Leonid Zhabotinsky, a record-breaking Ukrainian-born Soviet weight lifter who picked up Olympic gold medals in 1964 and 1968 and was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s teenage idol, died on Thursday in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. He was 77.
His death was announced by his son Ruslan, who did not specify a cause, according to the International Weightlifing Federation.
Even in the sport of superheavy weight lifting, where superlatives are not taken lightly, Zhabotinsky’s sobriquets — Big Zhabo and the Strongest Man of the World — seemed like understatements.
He was nearly 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed as much as 365 pounds. He marched in the opening parade of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics gripping the 40-pound pole bearing the red and gold Soviet hammer-and-sickle banner in only one hand, while every other flag-bearer needed two.
“He stole the show,”…