The past few years have been rough for the bodybuilding and fitness community with the loss of many great individuals. Man, woman, old, young… death is no respecter of persons.
Today, we remember several names some you may know of, and some you may not.
1. Rich Piana
Rich Piana was an icon in the industry. He won the Mr. California bodybuilding competition in 1998 as well as a few other competitions. But his extreme popularity was more due to the fact that he had a larger than life personality and wasn’t afraid to be real and honest.
Piana ran a YouTube channel where he gave inspirational speeches, workout advice, day in the life content and more. As a result, he became one of the most followed and loved individuals in fitness.
But at age 46, Piana collapsed at home and died a few weeks after being in a coma. He had enlarged organs but the cause of his death wasn’t entirely confirmed.
Date of death: August 25, 2017
2. Dallas McCarver
Dallas ‘Big Country’ McCarver was an up and coming Open division bodybuilder who placed 8th at the 2016 Olympia and 2nd at the 2017 Arnold Classic Ohio to name his most notable achievements. He earned his Pro card at only 21 years of age and it was evident he had all the potential.
However, he passed away at age 26 from cardiac arrest, just when his career was starting to take off. Fellow bodybuilder Josh Lenartowicz found him lying on the floor in his Florida home but it was too late.
His death came just a few days prior to the passing of Rich Piana which marked one of the most devastating weeks in bodybuilding history.
Date of Death: August 22, 2017
3. Sifiso Lungelo Thabethe
It was a terrible fate for South African bodybuilder and IFBB Junior World Champion Sifiso Lungelo Thabethe who died after breaking his neck while attempting a backflip.
The incident was captured on video where the 23-year-old attempted the backflip in front of a crowd and landed on his neck.
Date of death: August 5, 2017
4. Michael Bekoev
Michael Bekoev was a Ukrainian bodybuilder who died of a heart attack at age 54.
Date of Death: July 19, 2017
5. Sean Harris
Just days before the Tampa Pro bodybuilding contest in 2017, Sean Harris fell asleep behind the wheel and died in a pretty tragic accident.
Harris turned Pro after winning the masters over-35 heavyweight and overall titles in the 2015 IFBB North American Championships.
Date of Death: July 27, 2017
6. Scott Wilson
Scott Wilson first found his passion for bodybuilding after entering (and winning) a show on a dare. He then went on to win the AAU Mr. California the very next year and from there, he won Mr. America and Mr. International.
But Wilson would ultimately succumb to skin cancer at age 67.
Date of Death: May 6, 2018
7. Franco Columbu
Franco Columbu was an absolute legend in bodybuilding. He was a freakishly strong powerlifter by the same token. Columbu was Italian-born of which he came to the U.S. in the late ’60s although he had met Arnold Schwarzenegger in Germany before that.
He’s famously known for winning the Mr. Olympia title in 1976 and 1981, in addition to starring alongside Schwarzenegger in the 1977 movie Pumping Iron.
Columbu suffered a heart attack while swimming off the coast of San Teodoro, Sardinia Italy at age 78.
Date of Death: August 30, 2019
Photo via Instagram @francocolumbu
8. Ed Corney
Hawaiian bodybuilder Ed Corney also appeared in the movie Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger and other popular bodybuilders from the 70s.
He won the Mr. Universe twice, Mr. America once, and Mr. World twice.
Corney suffered a heart attack in 1999 during shoulder replacement surgery although, he eventually recovered. However, a brain aneurysm in 2018 would prove to be fatal as he passed on the first of January 2019.
Date of Death: January 1, 2019
9. David Dearth
Dearth was a larger than life individual who was very open about his lifestyle, and he competed in the IFBB but then transitioned to Vince McMahon’s WBF (World Bodybuilding Federation) in the 90s for a brief stint.
He was named the “The Rock’N’ Roll Wild Child which McMahon felt was suitable for his personality. Although he’d return to IFBB competition even competing at the 1994 Olympia of which he did not place.
Dearth had an accident with a horse at age 56 which resulted in a shoulder cuff and biceps injury. He eventually went in for surgery but abscesses developed after some complications. Following a second surgery, Dearth suffered a heart attack and died.
