Remembering Sergio, By Peter McGough
by Peter McGough
So there I sat at the Victoria Palace Theater, London on Saturday afternoon, September 18, 1971. Rod Stewart's "Maggie May" was top of the charts, in soccer Brian Clough’s Derby County (you will be riveted to hear) were on course to win the English First Division, Nixon was in the White House and I, wearing bell-bottoms, sideburns and an exaggerated lat spread, proudly made my way to my seat to witness that year's NABBA Pro Universe. I was the kiddie, down in the Big Smoke for my once a year outing with the rest of the gang from Stewart’s Gym Nottingham, for the big event of the year where we took ample opportunity to strut and flex our growing stuff with the rest of the nation's muscle wannabes.
The previous year I had witnessed Arnold win the Pro Universe with Reg Park second and Dave Draper third. This year the big names were Bill Pearl, Sergio Oliva and Reg Park again. This clash I would take in my stride. After all, at 22, I was a veteran of all this, had read all the mags, and was in my own quiet understated fashion a Weider Wild Cat -- a blurb that accompanied many of Uncle Joe's ads of the day.
Pearl, aged 42 and after a four year layoff, came on and at 242 purported pounds was stupendous; an amalgam of shape and proportion accentuated by exquisite posing -- synchronicity in motion. I was impressed.
And then it happened. Out ambled (there is no better word to describe his gait) Sergio Oliva and at my first sight of him I shot back in my seat, nearly spilling my ice cream on my flowered shirt emblazoned with the logo, "Mungo Jerry World Tour 1970". I was shocked. I'd seen all the pics, read all the press, but nothing prepared me for my first sight of the Myth. He was just friggin' huge -- a wasp waist seemingly in risk of collapsing under the strain of the mighty dimensions of his upper body. His biceps were like ham hocks, his hanging triceps, no less so, his deltoids were as round as his shaven head, his chest swelled up like an inflatable life raft, and his thighs were so huge you guessed his tailor would have to work overtime to produce a pair of pants. When he hit the overhead Victory pose the hairs on the back of my head stood up as did many in the audience. I sat in awe, gobsmacked (silenced) by the sheer majesty, the sheer muscle of it all.
In the final analysis Bill Pearl won the contest, but Sergio won my senses. Forty-one years later I can state unequivocally that I never again felt such awe in seeing a physique for the first time. Sergio, thanks for all the great memories and Rest in Peace. You may have left us but your legacy will live and be celebrated in our community as long as weights are lifted. There will never, ever be another Myth.