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Sergio Oliva

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Sergio Oliva
Personal info
NicknameThe Myth
Born(1941-07-04)July 4, 1941
Pinar del Río, Cuba
DiedNovember 12, 2012(2012-11-12) (aged 71)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Height5 ft 10 in (178 cm)[1]
WeightContest: 225 lb (102 kg)
Off season: 235 lb (107 kg)[1]
Professional career
  • 1966 Mr. World
  • 1966
Best win
  • IFBB Mr. Olympia 1967-1969, three consecutive times
  • 1968 uncontested and unchallenged
PredecessorLarry Scott
SuccessorArnold Schwarzenegger

Sergio Oliva (Spanish pronunciation: [seɾˈxjo oˈliβa]; July 4, 1941 – November 12, 2012), often known by his epithet The Myth for his physique and performance, was a Cuban-American bodybuilder. He was a three-time Mr. Olympia winner.

Early life[edit]

Sergio Oliva was born on July 4, 1941, in Guantanamo, Cuba,[2] during the presidency of Fulgencio Batista. As a teenager, after only a year of training, Sergio was able to perform clean & jerks above 400 pounds.[3] These feats caught the attention of the new government after the Cuban Revolution, who selected Sergio to represent Cuba at the upcoming 1962 Central America and Caribbean Games.[4] During his time in Jamaica representing Cuba at the Games, Oliva sneaked out of his quarters while the guards were distracted. He then 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 and their security guards. Shortly afterward, Oliva was living in Miami, Florida, working as a TV repairman.[5]

Life in the United States[edit]

Oliva then went on to win the Mr. Olympia title three years in a row, at 5 feet 10 inches and a contest weight of 225–245 lbs. Oliva's 1968 Mr. Olympia win was uncontested. In 1969, he won his third consecutive Mr. Olympia by beating a Mr. Europe, a Mr. International, and four-time Mr. Universe winner Arnold Schwarzenegger. In his 1977 autobiography, "Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder", Arnold tells of their first encounter:

Then for the first time, I saw Sergio Oliva in person. I understood why they called him the Myth. It was as jarring as if I'd walked into a wall. He destroyed me. He was so huge, he was so fantastic, there was no way I could even think of beating him. I admitted my defeat and felt some of my pumps go away. I tried. But I'd been so taken back by my first sight of Sergio Oliva that I think I settled for 2nd place before we walked out on the stage I never like to admit defeat, but I thought Sergio was better. There were no two ways about it.[6]

However, Schwarzenegger won his first Mr. Olympia title by edging the Myth the following year with a score of 4–3. Oliva was banned from competing in the 1971 IFBB Mr. Olympia because he competed in the 1971 NABBA Mr. Universe. This was extremely controversial because Schwarzenegger had competed for this very same contest the year before and without Sergio to challenge Arnold, some felt that the contest was fixed. Schwarzenegger said:

I'd coasted to my second title as Mr. Olympia, in Paris in 1971. The only possible challenger had been Sergio - nobody else was in my league - and he'd been barred from the contest, along with others, because of a dispute between federations.[7]

In 1972, under the High-Intensity Training (HIT) system of Arthur Jones, the designer of Nautilus training equipment, Oliva challenged Schwarzenegger for the 1972 Olympia in Essen, West Germany. By all accounts, Sergio was in his all-time greatest shape and completely confident he would regain the Mr. Olympia title. Arnold beat Sergio into 2nd place and was crowned Mr. Olympia yet again. He said:

[...] in Essen, it seemed like all the top [b]odybuilders turned up at their very best except for me. Sergio was back, even more impressive than I remembered.[8] Compared with all of the other Bodybuilders I've ever faced, Sergio really was in a class by himself. I was struck by that again the minute we were onstage. It was so hard to look impressive next to him with those incredible thighs, that impossibly tiny waist, those incredible triceps.[9]

In 1985, at the age of 44, Oliva returned for an attempt at the famed Mr. Olympia title one last time. He could manage just an 8th-place finish, the same as the year before. Robert Kennedy, the publisher of the magazine MuscleMag International, wrote:

Anyone who loves the sport of bodybuilding knows the name of Sergio Oliva, known as the Myth. I greatly admired him and consider him to be the all-time world's greatest physique. I saw him in competition many times, including his shows against Arnold. There is no doubt that with his wide shoulders and narrow hip structure he was superior to any other Bodybuilder of his generation. Sergio was not only the most aesthetic bodybuilder on stage but also the biggest... Sergio Oliva is considered by most to be the world's most genetically gifted bodybuilder... He set a whole new standard for competitive bodybuilding; loved by millions, revered by many, and feared by some. He was so huge and extremely proportioned that he used to bring chills to his adversaries. This is how he acquired the name of the Myth.[10]

Personal life[edit]