Date of Death: August 5, 2019
Photos via Facebook David Dearth
10. Daryl Stafford
Daryl Stafford started bodybuilding at age 25 in 1984 and earned his Pro card in 1993. He was a USA and National champ from the who went on to have a competitive career up until 2010.
Stafford died at 58 due to what was reported as a heart attack.
Date of Death: January 5, 2019
11. Mariola Sabanovic-Suarez
Female Physique competitor Mariola Sabanovic-Suarez died of a heart attack at age 43 a few days after her 2019 Tampa Pro showing where she placed 16th.
Date of Death: August 2019
12. Stacey Bentley
Stacey Bentley most notably placed fourth at the IFBB Women’s World Bodybuilding Championships, in 1979 before going on to win the Frank Zane Pro the same year. She then retired in 1981 to pursue a career in nursing which she had a passion for.
She was a kind soul and a great role model for up and coming female competitors.
Date of Death: December 31, 2019
13. Paul Love
An icon of the sport, Paul Love was a Pro in the 50s and 60s. Although, he was acknowledged most for promoting big shows in the 80s including the World Games Bodybuilding Championships.
Shawn Ray posted a message about his death along with several others including former Mr. and Ms. Olympia champions Samir Bannout and Corey-Everson Donia.
Love was 86 when he passed away.
Date of Death: December 2019
Sending condolences to the Love Family, Madeline Love & her sister Liz Love. It was an honor knowing your father…
14. Zhanna Rotar
Ukraine IFBB Bikini competitor Zhanna Rotar moved to the US from her home country in 1996 at age 16. She developed a passion for fitness and had a good run in competition although not winning any major competitions. Rotar retired from competing in 2010 to become an NPC/Pro League judge and focused on training others.
However, on Christmas Day and at 39, she was struck by a vehicle that killed her according to the reports.
Date of Death: December 25, 2019
15. Jusup Wilkosz
The Late 70s-80s bodybuilder Jusup Wilkosz was a twice Mr. Universe winner (79-80) who also placed third at Mr. Olympia (84) competition. The German bodybuilder was known to train with Arnold Schwarzenegger but he retired in 1994 after dealing with injuries.
Wilkosz passed away at age 71 due to causes unknown at the time.
Date of Death: November 19, 2019
16. Pit Trenz
Pit Trenz was a veteran of the sport from Germany and was the trainer of well-known bodybuilders Dennis Wolf and Markus Ruhl.
He suffered from many illnesses throughout his life and near the end, his heart health got worst of which pneumonia caused serious complications. His lungs collapsed as a result and it was long before he died at age 53.
Date of Death: November 3, 2019
17. Daniel Alexander
The last on our list was a Mr. USA middleweight champion (2017) who also won the 2015 California Championships. Alexander was preparing for the Legion Sports Fest in 2019 after having not competed since 2017.
But unfortunately, he tragically passed away before his Pro debut of which he planned to compete in the 212 division.
Date of Death: November 9, 2019
18. Tiffany-Victoria Enriquez
The death of Tiffany-Victoria Enriquez was an absolutely devastating one. She was a Bikini competitor out of Hawaii who also worked as a police officer. But she got a call to an apartment complex to deal with an angry tenant who shot and killed Enriquez along with another officer.
Date of Death: January 19, 2020
19. Scott Milne
Scott Milne was a Canadian bodybuilder who turned Pro 2002 and competed from 1996-2004. He suffered many injuries which ultimately led him to focus on training others and Canadian television. He died of a heart attack at 45.
Dave Palumbo posted the following message about the unfortunate death.
“Sorry to hear that one of the true Super Freaks Scott Milne has passed away from a heart attack. The “Canadian Moose” as he was known will be missed but not forgotten.”
At 6’3″ 250lbs, Milne was known as a big-hearted giant that was beloved by many.
Date of Death: February 2020
20. Eddie McDonough
Eddie McDonough was a legend, winning the 1974 and 1977 NABBA Mr. Britain while placing 3rd in the Mr. Britain in 1973 and 1976. He had a great career competing in NABBA, WABBA, and AAU and for several years before retiring in 1980.
