Simplyshredded Exclusive Profile: Sergio Oliva “The Myth” [1941 – 2012]

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Born: July 4, 1941
Height: 5’10” – 178 cm
Contest Weight: 225 lbs. – 102 kg

Sergio Oliva (July 4, 1941 – November 12, 2012) was a bodybuilder known as “The Myth”. This sobriquet was given to him by bodybuilder/writer Rick Wayne. Wayne had begun calling Oliva “The Myth” “(because everyone who saw him at the 1967 Montreal World’s Fair said he was “Just unbelievable”)”.

Early life

Oliva was born in Cuba on July 4, 1941. At the age of twelve he worked with his father in the sugar cane fields of Guanabacoa. When Oliva was 16, his father suggested that he enlist in Fulgencio Batista’s army. In the absence of a birth certificate, the recruiting officer took the senior Oliva’s word that his son was old enough to enlist in the fight against communism. After losing the war to Fidel Castro, Oliva stayed local and took to hanging out at the beach. There he met a fellow sun worshipper who invited him to the local weightlifting club. After just six months of training Oliva was doing clean & jerks with over 300 pounds and totaling 1000 pounds in the three Olympic lifts at a bodyweight of 195 lbs, considered a middle-heavyweight. Because of an injury of the top weightlifter, Alberto R. Games, he was chosen to represent Cuba at the 1962 Central America Games hosted in Kingston, Jamaica. In 1962 the National Weightlifting Championship for Cuba was won by Alberto Rey Games Hernandez; Sergio Oliva took second place. During his stay in Jamaica, Oliva snuck out of his quarters while the guards were distracted. He ran at top speed until he was safely inside the American consulate. Arriving breathlessly he demanded and received political asylum.

Soon, sixty-five other Cuban nationals followed him, including Castro’s entire weightlifting team. Soon afterward, Oliva was living in Miami, Florida working as a TV repairman.

Life in the United States

In 1963 Oliva moved to Chicago, Illinois. There he worked at a local steel mill and began working out at the Duncan YMCA. Working 10-12 hour days at the steel mill and putting in another 2.5–3 hours at the gym gave Oliva very little time for anything else. Soon the bodybuilding grapevine was abuzz with gossip about a Cuban powerhouse who lifted more than any of the local Olympic champs. Oliva won his first bodybuilding competition the Mr. Chicagoland contest in 1963. Then he was successful again at the Mr. Illinois in 1964 but he lost in 1965 at the AAU Jr. Mr. America winning 2nd place even though he won the trophy for “Most Muscular”. In 1966, he won the AAU Jr. Mr. America and again he claimed the trophy for “Most Muscular”. He then joined the International Federation of BodyBuilders IFBB in which he won both the professional Mr. World and Mr. Universe Contests. In 1967 he won the prestigious Mr. Olympia contest, making him the undisputed world champion of bodybuilding.

Oliva then went on to win the Mr. Olympia title three years in a row, at 5 feet 10 inches and at a contest weight of around 225 lbs.

Bodybuilding titles

  • 1963 Mr Chicago
  • 1964 Mr Illinois
  • 1964 Mr America – AAU, 7th
  • 1965 Junior Mr America – AAU, 2nd
  • 1965 Junior Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular
  • 1965 Mr America – AAU, 4th
  • 1965 Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular,
  • 1966 Junior Mr America – AAU, Winner
  • 1966 Junior Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular
  • 1966 Mr America – AAU, 2nd
  • 1966 Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular,
  • 1966 Mr World – IFBB, Overall Winner
  • 1966 Mr World – IFBB, Tall, 1st
  • 1966 Mr Universe – IFBB Winner
  • 1966 Olympia – IFBB, 4th
  • 1967 Olympia – IFBB, Winner
  • 1967 Universe – IFBB, Overall Winner
  • 1968 Olympia – IFBB, Winner
  • 1969 Olympia – IFBB, Winner
  • 1970 Mr World – AAU, Pro Tall, 2nd
  • 1970 Olympia – IFBB, 2nd
  • 1971 Universe – Pro – NABBA, Tall, 2nd
  • 1972 Olympia – IFBB, 2nd
  • 1973 Mr International – IFBB, Professional, 1st
  • 1974 Mr International – WBBG, Professional, 1st
  • 1975 Olympus – WBBG, Winner
  • 1976 Olympus – WBBG, Winner
  • 1977 World Championships – WABBA, Professional, 1st
  • 1978 Olympus – WBBG, Winner
  • 1980 World Championships – WABBA, Professional, 1st
  • 1981 Pro World Cup – WABBA, Winner
  • 1984 Olympia – IFBB, 8th
  • 1984 Pro States Championships – WABBA
  • 1985 Olympia – IFBB, 8th


  • He served the city of Chicago as a police officer for more than 25 years.
  • The only bodybuilder to ever defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Mr Olympia contest, 1969.
  • His son, Sergio Oliva Jr, is following in his father’s footsteps into competitive bodybuilding in Chicago, Illinois.
  • Oliva co-starred with Mil Máscaras in a Mexican wrestling movie in 1975 called El Poder Negro (Black Power), in which he played a super-strong dockworker who runs afoul of the local crime syndicate and helps Mil Máscaras to bring them to justice. His co-star was Venezuelan actress and singer Lila Morillo.
  • In 1977, Oliva starred in a second Mexican action film (this time a wrestling/western hybrid) called “The Terrible Ones” (aka “Los Terribles”).
  • The character Biscuit Oliva in the Japanese manga and anime Baki the Grappler was closely based on Oliva’s real-life personality and appearance.
  • In 1986, Sergio survived being shot by his then-wife Arleen Garrett. He sustained 5 bullet wounds.
  • Sergio Oliva died on November 12, 2012, from apparent kidney failure.