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Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mentor Joe Weider Dies

Arnold Schwarzenegger has paid tribute to his mentor and "father figure" Joe Weider, a leading figure in bodybuilding, who died at the age of 93.

Weider brought the young Austrian weightlifter to the US early in his career and helped him achieve the American dream as he became an international movie star.

The Canadian, who was a bodybuilder himself, helped popularise the sport and played a key role in introducing Schwarzenegger to the world.

Weider created one of bodybuilding's leading events, the Mr Olympia competition, in 1965 and reportedly discovered the Austrian at a contest in Europe two years later.

He relentlessly promoted Schwarzenegger, who won the Mr Olympia title a then-record seven times - every year from 1970 to 1975 and again in 1980.

Weider also created the Ms Olympia contest in 1980, the Fitness Olympia in 1995 and the Figure Olympia in 2003.

He spread the message of health and fitness worldwide with publications as Muscle & Fitness and Flex, of which The Terminator star is now the executive editor.

Weider's publicist Charlotte Parker said he died of heart failure in Los Angeles.

Following his death, Schwarzenegger said in a statement:  "I knew about Joe Weider long before I met him.

"He was the godfather of fitness who told all of us to be somebody with a body. He taught us that through hard work and training we could all be champions.

"As I read his articles in Austria, I felt that he was speaking directly to me and I committed to move to America to make my vision of becoming the best bodybuilder, to live the American dream, and to become an actor a reality."

Schwarzenegger, who was elected governor of California in 2003 and served two terms before retiring from politics, added: "Joe didn't just inspire my earliest dreams; he made them come true the day he invited me to move to America to pursue my bodybuilding career.

"I will never forget his generosity. One of Joe's greatest qualities is that he wasn't just generous with his money; he freely gave of his time and expertise and became a father figure for me."

Weider once said of his protege: "Every sport needs a hero and I knew that Arnold was the right man."

Schwarzenegger also said he helped land him his first movie role, in Hercules In New York, by passing him off to the producers as a German Shakespearean actor.

"He was there for me constantly throughout my life, and I will miss him dearly," Schwarzenegger added.

Born in Canada in 1919, Weider grew up in a tough area of Montreal. He said he was a small, skinny teenager who was being picked on by bullies when he discovered the magazine Strength.

He said he tried to join a local wrestling team, but was turned down by the coach who feared he was so small he would be hurt.

Weider built his own weights from scrap parts found in a railway yard and pumped them relentlessly. He was eventually invited to join a weightlifting club.

He won his first bodybuilding contest at the age of 17, and soon after began to publish his first magazine, Your Physique.

He is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Betty.