Wayne's Hard News - The Making of the Sergio Oliva "The Myth" DVD.
This long and exciting Sergio Oliva story started a long time ago. Back in 1966 when Sergio entered his first Mr. Olympia contest, he placed 4th behind eventual winner LARRY SCOTT (click here for our Larry Scott: A life in bodybuilding, GMV-657DVD). I was aware (thanks to Iron Man magazine) of this great new physique called Sergio Oliva. As a young competitive bodybuilder trying to win my state title, I drew much of my inspiration and training advice from Iron Man magazine.
I really became aware of Sergio's amazing physique when I saw photos of him being surprisingly beaten by Bob Gajda for the AAU Mr. America title, and by coincidence, both men being from the Duncan YMCA in Chicago. Sergio then went on to win the 1967, 1968 and 1969 Mr. Olympia titles in convincing style. Then in 1970 Sergio lost his crown to the fast rising star from Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Unfortunately I was not able to attend any of these first 6 Olympia events, all staged in USA. In 1971, however, it was a different matter.
On September 17th, 1971, I attended and filmed the 1971 NABBA Mr. Universe in London. In the Pro Class it was an incredible lineup with Sergio competing against Bill Pearl in what was to be his last contest, Frank Zane the Overall 1970 Amateur Mr. Universe winner and Reg Park, a 3 time Mr. Universe winner. It was all set to be one hell of a contest. I filmed the Friday prejudging from a perfect position on the balcony of the theatre and then shot the show (finals) next day from the front of the theatre. (To see the 1970 and 1971 NABBA Universe events which I shot on film, click here for V-108DVD. Incidentally this DVD showcases Arnold's last NABBA Universe appearance (1970) and Sergio's only NABBA appearance, in 1971.)
I am frequently asked - "how good did Sergio look in the Pro Class and how come he did not win?" The international judging panel made it a clear victory to Bill Pearl in the tall class with Sergio 2nd and Reg Park 3rd. In the Pro short class 2 it was Frank Zane convincingly defeating Boyer Coe. Sergio looked huge, was in good shape but I would have to say, not in his all time greatest shape, or he would have probably won. On this occasion I could see that he was carrying a little fluid, possibly caused by the long flight from USA, or possibly due to some other factor unknown to me. I know Sergio had been training under the guidance of Art Jones, and so his training had seen him leave USA in absolute top shape. He was huge, but not sharp enough to overcome the hard muscularity and size that Bill Pearl displayed on this occasion. It was obvious to me at the prejudging that Bill Pearl seemed to have the tall class title in the bag.
His condition was crisp and extremely tight with veins popping out in his forearms when ever he flexed his arms. It was obvious that Bill was "really on" for this one. It made no difference to Sergio’s fans who could not see him being beaten under any circumstances. Sergio, a 3 time Mr. Olympia winner was naturally a huge hit with the raucous crowd who were supporting him. Not withstanding, Bill Pearl was also a popular multi titled Mr. Universe winner with an equal number of fans, and this is without mentioning the great Reg Park, another multi Universe winner.
I noted that the fans were cheering equally for Bill Pearl as for Sergio at both prejudging and the show. I also felt greatly privileged to be seeing (and filming) Sergio, Bill Pearl, Frank Zane, Reg Park and Boyer Coe all on the same stage. It was a moment I will never forget. When it came to the show which in USA is called The Finals, it was Bill Pearl who was announced the winner of the Tall Pro Class 1 and Frank Zane announced as the winner of the Short Pro Class 2. Normal Universe protocol would have been to then have an overall posedown between the 2 class winners, Pearl and Zane, to determine the Overall Pro Mr. Universe for 1971. In the heat of the moment, MC Oscar Heidenstam got so excited he forgot to call for the posedown and right away announced Bill Pearl as the Overall Pro Mr. Universe for 1971.
I felt a bit sorry for Frank Zane as he missed out on this extra piece of respect for the well earned privilege and honour to contest the posedown. However it seemed to me, and with no disrespect to Frank, that Bill appeared to have so much momentum going for him on the day, he would almost certainly have won the posedown. I know Sergio was very disappointed with the result, and being impartial I felt that the correct decision had been made, based on the condition both men presented at the Prejudging on the previous day. Sergio did not compete in the NABBA Universe again, returning to the Olympia to do battle with Arnold in 1972. Bill Pearl never competed again, having announced in advance that this was to be his last contest. Frank Zane came back to London the next year and took the Overall Pro Mr. Universe title for 1972.
One week later Sergio and I and the British team lead by Wag & Dianne Bennett were in Paris for the 1971 Mr. Olympia contest. When Sergio arrived in Paris he was informed that he had been banned from competing in the Olympia that year for competing in the NABBA Universe the week before. Contest promoter Serge Nubret was bitterly disappointed as no doubt was Sergio. It was agreed that both Sergio and Franco Columbu (also under suspension) could guest pose at the Olympia show, leaving Arnold as the sole Olympia competitor. An Amateur Mr. Universe contest won by Al Beckles was also part of the event. (Please click here for the 1970 IFBB Mr. Europe & 1971 IFBB Mr. Universe, V-151DVD for more details on this classic contest.)
Sergio had really tightened up in the week following the Universe, got rid of his excess fluid, and appeared to have dropped a couple of pounds in order to look absolutely SENSATIONAL. This time he was hard, huge, muscular and ripped. The sellout crowd went ballistic when Sergio posed! What a battle it would have been if he had been allowed to compete against Arnold! The fans had to wait a further 12 months for that historic confrontation.
My personal connection with Arnold and Sergio then moves on to Essen, Germany in 1972 where Arnold narrowly defeated Sergio. The next day a very disappointed Sergio returned to London where he was being looked after by the Bennetts. They had very kindly helped me set up a filming session on the following day with Sergio at Wanstead Heath, a large park near where they lived. This gave me the chance to film Sergio 2 days after the 1972 Mr. Olympia - in what many say was his all time greatest condition. It was an absolute blast and I will never forget the impression it made when Sergio came through the door of the Bennett’s house to greet me. Those massive arms and shoulders tapering down to a tiny waist, in a skin tight tank-top, was an awesome sight. Not to mention the huge triceps and much more! This filming session was an absolute "blinder" and Sergio really turned it on for the cameras that day, both film and photo.
I next had the pleasure of Sergio posing for me again in 1977 when we shot outdoors in Paris on the day after he won the Pro Class of the 1977 WABBA World Championships. This classic men's contest was also staged by Serge Nubret, this time with Serge hosting the WABBA event after his expulsion from the IFBB. By coincidence, Sergio had guest posed for Nubret when Serge was the IFBB promoter for the 1971 Olympia event 6 years earlier. Sergio still looked fantastic in 1977 and wiped out his competition in convincing style. Maybe not quite as sharp as he was in 1972, Sergio still was an absolute champion and a worthy winner of the title.
At the end of the poolside posing routine segment, Sergio again gave me some mind blowing close-up posing of various body parts as I called the poses - in the freezing Paris winter cold! This was to be our last posing session on film.
As you will see from the CONTENTS of the DVD, we did shoot or obtain permission to use a number of later scenes with Sergio. My special thanks to Norm Komich for providing me with the film footage of Sergio's early Olympia appearances in USA and thanks to Andy Olson for Sergio's later Olympia appearances.
For the full listing of CONTENTS for the DVD on Sergio's bodybuilding history, please click here for SERGIO OLIVA - THE MYTH, GMV-690DVD.