We have been a little slow about getting out new information over the holiday season this year. Also a little late in paying tribute to an Iron Game legend who passed away just a few months ago. We have featured Sergio's pictures and made mention of his lifting backround in the past. He was truly a unique, one of a kind, person who we will never see the likes of again. I never had the privilege to meet Sergio in person, but, like many of my generation, his photos (like those above) inspired us. He was known as the Myth and I have to admit that the first time I saw pictures of him it was hard to imagine that he was a real person. His size and proportions were truly mythical. Below is a short bio.....
Sergio Oliva (July 4, 1941 – November 12, 2012) was a bodybuilder known as "The Myth". This sobriquet was given to him by bodybuilder/writer Rick Wayne. Wayne had begun calling Oliva "The Myth" "(because everyone who saw him at the 1967 Montreal World's Fair said he was "Just unbelievable")".
Oliva was born in Cuba on July 4, 1941. At 12, he worked with his father in the sugar cane fields of Guanabacoa. When Oliva was 16, his father suggested that he enlist in Fulgencio Batista's army. In the absence of a birth certificate, the recruiting officer took the senior Oliva's word that his son was old enough to enlist in the fight against communism.
After losing the war to Fidel Castro, Oliva stayed local and took to hanging out at the beach. There, he met a fellow sun worshipper, who invited him to the local weightlifting club. After just six months of training Oliva was doing clean and jerks with over 300 lb and totaling 1000 lb in the three Olympic lifts at a bodyweight of 195 lb, considered a middle-heavyweight.
In 1962, the National Weightlifting Championship for Cuba was won by Alberto Rey Games Hernandez; Sergio Oliva took second place. Because Games received an injury, Oliva was chosen to represent Cuba at the 1962 Central American and Caribbean Games hosted in Kingston, Jamaica.
During his stay in Jamaica, Oliva sneaked out of his quarters while the guards were distracted. He ran at top speed until he was safely inside the American consulate. Arriving breathlessly, he demanded and received political asylum. Soon, 65 other Cuban nationals followed him, including Castro's entire weightlifting team. Soon afterward, Oliva was living in Miami, Florida, working as a TV repairman.
In 1963 Oliva moved to Chicago, Illinois. There he worked at a local steel mill and began working out at the Duncan YMCA. Working 10-12 hour days at the steel mill and putting in another 2.5–3 hours at the gym gave Oliva very little time for anything else. Soon the bodybuilding grapevine was abuzz with gossip about a Cuban powerhouse who lifted more than any of the local Olympic champs. Oliva won his first bodybuilding competition the Mr. Chicagoland contest in 1963. Then he was successful again at the Mr. Illinois in 1964 but he lost in 1965 at the AAU Jr. Mr. America winning 2nd place even though he won the trophy for "Most Muscular". In 1966, he won the AAU Jr. Mr. America and again he claimed the trophy for "Most Muscular". He then joined the International Federation of BodyBuilders IFBB in which he won both the professional Mr. World and Mr. Universe Contests. In 1967 he won the prestigious Mr. Olympia contest, making him the undisputed world champion of bodybuilding.
Oliva then went on to win the Mr. Olympia title three years in a row, at 5 feet 10 inches and at a contest weight of around 225 lbs. Oliva's 1968 Olympia title, his second, was won unopposed. Most considered him to be unbeatable at the time. The following year a young Arnold Schwarzenegger lost to Oliva as he challenged him for the 1969 Olympia crown. However, Schwarzenegger won his first Mr. Olympia title by edging the Myth the following year. Oliva challenged Schwarzenegger for the 1972 Olympia, but lost a controversial decision. Oliva came out of retirement to enter the 1984 Mr. Olympia, finishing in eighth place. Though 'the Myth' still sported an impressive physique, he was by then well past his prime. While Schwarzenegger dominated the bodybuilding world throughout much of the 1970s, in both media coverage and contest wins, many fans still consider Oliva to have had the greatest physique of all time.
He served the city of Chicago as a police officer for more than 25 years.
In 1986, Sergio survived being shot by his then-wife Arleen Garrett. He sustained 5 bullet wounds.
His son, Sergio Oliva Jr, is following in his father's footsteps into competitive bodybuilding in Chicago, Illinois.
Oliva co-starred with Mil Máscaras in a Mexican wrestling movie in 1975 called El Poder Negro (Black Power), in which he played a super-strong dockworker who runs afoul of the local crime syndicate and helps Mil Máscaras to bring them to justice. His co-star was Venezuelan actress and singer Lila Morillo.
In 1977, Oliva starred in a second Mexican action film (this time a wrestling/ western hybrid) called Los Temibles ("The Fearful Ones") aka El centauro negro.
The character Biscuit Oliva in the Japanese manga and anime Baki the Grappler was closely based on Oliva's real-life personality and appearance.
Sergio Oliva died on November 12, 2012, from apparent kidney failure. He was 71. The death of Oliva is significant in the respect that it represents the first death of any of the 13 Mr. Olympia winners, the ultimate professional bodybuilding competition held every year since 1964.
The first non-white athlete to win Mr. America, Mr. World, Mr. International, Mr. Universe, Mr. Olympia.
The second bodybuilder to win the Mr. Olympia competition.
The only bodybuilder to ever defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Mr Olympia contest, 1969.
1963 Mr Chicago
1964 Mr Illinois
1964 Mr America – AAU, 7th
1965 Junior Mr America – AAU, 2nd
1965 Junior Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular
1965 Mr America – AAU, 4th
1965 Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular,
1966 Junior Mr America – AAU, Winner
1966 Junior Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular
1966 Mr America – AAU, 2nd
1966 Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular,
1966 Mr World – IFBB, Overall Winner
1966 Mr World – IFBB, Tall, 1st
1966 Mr Universe – IFBB Winner
1966 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 4th
1967 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, Winner
1967 Universe – IFBB, Overall Winner
1968 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, Winner
1969 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, Winner
1970 Mr World – AAU, Pro Tall, 2nd
1970 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 2nd
1971 Universe – Pro - NABBA, Tall, 2nd
1972 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 2nd
1973 Mr International – IFBB, Professional, 1st
1974 Mr International – WBBG, Professional, 1st
1975 Olympus – WBBG, Winner
1976 Olympus – WBBG, Winner
1977 World Championships – WABBA, Professional, 1st
1978 Olympus – WBBG, Winner
1980 World Championships – WABBA, Professional, 1st
1981 Pro World Cup – WABBA, Winner
1984 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 8th
1984 Pro States Championships – WABBA
1985 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 8th