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“I Am Scared of Death”: ‘The Myth’ Who Defeated Arnold Schwarzenegger Once Refused Traveling to America Despite Huge Opportunities to Save His Life

Published 11/29/2022, 11:45 AM EST

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Known as The Myth, Sergio Oliva was arguably the one with the best genetics ever in bodybuilding. Born in Cuba, he was a Cuban-American bodybuilder. He loved bodybuilding for as long as he could.

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But being a citizen of a communist country where bodybuilding was prohibited stood as an obstacle between Sergio and his dreams. Eventually, he joined the weightlifting team and found a way to leave Cuba to go to the US.


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When did Oliva discover his passion?

In an exclusive interview with, Sergio once shared how he accidentally started weightlifting. He was just 18 years old when he was planning to flee his country with his friends. However, the plan that his friends had suggested was life-threatening.

His friends had planned to escape on a boat. But Sergio wasn’t ready to fight the sharks. He said, “I’m not such a great champion that I would fight the sharks. I am scared of death. I don’t care; call me chicken if you want. I don’t deal with that.” Hence, he did not go ahead with them.


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However, life had unique plans for him. Soon he was scouted by the manager of the Cuban weightlifting team when he was lazing around on the beach. It was then that he was introduced to the world of bodybuilding and weightlifting. Initially, though, Oliva was surprised when the unexpected opportunity presented itself before him. But he took the leap of faith and started training under him.

In the next three months, he trained and participated in his first amateur competition. He won the competition. Later, with just one year of training, he was able to perform clean and jerks 400lbs. Since then, he never looked back and kept moving forward.

About Sergio Oliva


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Sergio Oliva was born in 1941 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba. He came to the United States in 1961 after running away from the Pan American Games held in Jamaica. Initially, he took shelter in Miami, Florida, and worked as a TV repairman. Later, he continued to follow his dream and participated in various competitions.

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He won the Mr. Olympia contest for three consecutive years; 1967, 1968, and 1969. He had defeated the bodybuilding legend, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Mr. Olympia 1969. However, Schwarzenegger defeated him the following year.


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Watch Story: Arnold Schwarzenegger vs Andre The Giant: Who Is Stronger?

Sergio Oliva retired from the competitions in 1985. Later, in November 2012, he passed away after an apparent kidney failure. He was the first Mr. Olympia to have died among all the others.



Aaradhana Singh

630 articles

Aaradhana Singh is a US Sports writer for EssentiallySports. The holder of a Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication, Aaradhana has previously worked as an editor/writer with Asiana Times for the better part of a year. A sports person at heart with a curious mind, Aaradhana is someone who is always up for fun and adventure.

Edited By: Vineet Nandwana