  • Olivia served the city of Chicago as a police officer from 1976 to 2003.[11]
  • In 1986, Sergio survived being shot by his then-wife Arleen Garrett. He sustained 5 bullet wounds to his abdomen from a .38 Special.[12]
  • His son Sergio Oliva Jr. is an IFBB Pro bodybuilder who won the 2015 NPC Nationals bodybuilding competition and has since competed on Mr. Olympia, Arnold Classic, and New York Pro stages.[13][14]


Sergio Oliva died on November 12, 2012, in Chicago, Illinois, from apparent kidney failure.[15] He was 71 years old and was the first Mr. Olympia to have died, followed by:

Bodybuilding titles[edit]

  • 1963 Mr Chicago – 1st
  • 1964 Mr Illinois – 1st
  • 1964 Mr America / AAU – 7th
  • 1965 Junior Mr America / AAU – 2nd + “Most Muscular” trophy
  • 1965 Mr America / AAU – 4th + “Most Muscular” trophy
  • 1966 Junior Mr America / AAU – 1st + “Most Muscular” trophy
  • 1966 Mr America / AAU – 2nd + “Most Muscular” trophy
  • 1966 Mr World / IFBB – 1st in the “Tall” category + Overall Winner
  • 1966 Mr Universe / IFBB – 1st
  • 1966 Mr. Olympia / IFBB – 4th
  • 1967 Mr. Olympia / IFBB – 1st
  • 1967 Universe / IFBB – 1st overall
  • 1968 Mr. Olympia / IFBB – 1st (uncontested)
  • 1969 Mr. Olympia / IFBB – 1st
  • 1970 Mr World / AAU (Pro) – 2nd in the “Tall” category
  • 1970 Mr. Olympia / IFBB – 2nd
  • 1971 Universe / NABBA (Pro) – 2nd in the “Tall” category
  • 1972 Mr. Olympia / IFBB – 2nd
  • 1972 Mr Galaxy / WBBG – 1st
  • 1973 Mr International, Mr Azteca[citation needed] / IFBB (Pro) – 1st
  • 1973 Mr Galaxy / WBBG – 1st
  • 1974 Mr International / WBBG (Pro) – 1st
  • 1975 Mr Olympus / WBBG – 1st
  • 1976 Mr Olympus / WBBG – 1st
  • 1977 Pro World Championships / WABBA – 1st
  • 1978 Mr Olympus / WBBG – 1st
  • 1980 Pro World Championships / WABBA – 1st
  • 1980 Professional World cup / WABBA – 1st
  • 1981 Professional World Cup / WABBA – 1st
  • 1984 Mr. Olympia / IFBB – 8th
  • 1984 Professional Mid-States Championships / WABBA – 1st
  • 1985 Mr. Olympia / IFBB – 8th [16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Sergio Oliva - Greatest Physiques". greatestphysiques.com. 6 July 2016.
  2. ^ ctosadmin (1970-01-01). "Oliva, Sergio". Cubans in America (in Spanish). Retrieved 2022-11-25.
  3. ^ "Sergio Oliva - Cuban bodybuilder | WikiZ". Retrieved 2022-11-25.
  4. ^ Merritt, Greg. "Sergio Oliva: The Full, Amazing Story of The Myth". The Barbell. Retrieved 2024-01-05.
  5. ^ Wayne, Rick (1985). Muscle Wars. St. Martin's Press. p. 95. ISBN 0-312-55353-6.
  6. ^ Arnold the Education of a Bodybuilder by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Douglas Kent Hall, published by Simon & Schuster 1977, page 97 ISBN 0-671-79748-4
  7. ^ TOTAL RECALL by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Peter Petre, pg. 144 (Simon & Schuster 2012) [hereinafter "TOTAL RECALL"]
  8. ^ TOTAL RECALL, pg. 144
  9. ^ TOTAL RECALL, pg. 128
  10. ^ Robert Kennedy, Best Selling Author, Editor, and Publisher of MuscleMag International; Sergio Oliva, Building the Ultimate Physique by Sergio Oliva and Frank Marchante, Foreword (Gras Publishing Company 2007)
  11. ^ Merritt, Greg. "Sergio Oliva: The Full, Amazing Story of The Myth". The Barbell. Retrieved 2024-01-05.
  12. ^ "Ex-mr. Universe Turned Cop Shot In Quarrel With His Wife". Chicago Tribune. July 25, 1986. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
  13. ^ "Contests | NPC News Online". contests.npcnewsonline.com. Retrieved 2023-02-15.
  14. ^ "Sergio Oliva Jr IFBB Professional Bodybuilder". www.sergioolivajr.com. Retrieved 2023-02-15.
  15. ^ Kiran, Joseph. "How did Sergio Oliva (The Myth) die?". www.sportskeeda.com. Retrieved 2022-11-25.
  16. ^ Sergio Oliva the Myth, Building the Ultimate Physique by Sergio Oliva and Frank Marchante 2007 page 320 {by Gras Publishing company}

External links[edit]

Mr. Olympia
Preceded by:
Larry Scott
First (1967) Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Second (1968) Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Third (1969) Succeeded by:
Arnold Schwarzenegger