The Man Who Helped Arnold Build His Classic | Jim Lorimer

Bodybuilding fan? You need to know Jim Lorimer. This former tackle, FBI agent, mayor and current bodybuilding impresario has meant nearly as much to the sport as Arnold himself.
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Boys and girls dream. They are soldiers, policemen, football players or politicians. Jim Lorimer spent the last 80 years making his dreams, and those of thousands of aspiring boys and girls, come true.

Lorimer was a football star in high school. He served in the Navy in World War II. He joined the FBI out of college. He worked for decades for Nationwide Insurance. He was/is still the mayor of his hometown, but his great talent is as a promoter.

He watched the USSR beat the USA in an Olympic-style dual meet in 1959. The defeat spurred him to organize an Olympic prep course for teen girls that changed the way the U.S. prepares for Olympiads. In 1970, after revolutionizing women’s sports in America, Jim made a call that would change his life, and bodybuilding, forever.

The recipient: a young man with dreams of his own. A young man named Arnold.

He called Arnold Schwarzenegger at Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, Calif., asked the Austrian import to compete in the Mr. World in Columbus, Ohio, which took place the day after Mr. Universe in London. Lorimer arranged red-eye flights and connections to bring The Oak to Ohio to face 3-time Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva.

“Everyone was watching Sergio and Arnold,” Lorimer said. “They started to match shots. That’s the first time there was a pose-down.”

Arnold won $500 in front of an audience of 4,000 people. After the competition was over, Arnold told Lorimer: “This is the best competition I’ve ever been in. When I’m done competing in the sport of bodybuilding, I want to go into the promotion of the sport and do everything I can to legitimize and raise the image of the sport and I’m going to come back to Columbus, Ohio and ask you to be my partner.”

Schwarzenegger kept his vow. He returned six years later, met with Lorimer and the two partnered to promote bodybuilding events. The Arnold Classic was born.

The rest, as they say–35 years’ worth–is history.


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