Sergio Oliva: In a time when Larry Scott was the biggest guy onstage at 5’7” 210 lb, Sergio Oliva (b. 1941 d. 2012)was an impossibly humongous 5’10” and 245 pounds. Dwarfing the competition with slick slabs of dense muscle built not with chrome-plated machines but Olympic lifting in the Soviet system. This is because Sergio Oliva was actually a Cuban national who defected to the US while competing in Jamaica in 1962.
By 1963, Sergio Oliva was in Chicago working in a steel mill for 10-12 hours a day, then spending 2-3 hours in the gym. Oliva won his first bodybuilding contest that year, but soon ran into the glass ceiling all bodybuilders of color discovered in the AAU. Frustrated with the clearly biased judging in the AAU, Oliva jumped ship for the greener pastures of the IFBB, to receive an altogether too brief respite from prejudice in judging.
Sergio Oliva then won the Mr. Olympia title three years in a row, beating Arnold in one of his victories. The following year, however, Arnold edged out “The Myth”, and Sergio was barred from competition the year after that for competing in the NABBA Mr. Universe, which Arnold had done the previous year and been allowed to compete anyway. Certain the fix was again in (and in deep, if the judging shenanigans surrounding Arnold over the years are any indication), Sergio was stripped of his 1972 Mr. International title and gave up on the IFBB entirely.
After “wasting” the ensuing twelve years in the World BodyBuilding Guild (WBBG) and retirement, Sergio Oliva returned to the Olympia stage in 1984 at the age of 45. Though not the ageless and immortal Dexter Jackson, Oliva again displayed his unreal genetic gifts, full muscle bellies, and amazing v-taper, but was only able to garner an eighth place finish, which he repeated the following year. Though he is far from the winningest Mr. Olympia, Sergio Oliva is still considered one of the best bodybuilders to ever don a pair of trunks.
According to MuscleMag editor Robert Kennedy,
“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.”