‘He taught us that “impossible” is just a word’: Arnold Schwarzenegger lauds ‘idol’ Yuri Vlasov after weightlifting legend’s death

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Bodybuilding icon and Hollywood superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger has paid tribute to pioneering Soviet and Russian weightlifting champion Yuri Vlasov,who passed away on Saturday at the age of 85 after a hugely influential life.

Schwarzenegger – who saw Vlasov as an idol for his previously unconquered career heights – repeatedly reflected that the Russian weightlifting legend had inspired his love for strength sports.

During his spectacular sporting career, Vlasov claimed four world and six European titles, setting 31 world records and becoming the first weightlifter to clean and jerk more than 200kg.

Under the flag of the Soviet Union, he took gold at the 1960 Summer Games in Rome and silver four years later at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Strongman Schwarzenegger’s coach introduced him to Vlasov at a 1961 world lifting championship event in Austria, when the Austrian-American was a 14-year-old beginner.

After becoming a film star, Schwarzenegger didn’t miss a chance to meet his idol again while filming in Moscow for the 1988 film Red Heat.

The actor insisted on visiting Vlasov, with whom he held an arm-wrestling session in a gym before signing a photo for him which read: “To my idol”.

“Yuri Vlasov taught all of us that “impossible” is just a word,” gushed the former governor of California.

“He was the first person to clean and jerk 200kg and he inspired me when I met him as a young lifter in 1961. It is because of people like him that I refuse to call myself self-made.”

After retiring from sport, poetry lover Vlasov embarked on a literary career, writing dozens of novels that were translated into different languages.

He was the head of the Soviet weightlifting federation from 1985 to 1987 before becoming a successful politician and winning election to the State Duma in 1993, later standing as an independent presidential candidate in the 1996 election that was won by Boris Yeltsin.

“When I was lucky enough to really get to know him later, I was blown away,” said Schwarzenegger. “This man wasn’t just a great lifter – he was a great thinker.

“He talked about poetry and politics like a professor and carried around more books than weights. He told me the power of the body was nothing compared to the power of the mind.

“He was one of the strongest men in the world and he believed that real strength came from words. He was truly one of a kind and I hope each and every one of us can find inspiration in his story.

“I was lucky to know him and I will miss him dearly. My thoughts are with his family.”

Organizers will dedicate the 2021 European Weightlifting Championships, scheduled to take place in Moscow from April 3 to 11, to the memory of Vlasov.




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