Our industry burgeoned into the limelight with the help of some pretty amazing bodybuilders. And as we move forward, it seems appropriate to look back and give thanks and recognition to those who really helped propel fitness into the mainstream. Arguably, you could say that the fitness “career” was essentially started by these pioneers. Serge Nubret for instance, made an indelible mark on the bodybuilding world.
Serge Nubret aka “The Black Panther” was Mr. Europe, Mr. Universe and Mr. World. Hailing from France, he was a competitive bodybuilder for 25 years! He is the only athlete to have won 6 world titles with 4 different federations: IFBB(1)/NABBA(1)/WBBG(2)/WABBA(2). In fact, he was the guest poser at the WABBA world championships in 2003 at 65 years old; 20 years after his retirement from competition! Serge served as the head of the France and Europe IFBB bodybuilding federation from 1970 to 1975.
After being inspired by bodybuilding legend Steve Reeves in Hercules, Serge was featured in 25 movies including Arrivano i titani with Giuliano Gemma (1961) César et Rosalie with Romy Schneider and Yves Montand (1972) and The Professional with Jean-Paul Belmondo (1981).
Nubret appeared in the bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron where he competed as a last-minute entry at the 1975 Mr. Olympia in Pretoria, South Africa. Serge was told he could not compete on his arrival and stopped training for 12 days, losing 12 lbs of muscle between then and the day of the contest, when he was informed the night before pre-judging that he was able to compete. For contract reasons, his parts in Pumping Iron were brief; and, apparently, certain scenes containing him could not be put in the movie. These episodes are discussed further in his autobiography. Despite everything, he finished second to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the heavy weight class, but still beat Lou Ferrigno.
In the 1980s, Serge appeared regularly in 60 episodes of the television series Breakfast Included, with Pierre Mondy and Marie-Christine Barrault, in which he played a role that mirrored his real life as a bodybuilder/gym owner in Paris.
Serge Nubret remains one of the most significant figures and for lots of bodybuilders, he represents the out-of-the-box aesthetic reference. His legacy is alive and well, witnessing the Golden Age of bodybuilding when balance and harmony were keys to all achievements.
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