Franco Columbu, Bodybuilder and Schwarzenegger Friend, Dies at 78

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Mr. Columbu held titles like Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia, and helped bodybuilding broaden its audience by appearing in action films and “Pumping Iron.”ImageFranco Columbu, hanging upside down, appeared in the 1977 film “Pumping Iron” with his friend Arnold Schwarzenegger. A former boxer and weight lifter, Mr. Columbu helped bring mainstream popularity to bodybuilding.CreditCreditAF archive/AlamyPublished Sept. 2, 2019Updated Sept. 3, 2019, 12:28 a.m. ETFranco Columbu, an Italian bodybuilder whose herculean physique won him major titles in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, and who helped popularize the sport with his close friend Arnold Schwarzenegger, died on Friday at a hospital in Olbia, Italy. He was 78.His death was confirmed by a doctor at the hospital, who did not specify the cause. Italian news reports said that Mr. Columbu had become sick while swimming in the sea at San Teodoro, a beach town in Sardinia he was visiting, and that he had been taken to the hospital by helicopter. Mr. Columbu was a talented boxer before he gravitated to powerlifting and bodybuilding in the mid-1960s. He stood under 5 feet 6 inches tall and usually weighed around 185 pounds, which might seem diminutive for an Atlas. But he sculpted his muscles enough to win titles like Mr. Universe, Mr. World and twice Mr. Olympia, one of bodybuilding’s most prestigious honors. He was nicknamed the Sardinian Samson, after the island of his birth. “Franco Columbu was never the biggest man on

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