Franco Columbu, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best friend, training partner, confidant and one-time strongman who won the Mr Olympia bodybuilding title twice, has died after drowning while swimming in the sea in Sardinia, Italy according to multiple reports.
Columbu’s death left Schwarzenegger devastated and the Terminator star took to social media to write a heartfelt tribute to his “partner in crime”, closing the final chapter on one of sport’s most unusual and greatest partnerships/friendships.
“I am devastated today. But I am also so, so grateful for the 54 years of friendship and joy we shared,” wrote Schwarzenegger in his Instagram account.
“The pumps [exercise], the chess games, the construction work, the meals, the pranks, the life lessons – we did it all together. We grew and we learned and we loved. My life was more fun, more colourful, and more complete because of you.”
According to Italian media reports, the former Sardinian-born strongman died in the late morning in San Teodoro, a small town in Sardinia, Italy on Thursday as a consequence of “an accident at sea”. Reports could not confirm Columbu’s exact cause of death with some suggesting that he died of a heart attack while other reports said he had drowned. Emergency services airlifted Columbu to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was 78.
Arnold and Franco became fast buddies, dominating the bodybuilding world together and forming a sort of “Batman and Robin” bromance after first meeting in Munich in 1965. “Arnold and Franco”, as they were always known, both emigrated to the United States in 1969 to become two of Joe Weider’s (the father of modern bodybuilding) biggest bodybuilding stars.