'Devastated' Arnold Schwarzenegger pays tribute to bodybuilder friend Franco Columbu

31 August 2019, 02:51 | Updated: 31 August 2019, 06:37

Arnold Schwarzenegger has paid tribute to his best friend Franco Columbu, who has died aged 78.

The bodybuilding pair competed successfully as powerlifters and both became Mr Olympia.

The Hollywood star, 72, wrote a heartfelt tribute to his Italian friend on Instagram with several pictures of them together throughout different stages of their lives.

He described Columbu as his "partner in crime", writing: "I am devastated today.

"But I am also so, so grateful for the 54 years of friendship and joy we shared.

"The pumps, the chess games, the construction work, the meals, the pranks, the life lessons - we did it all together.

"We grew and we learned and we loved. My life was more fun, more colorful, and more complete because of you."

US media reports say Columbu suffered a heart attack while swimming just off the coast of San Teodoro in Sardinia, Italy, on Thursday.

He is survived by his wife, Deborah, and their daughter, Maria.

Schwarzenegger added: "I love you Franco. I will always remember the joy you brought to my life, the advices you gave me, and the twinkle in your eye that never disappeared. You were my best friend."

The actor also said in the online tribute that he refuses the title of "self-made man" because of the debt of gratitude he owes to Columbu.

Inspiring him in his training, the Italian athlete also supported and encouraged Schwarzenegger when he first moved to the US from Austria.

During his career, Columbu won Mr Olympia, Mr Universe, Mr World, Mr International, Mr Europe and Mr Italy. He was also awarded the Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.