While some believe that Mr. Universe is the top honor in the sport of bodybuilding, the winner of Mr. Olympia is generally recognized as the world’s top male professional bodybuilder.
Schwarzenegger retired with seven Mr. Olympia titles.
During my freshman at Branham High School, the film that would become Schwarzenegger’s first box office hit, Conan the Barbarian, was released in theaters. I had no interest in seeing it, but a few of my friends at school were raving about it — including a girl named Brooke, who was arguably the most attractive girl on campus. She said, “Oh my gosh! Arnold is SO hot! His muscles are to die for.” I remember wondering why she would say something like that about someone who was so much older than us. And my second thought was that I needed to get some muscles!
A few days later, I was working harder than ever in the P.E. weight room. At ninety-two pounds, I knew that it was going to take months before I saw results. While this wasn’t my first foray into weightlifting (I actually had some cement weights in sixth grade), it was the first time I got serious.
My enthusiasm continued into the summer, and I asked my dad to sign me up for a gym membership. In those days, there weren’t many options. I ended up training at San Jose Gym near Santa Clara and 7th Streets. The owner was a guy named Joe, who was training for Mr. Universe with the man sitting beside Schwarzenegger in this photo. His name is Ed Corney, a legend in the bodybuilding community, and an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Hall of Fame inductee in 2004.
I didn’t know much about Corney at the time, but over the next few months, I became acutely aware of his success as a bodybuilder. To this day, Corney is considered the greatest poser of all time. And while the most famous bodybuilding documentary, Pumping Iron, often features Schwarzenegger on its cover nowadays, it was Corney who adorned the cover upon its release, and it was Corney who was featured on all marketing ephemera.
As serious as I was about my workouts, I, and others, often stopped to see Corney work. It was akin to watching a prizefighter train for a bout. During and after his workouts, he was always open to questions, and happy to offer suggestions.
Today, Ed Corney is 83, and although he’s had some set backs, including a short period in a coma, and time using a wheelchair, he’s managed to fight his way back to health, and remains active in the sport.
As for me, my muscles have been missing since 1998.