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Bodybuilding Pioneer Joe Weider Dies at 93

FILE - This Oct. 25, 2003 file photo shows then California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, right, raising the arm of Joe Weider, the creator of Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding competition, during the 39th annual Mr. Olympia event in Las Vegas. Weider, the legendary bodybuilding impresario Arnold Schwarzenegger has often cited as his key mentor, died Friday, March 22, 2013, at age 93.(AP Photo/Eric Jamison, File)

FILE - This Oct. 25, 2003 file photo shows then California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, right, raising the arm of Joe Weider, the creator of Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding competition, during the 39th annual Mr. Olympia event in Las Vegas. Weider, the legendary bodybuilding impresario Arnold Schwarzenegger has often cited as his key mentor, died Friday, March 22, 2013, at age 93.(AP Photo/Eric Jamison, File)

Los Angeles — Joe Weider, a legendary figure in bodybuilding who helped popularize the sport worldwide and played a key role in introducing a charismatic young weightlifter named Arnold Schwarzenegger to the world, died yesterday. He was 93.

Weider’s publicist, Charlotte Parker, told The Associated Press that the bodybuilder, publisher and promoter died of heart failure at his home in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.

“I knew about Joe Weider long before I met him,” Schwarzenegger, who tweeted the news of his old friend’s death, said in a lengthy statement posted on his website. “He was the godfather of fitness who told all of us to be somebody with a body. He taught us that through hard work and training we could all be champions.”

A bodybuilder with an impressive physique himself, Weider became better known in later years as a behind-the-scenes guru to the sport.

He popularized bodybuilding and spread the message of health and fitness worldwide with such publications as Muscle & Fitness, Flex and Shape. Schwarzenegger himself is the executive editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex.

He created one of bodybuilding’s pre-eminent events, the Mr. Olympia competition, in 1965, adding to it the Ms. Olympia contest in 1980, the Fitness Olympia in 1995 and the Figure Olympia in 2003.

He also relentlessly promoted Schwarzenegger, who won the Mr. Olympia title a then-record seven times, including in 1980 and every year from 1970 through 1975.

“Every sport needs a hero, and I knew that Arnold was the right man,” he said.

Weider brought Schwarzenegger to the United States early in his career, where he helped train the future governor of California as well as aided him in getting into business. Schwarzenegger also said Weider helped land him his first movie role, in the forgettable film Hercules in New York, by passing off the Austrian-born weightlifter to the producers as a German Shakespearean actor.

In recent years, Weider donated much of his bodybuilding memorabilia to the University of Texas at Austin.

He is survived by his wife.