Date of Death: March 2020
Photos via Facebook – Si Sweeney
21. Novoa Mendez
Novoa Mendez was a Dominican Pro bodybuilder who was close friends with the fellow Pro Victor Martinez. Although, the two only competed against and met each other once at the 2013 Toronto Pro show. However, Martinez noticed how impressive his physique was and looked out for his fellow countryman.
Here’s a piece of what Martinez wrote about Mendez on Instagram following his passing.
“I got the chance to compete with him in the Toronto pro show in 2013 and his physique caught my eyes because he was very impressive and after learning he was from the same side of town in the #dominicanrepublic el cibao I definitely had to make sure he was ok and understood the prejudging rules.”
Mendez had health issues and suffered a stroke at 49 years old which resulted in his death.
Date of Death: March 24, 2020
22. Joanna Thomas
Joanna Thomas was a very promising bodybuilder who was also one of the youngest female bodybuilder to earn her Pro Card in 1998 at age 21. She competed at Ms. Olympia and other big shows while even becoming a nurse in the process.
But the British bodybuilder would eventually suffer from Osteoarthritis that ultimately meant the end of her career and it also made life very challenging for her up until her death.
Date of Death: April 26, 2020
23. Aleksandar Srdoc
Croatian bodybuilder Aleksandar Srdoc made a name for himself in his native land having competed for more than a decade. He also competed in about 4-5 national level shows. Srdoc served some time after being in trouble with the law and subsequently, was also in several media ads due to his tough and vascular look.
But he passed at age 35 due to what was said to be health issues. His brother-in-law posted a photo and message in honor of the young bodybuilder.
Date of Death: April 23, 2020
Gone to soon, rest in peace. 🙏Posljednji pozdrav dragom šogoru i dobrom prijatelju, počivaj u miru. 😥@aleksandar.srdoc
24. Mirosław Daszkiewicz
Not long before Luke Sandow’s death, Polish bodybuilder/international champion Miroslaw Daszkiewicz died of hereditary disease. He was the first Polish man to win the title of Master of the Universe and won several IFBB amateur shows.
Date of Death: May 5, 2020
Dziś dotarła do nas niezwykle smutna wiadomość – po wielu miesiącach zmagań z ciężką chorobą – zmarł Mirosław…
25. Luke Sandoe
Luke Sandoe was a very popular bodybuilder from the UK who had a lot of promise in the Open bodybuilding division. He turned Pro in 2016 and had his best finish at the 2019 Arnold Classic Ohio. His last show before he passed was the 2019 Mr. Olympia which was also his debut where he came in 11th place.
At age 30, Sandoe took his own life after having been known to struggle with issues from his past.
Many paid their respects including the Arnold Sports Festival via Instagram.
Date of Death: May 7, 2020
26. Mikayla Kingman
Mikayla Kingman was a 23-year-old Figure competitor who most notably won the overall at the 2017 NPC Jay Cutler Classic. Her death was by suicide and this was only days after Luke Sandoe took his own life.
Date of Death: May 10, 2020
27. Joshua Foster
Another very recent and untimely death, Wheelchair Pro bodybuilder Joshua Foster also known as the “The Freak,” was found dead in his home last month. His death was said to be due to natural causes.
Foster suffered a spinal cord injury in 2013 after a car accident and had to learn how to build his physique while in a wheelchair. He was successful although his passing came much too early.
Date of Death: May 21, 2020
28. Beverly DiRenzo
Bodybuilder Beverly DiRenzo was an Open competitor who did fairly well in the competition after beginning her competitive career in 2000. She won the NPC National Championships and made a name for herself. Her husband announced her death on social media. Apparently, she passed in her sleep.
”RIP.. MY LOVE ETERNAL.. PASSED THE WAY SHE WANTED AT PEACE FALLING ASLEEP TOGETHER….NO MORE PAIN 😢”
Date of Death: May 29, 2020
Although this list consists of just 28 bodybuilders who died from 2017-2020, it’s still much too many. But, we can take the time to remember their lives and what they contributed to the sport.