Russian president Vladimir Putin has paid tribute to “legendary” Soviet weightlifting Olympic champion Yury Vlasov, the inspiration figure to bodybuilder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger who died on Saturday at the age of 85.
Vlasov set an unprecedented 31 world titles during his illustrious career, becoming the first weightlifter to clean and jerk more than 200kg, and won gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics in the 90+kg category.
“Yuri Vlasov was a distinguished athlete, an Olympic champion, and a strong, competitive, determined and driven man,” the Russian president wrote in a Telegram message to Vlasov’s loved ones, TASS reported.
“Exceptional hard work and dedication allowed him to realize his remarkable potential in stunning fashion, and to etch nothing short of legendary pages into the history of domestic and international weightlifting, and do so much in the public arena.”
Vlasov’s influence was such that Schwarzenegger, perhaps the most famous weightlifter in history, took to Twitter to express his condolences to an “idol”.
The photograph that A.Schwarzenegger gave to Soviet Olympic champion Yuri Vlasov at their 1988 meeting, signed “To my Idol Yuri Vlasov” pic.twitter.com/LsEAOzW64B
— Soviet Visuals (@sovietvisuals) January 14, 2017
“Yuri Vlasov taught all of us that “impossible” is just a word. 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,” Scwarzenegger wrote in a tweet.
“When I was lucky enough to really get to know him later, I was blown away. 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.”