifter Sergio Oliva knew that the occasion of the 1961 Pan Am Games in Kingston, Jamaica might be his last best chance to escape the confines of Castro-controlled Cuba. With speed of foot nearly on par with his strength Sergio sprinted for the nearby American consulate. He and the entire Cuban weightlifting team, who immediately followed his lead, were granted political asylum, and more significantly, their freedom.
From Jamaica Sergio emigrated to the United States; first to Miami, where he performed odd jobs ranging from TV repair to unloading trucks. Then, in 1963, he made his way north to Chicago.
It was at Chicago’s Duncan YMCA that the weightlifter was introduced to the sport of bodybuilding by top local bodybuilder (and future Mr. America) Bob Gajda. Gajda recognized the young man’s incredible physical potential and took him under his wing. As predicted, Sergio’s muscles ballooned immediately under the unique stresses of a bodybuilding regimen. He took to bodybuilding as an eagle to soaring and by the end of the year had won his first title, Mr. Young Chicagoland.
Within no time Sergio’s physique, and reputation, grew to the point where he was being mentioned in the same breath with names like Scott, Sipes and Pearl by those in the know.
Yet despite the overwhelming physical superiority he brought to the stage in those early years, the uber-Cuban found actually winning titles within the Amateur Athletic Union to be inexplicably difficult. Indeed, it was his inability to take the AAU’s most coveted title, Mr. America, against very un-uber competition, that drove him into the open arms of the IFBB and on a quest to become the greatest bodybuilder of all time.
Continued on the next page…