Of all of the weird footnotes in the story of 1990s bodybuilding, few are more compelling than Flavio Baccianini. I sideshow unto himself, the ever-smiling Bacciniani was an actor and bodybuilder who competed throughout the 1980s and 1990s. At 4’11” and 145lbs, he was never in the running for a title until competing in the Masters Olympia in 1999, but he represented the last of the true “giant killers” in the sport of bodybuilding.
The diminutive Baccianini was an Italian who began his bodybuilding career in 1982 at the WABBA European Championships. Though he didn’t win in his initial effort, he took the Bantamweight class the following year. In 1988, Baccianini made his IFBB debut, placing 6th in the Niagara Falls Pro Invitational. He finished as high as third in the 1993 San Jose Pro Invitational, but made his last appearance in an open competition at the 2000 Arnold Classic, in which he took 14th.
Baccianini did manage second at the 1999 and 2000 Masters Olympias (won by stalwart 90s competitor Vince Taylor), but did not place in the final six thereafter. Flavio’s appeal was never in his victories, however, but in his battle to win top spots in spite of the fact that he was giving up a hundred pounds or more to the other men on the stage. His condition was never less than impeccable, and he was never bitter at his placings- though an idealist, he was enough of a realist to realize he lacked the size to really justify a close comparison with anyone in good condition a hundred pound heavier.
Regardless of his impact on the placings, Flavio Baccinanini stands as the last of the “giant killers,” a crowd pleasing anomaly of a bygone era no longer seen in open competitions. Perhaps it is fitting that the last of these men was also the smallest ever to step on the Olympia stage, proving that even in an era of mass monsters, there was still room for outliers who competed on their own terms for their own reasons.