Gunnar Rosbo: The Terminator that could have been

gunnar rosbo terminator

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gunnar rosbo 1981
Gunnar Rosbo competing at 1981 IFBB World Amateur Championships

Gunnar Rosbo is frequently spoken of in the same breath as fellow contemporary bodybuilders Matt Mendenhall and Rory Leidelmeyer, who, like Rosbo, stopped competing way before they reached their full potential. The first widely published formal print introduction to Rosbo was in an article titled “Arnold Who?” written by Jack Neary in the pages of the February 1983 issue of Muscle and Fitness magazine.

The party had been under way only an hour or so and already chatter was circulating that the guest of honor bore a striking resemblance to another great European.

“My God!” cried one delighted wallflower. ” The Oak himself has put in an appearance: Arnold Schwarzenegger!”

His companion, rather more seasoned at celebrity spotting, sized up the cause of this sudden enthusiasm and replied: “I think you’ll find that’s Gunnar Rosbo of Norway, although I must say I can see why you were confused, old chum.”

Of course, the case of mistaken identity had not begun at the beano. A day earlier, in a Santa Monica shopping mall of all places, upon resting her retinas on the Norweigian’s form, one lissome lass of 16 summers shrieked, “Arnold Schwarzenegger!”

“Arnold who?” Gunnar wanted to know, pronouncing who not like an owl but, hue, as in Howard Hughes.

At the party, held at a spiffy clubhouse hard by the docks of Marina Del Rey, Gunnar’s similarity to Arnold was not confined to aspect alone. Fortified by a finger or two of Scotch, the Norse hero assumed the Austrian’s gait as he strode from one cluster of guests to another, patting a back here, squeezing an arm there. And it was all done with a nonchalance straight out of the Schwarzenegger manual!

Yet Gunnar’s style was missing the Schwarzenegger charm. Unfamiliar with the common tongue of the audience, Gunnar conversed sparingly, giving any opportunity for brilliant repartee, or even the occasional bon mot, short shrift.

-Jack Neary in Muscle and Fitness

gunnar rosbo 1982
Gunnar Rosbo vs Lee Haney at the 1982 IFBB World Amateur Championship.

Rosbo, by most accounts, retired due to a pinched nerve which caused atrophy on one side of his body. He is an example of someone who could have, or might have been. But maybe Rosbo’s appearance at the 1982 IFBB World Amateur Championships speaks somewhat of his desire to reach his full potential.
At 11:12 in the video below, Lee Haney, Gunnar Rosbo’s chief competition at the ’82 World Amateur Championships, walks over to pose down directly against Rosbo. Rosbo, with forearms bigger than Haney’s biceps, doesn’t seem to know what to do. He is clearly led or prompted by whatever Haney does and, at times, looks lost on stage. So, maybe he had limits.

gunnar rosbo joe gold joe weider
Gunnar Rosbo with Joe Gold and Joe Weider.

Rosbo looked facially like a combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mick Jagger, with a giant frame and forearms as big as most people’s heads and proportions to match. If, for whatever crazy reason, James Cameron had cast Gunnar Rosbo in the role of the Terminator, could he have pulled it off? There’s very little dialogue. Rosbo speaks with a European accent as did Schwarzenegger. He had the right facial look, the right glare, height, and amount of muscle to pull off the role as well as Schwarzenegger. Of course, Arnold defined the role in the first place. Lance Hendrickson and OJ Simpson were originally considered for the role. The Terminator is who we know the character to be because Schwarzenegger defined it.

gunnar rosbo rachel mclish
Gunnar Rosbo with Rachel McLish.

Given the Terminator’s characteristics as defined by Schwarzenegger I can’t help but look at Rosbo and think he would have made a great Terminator or action star. But you have to want it. It reminds me of what a college professor told the class I was attending. She said that students will bust their backs for 4 years, staying up all night studying, relentlessly chasing their degree. Then, after they graduate, they will send out resumes to a few companies and then complain that they can’t get a job. If they had put as much effort into looking for a job as they did getting their degree they’d have no trouble getting hired. A lot of people spend great effort getting to a certain level or achieving some goal but, once there, it becomes clear that they haven’t planned ahead or even thought about the next step. If you don’t know where you’re going you may never get there.

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