25 Mar 2013

Bodybuilding guru Joe Weider dies

10:00 am on 25 March 2013

Joe Weider, the self-made fitness and bodybuilding guru who built a magazine empire that included more than a dozen popular publications including Muscle and Fitness, has died.

The 93-year-old, also known for starting the Mr Olympia bodybuilding contest in the 1960s and mentoring a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, died from heart failure at a Los Angeles hospital on Saturday, publicist Charlotte Parker said.

"Joe Weider was a titan in the fitness industry and one of the kindest men I have ever met," Schwarzenegger said in a statement posted on his official website.

"He leaves behind a fantastic legacy of a fitter world," the film star and former governor of California said. "Very few people can claim to have influenced as many lives as Joe did through his magazines, his supplements, his training equipment and his big-hearted personality."

Born in a tough neighbourhood of Montreal in 1920, Mr Weider began lifting weights as a teenager to stand up to bullies and older boys before competing in his first bodybuilding contest at the age of 17.

He started his first magazine, Your Physique, in the early 1940s and with younger brother Ben rented a Montreal theatre to host the first Mr Canada contest during that decade, Reuters reports.

The brothers also founded the International Federation of Bodybuilders and in 1965 Joe Weider created the Mr Olympia competition, the sport's premiere bodybuilding contest.

He met Schwarzenegger at a bodybuilding contest in Europe and convinced him to move from his native Austria to the United States to seek wider recognition.

"He saw a lot in Arnold," Charlotte Parker said. "He felt that the sport needed a star and right away he could see that Arnold was something special."

Schwarzenegger, then nicknamed the "Austrian Oak," first gained fame by winning a string of Mr Olympia titles in the early 1970s before going on to a successful career in such films as The Terminator and Total Recall. He was elected governor of California in 2003 and served two terms before retiring from politics.

Mr Weider also created a line of sports nutritional supplements and ultimately founded more than a dozen fitness magazines. He is survived by Betty, his wife of more than 50 years.