Weightlifting legend Alekseyev dead at 69

Legendary Russian weightlifter Vasily Alekseyev — who became a Soviet-era Cold War icon, as well as a household name in the US thanks to his frequent appearances on "Wide World of Sports" in the 1970s — has died at the age of 69.

Alekseyev, who won two Olympic and eight world super heavyweight titles in addition to setting 80 world records throughout his distinguished career, passed away in a German clinic Friday, Ria Novosti reported.

He had long suffered heart problems and was sent to the clinic after his health deteriorated.

The burly, big-bellied Alekseyev was born in Shakhty, southern Russia, in 1942. He set his first world record in January 1970 and captured the world title later that year, a crown he held for seven years.

He was the first man to total more than 600 kilograms (1,323 pounds) in the triple event, winning Olympic gold medals at the 1972 Games in Munich and the 1976 Games in Montreal.

His accomplishments were always prominent propaganda tools for Soviet officials during the Cold War, but his achievements were recognized universally.

In April 1975, Sports Illustrated put him on its cover under the headline "World’s Strongest Man."

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko paid tribute to Alekseyev as a "great public activist and caring man," on top of his obvious athletic prowess.

He said Alekseyev could be immortalized in a statue or with a weightlifting tournament held in his honor.