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Fitness pioneer, Schwarzenegger mentor Joe Weider dies

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Tue March 26, 2013
Joe Weider created the Mr. Olympia contest and brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to the United States.
Joe Weider created the Mr. Olympia contest and brought Arnold Schwarzenegger to the United States.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Joe Weider created Mr. Olympia, Ms. Olympia and various fitness competitions
  • He also published magazines such as Shape, Men's Fitness and Flex
  • Schwarzenegger describes him as kind, generous and "a titan in the fitness industry"
  • Weider died Saturday at a Los Angeles hospital; he was 93

(CNN) -- A bodybuilding icon. A fitness innovator. A magazine publisher. A mentor to one of the world's biggest action heroes.

A pioneer.

Joe Weider was all those things and more in his 93 years, right up until his death Saturday morning at a Los Angeles hospital.

Calling his "dear friend and mentor ... a titan in the fitness industry and one of the kindest men I have ever met," Arnold Schwarzenegger said "very few people can claim to have influenced as many lives as Joe did through his magazines, his supplements, his training equipment and his big-hearted personality."

"Joe was known for urging everyone, 'Exceed yourself,'" Schwarzenegger wrote on his website. "And there is no question that throughout his life, he did just that."

Growing up in a tough part of the Canadian city of Montreal during the Great Depression, the once undersized Weider's life started to turn when he began lifting a makeshift barbell.

Weider entered his first weightlifting contest at age 17, soon earning a name for himself in Canada, according to his website.

At age 20, he started his first magazine, Your Physique. It proved to be the first of several successful business ventures, one of them being the Weider Barbell Co.

Over the next few decades, Weider went onto become attached especially to the bodybuilding world -- having helped create, in 1946, the International Federation of Bodybuilders and, in 1965, creating the inaugural Mr. Olympia contest. Other competitions followed, such as Ms. Olympia in 1980, Fitness Olympia in 1995 and Figure Olympia in 2003.

He also built out his magazine publishing empire with titles that included Shape, Men's Fitness, Flex, Natural Health and Muscle and Fitness.

Schwarzenegger was one of the thousands who read Weider's magazines growing up, saying they "provided me with the inspiration and the blueprint to push myself beyond my limits and imagine a much bigger future."

Later, it was Weider who invited Schwarzenegger to leave Austria for the United States, financed his move and helped to propel his career in bodybuilding, acting and business.

"He freely gave of his time and expertise and became a father figure for me," recalled Schwarzenegger, who became a top-grossing movie star and governor of California. "He advised me on my training, on my business ventures, and once, bizarrely, claimed I was a German Shakespearean actor to get me my first acting role in "Hercules in New York", even though I barely spoke English."

Weider remained active "almost until the end," even after being diagnosed 12 years ago with a heart condition, amyloidosis, said his publicist Charlotte Parker.

"That never slowed him down," said Parker, who worked with Weider for about 20 years. "He was amazing."

By helping popularize weight training, supplement and vitamin use, and fitness equipment -- whether in a gym, a school or a home -- Weider helped change the way the world looks at fitness and health, according to Parker.

Outside of all that, his friends knew him as a very giving, smart person.

"He was generous, loving, full of life," said Parker. "He was a great man."

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