Francesco “Franco” Columbu was a formidable Italian athlete who made his name as a bodybuilder and powerlifter.
He achieved great success despite his relatively small stature – five foot five inches – was named Mr Olympia, and was reputed to be among the strongest men in the world at one time.
The bodybuilder was capable of extraordinary feats of strength, including lifting cars.
Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger met in Germany, and performed in different weight classes during their competition days.
They became close friends, and Columbu served as the best man at Schwarzenegger’s wedding to Maria Shriver.
At the encouragement of a bodybuilding trainer, both Schwarzenegger and Columbu came to the US in the late 1960s.
The Hollywood star has credited his Italian friend with supporting him during this time, when separation from his family was becoming a strain.
Like his friend, Columbu gained numerous film credits in small extra roles, though without achieving the Hollywood fame of Schwarzenegger.
He did however appear in his friend’s hits, including The Terminator and Conan The Barbarian.
The athlete would go on to devise men’s fitness regimes after his retirement from bodybuilding.