Italian bodybuilder, actor and boxer Franco Columbu has died at age 78 at John Paul II hospital in the city of Olbia. Columbu, who lived in Los Angeles, was vacationing in Sardinia when he fell ill after swimming in the sea, the hospital said.

Columbu was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s closest friends, and the actor paid tribute to his friend via social media after Columbu’s death.

After starting his career as a boxer, Columbu went on to Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting and later bodybuilding, winning the prestigious title of Mr. Olympia in 1976 and 1981. The preface of his book, Franco Columbu’s Complete Book of Bodybuilding, reads, “Nobody embodies the American dream better than Franco Columbu.”

In 2009, Columbu went on to win the Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted in the Guinness Book of Records in 1978 for his ability to burst a hot water bottle by blowing into in 55 seconds. In 2001, the bodybuilder was induced into International Federation of Bodybuilding Hall of Fame in 2001 and holds the world records for the bench press at 525 lbs., the squat at 655 lbs., and the dead lift 750 lbs, according to his website.

In addition to his athletic achievements, Columbu acted in a popular TV series and movies. He appeared in Schwarzenegger’s films The TerminatorThe Running Man and Conan the Barbarian and acted as the best man in Schwarzenegger’s marriage to Maria Shriver in 1986.

In an Instagram post following Columbu’s death, the former governor of California said his life was “more fun, more colourful, and more complete” thanks to Columbu. He referred to him as his “partner in crime” and was “devastated” due to Columbu’s death.

Schwarzenegger concluded, “I love you Franco. I will always remember the joy you brought to my life, the advices you gave me, and the twinkle in your eye that never disappeared. You were my best friend.”


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