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Franco Columbu

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Dr. Franco Columbu
Franco columbu full.jpg
Franco "The Sardinian Strongman" Columbu
Personal Info
Nickname The Sardinian Strongman
Birth August 7, 1941 (1941-08-07) (age 79), Ollolai, Sardinia, Italy
Height 5 Ft. 5 in.
Weight 180-185 lbs (contest)
Professional Career
Pro-debut 1968 Mr. Universe, 1968
Best win IFBB Mr. Olympia 1976, 1981,
Predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger ('75 & '80)
Successor Frank Zane ('77), Chris Dickerson ('82)
Active Retired 1981

Dr. Franco Columbu (born August 7, 1941) is a Sardinian actor and former bodybuilder and World's Strongest Man competitor.



Columbu was born in Ollolai, Sardinia. Starting out his athletic career as a boxer Columbu progressed into the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, powerlifting and later bodybuilding, winning the title of Mr. Olympia in 1976 and 1981. At 5 feet and 5 inches in height (some magazines reported as short as 5'3"), Columbu is shorter than most of his bodybuilding competitors, but that did not prevent him from achieving widespread success.

Columbu competed in the 1977 World's Strongest Man competition and was actually in first place. During the Refrigerator race, with Franco ahead, suddenly he stumbled, and national television showed Franco's leg becoming grotesquely dislocated and he collapsed. That ended his participation in the World's Strongest Man contest. In the end, he finished in fifth place. He received a reported $1 million in compensation for his injury. [1]

It took six hours of surgery to remove all the muscle and fix his leg. Doctors told him he would never walk again, but Columbu fully recovered in three years.[citation needed] After Arnold Schwarzenegger's comeback victory in the 1980 Mr. Olympia, Franco followed suit and won the 1981 Mr. Olympia.

Columbu is a long time friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he met in Munich in 1965 and competed against in several international-level bodybuilding competitions. For the Mr. Olympia competitions however, he competed in the under 200 lb (90.7 kg) category, whereas Schwarzenegger was in the over 200 lb category. The final champion was determined by a pose down between the two class winners. The International Federation of BodyBuilders has since abandoned weight classes. Arnold and Franco were inseparable during the early to mid 1970's and frequently trained together.

From the time he arrived in America in 1969, Franco Columbu was considered one of the world's strongest men. He held a number of powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting world records. He also performed a strongman act in which he routinely popped a hot water bottle by inflating it orally, lifted vehicles on stage (while someone else was changing a tire) and deadlifted over 700 lbs for repetitions.

Acting Career

In addition to his athletic accomplishments, Columbu has also made intermittent minor forays into acting. Appearing alongside Arnold in Pumping Iron, he has also appeared in cameo roles in Conan the Barbarian (film), The Terminator, The Running Man (film) and starred in his own films such as Beretta's Island. He also did TV commercials; most notably, Vitalis ("the pump"). The Streets of San Francisco (1977) Dead Lift with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Last Action Hero, the words "A Franco Columbu film" appear on the screen at the beginning of Jack Slater IV (a film within the film) as a tribute to Columbu. In the opening scenes of Conan the Barbarian, Columbu plays a 'pictish scout', complete with mustache, wig and blue body-paint. In The Terminator, Columbu plays the infiltrating Terminator in Reese's flashback/dream in which the picture of Sarah Connor is destroyed by fire. The Columbu Terminator also features as a boss character in the Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (video game).


  • 2010:Muscle Beach then and Now - Himself
  • 2008:Why we Train - Himself
  • 2003:Ancient Warriors - as Aldo Paccione
  • 2002:Raw Iron:The Making of Pumping Iron - Himself
  • 1998:Hollywood Salutes Arnold Schwarzenegger:An Cinematheque Tribute - Himself
  • 1997:Doublecross on Costa's Island - as Enrico Costa
  • 1995:Taken Alive - as Enrico Costa
  • 1994:Beretta's Island - as Franco Armando Beretta
  • 1993:Il ritmo del silenzio - as Nerescu
  • 1988:Big Top Pee-wee - as Orin the Strongman
  • 1987:The Running Man - as 911 Security Officer #2
  • 1987:Last Man Standing - as Batty
  • 1986:Don Rickles: Rickles on the Loose - Himself
  • 1984:The Terminator - as Future Terminator
  • 1984:Getting Physical - Himself
  • 1982:Conan The Barbarian - as Pictish Scout
  • 1980:The Hustler of Muscle Beach - Himself
  • 1980:The Comback - Himself
  • 1977:Pumping Iron - Himself
  • 1976:Stay Hungary - as Franco Orsini (Uncredited)


He is a chiropractor and, in spite of being ordered in 2004 by the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners to stop claiming on his letterhead that he has a Ph.D. in nutrition from Kurt Donsbach's University,[2] he still claims to hold a PhD in nutrition, even though the degree is considered bogus.[3]

In Feb. 2006 Columbu was appointed to the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners by Governor Arnold Schwarzennegger in what was later described as a "coup".[4] He currently sits on the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners.[5]


Bodybuilding titles

  • 1966 Mr. Europe, 4th
  • 1968 NABBA Mr. Universe (Most Muscular)
  • 1969 IFBB Mr. Europe (Medium)
  • 1969 NABBA Mr. Universe (Most Muscular)
  • 1969 NABBA Mr. Universe (Short)
  • 1969 IFBB Mr. Universe (Short)
  • 1970 IFBB Mr. Europe (Short & Overall)
  • 1970 AAU Mr. World (Pro Short)
  • 1970 IFBB Mr. World (Short)
  • 1970 IFBB Mr. Universe (Short & Overall)
  • 1971 IFBB Mr. Universe (Short & Overall) *Disqualified for selling bodybuilding booklets - considered as a professional*
  • 1971 IFBB Mr. World (Short & Overall)
  • 1974 Mr. Olympia (Lightweight)
  • 1975 Mr. Olympia (Lightweight)
  • 1976 Mr. Olympia (Lightweight & Overall)
  • 1981 Mr. Olympia

Powerlifting titles

  • Champion of Italy
  • Champion of Germany
  • Champion of Europe


  • 1977 World strongest man, 5th

Powerlifting Best Lifts

  • Bench press 525 Lbs / 238,35 kg
  • Squat (exercise) 665 Lbs / 301,91 kg
  • Deadlift 750 Lbs / 340,5 kg (in some training sessions, he was reported to have lifted over 780 Lbs / 354,12 kg, all at a bodyweight of less than 190 Lbs / 86,26 kg)


  • Amateur Boxing Champion


  • 2009 Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award


External links

Mr. Olympia
Preceded by:
Arnold Schwarzenegger
First (1976) Succeeded by:
Frank Zane
Preceded by:
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Second (1981) Succeeded by:
Chris Dickerson

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