Sunday, September 01, 2019

Franco Columbu died, the Sardinian emigrant who became Mister Olympia in bodybuilding

By Monia Meles
30 August 2019

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He died of an illness in his Sardinia, in the sea of ​​San Teodoro, just over 100 kilometers from Ollolai, the village of Barbagia where he was born on 7 August 1941. From there Franco Columbu, the myth of world bodybuilding, had emigrated to 1965 to work as a laborer in Germany, in Munich, like so many Sardinian his peers. Columbu felt sick in the water around 2 pm and was rescued and transferred to the Olbia hospital with a 118 helicopter, but died shortly after arriving at the emergency room.

From Munich, Columbu began a journey that changed his life, transforming him from a boxing enthusiast into a boxer and then a bodybuilder, leading him to win the titles of "Strongest Man in the World", Mister World, Mister Universe and finally, the only Italian in the history of the discipline, Mister Olympia in 1981. It was also decisive at the beginning with Arnold Schwarzenegger, of which he became a coach and later an inseparable friend. His career moved in parallel with that of Schwarzenegger whom he had met in the ring in Germany and with whom he had also shared the experience of emigration to California. Columbu told me that it was he, while they were laboring together, that he taught the future Hollywood divo the technique of 'armoring' the boundary walls of Los Angeles villas by inserting shards of glass into the cement.

A solid friendship to the point that the same former governor of California had in 2016 celebrated the bond with Franco who had moved to the United States practically with him. video on Facebook portrayed the two of them riding a bike, side by side. As always. Over the years there are hundreds of photos that portray them together: muscles posing in front of the sea and on podiums. 

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The professional roads of the two had separated in the early 1980s: Columbu opened gyms and began to teach bodybuilding and to become an athletic trainer and chiropractor, while Schwarzenegger became Conan the barbarian and moved to Hollywood. But their friendship, as the actor and former governor of California recently recalled, never stopped. Franco Columbu was also Schwarzy's wedding witness in his marriage to Maria Shriver. 

A life spent in gyms and training after the debut started by loading concrete weights. And body building was a great success, despite his short stature, one meter sixty five, and his low weight. "Nobody embodies the American dream better than Franco Columbu" reads the preface by  Franco Columbu's Complete Book of Bodybuilding. Although Columbu never forgot his land while living in Los Angeles, where he continued to work as a trainer. He promoted bread and cheese and was an ambassador of Sardinia. Just the food he mentioned as one of his secrets, along with the "positive rage" of those who started from humble origins. 

An affection reciprocated: the island had dedicated a competition to him, the Columbu Championship and his country had dedicated honorary citizenship in 2016 to the friend of the heart Schwarzenegger. "Franco's death is very painful news for us, he was Ollolai's ambassador in the world," said the town's mayor, Efisio Arbau, adding that Columbu was working with the Municipality to create a documentation center on his career: "He could not resist the call of Sardinia and its sea, every year he returned on August 20 and left for Los Angeles on September 10th - the mayor explained -; he always said that a Sardinian can go anywhere but is tied by a rope with his land that he needs to always return to the origins Also this year, he had arrived in Ollolai from his sisters with his manager "

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