Much of the city’s deeply entrenched fitness culture stems back to Jim Lorimer. The 85-year-old Worthington native’s resume is daunting: World War II veteran, Penn State law grad, FBI special agent, mayor of his hometown. But his legacy is athletics.
In the late 1950s, while working for Nationwide, Lorimer led the Ohio Track Club’s women’s team to the national championship, leading to roles as secretary of U.S. Olympic Committee for Women’s Athletics and eventually chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1964-68.
Around that time, he started hosting Olympic-style weightlifting competitions and bodybuilding shows in Columbus. The year 1970 was a turning point, and not just because that’s when Russian weightlifter Vasily Alekseyev became the first man to lift 500 pounds at one of Lorimer’s meets in Columbus.
More importantly, Lorimer convinced young bodybuilding star Arnold Schwarzenegger to take a red-eye flight from London’s Mr. Universe contest to compete in Lorimer’s Mr. World competition the next day in Columbus. Schwarzenegger was so impressed with Lorimer’s event that he vowed to make Lorimer his promoting partner when he retired from competing. Five years later, Schwarzenegger flew to Columbus and partnered over a handshake. After teaming to promote Mr. World and Mr. Olympia bodybuilding events for more than a decade, they launched the Arnold Classic (now Arnold Sports Festival) in 1989.