By Nelson A. King
Vincentian Winston “Winty” Roberts, a pioneer and significant player in the bodybuilding scene, passed away on Dec. 21, in Whitby, Ontario, Canada, according to Toronto’s Muscle Insider.
Roberts, 78, was one of the most influential people in bodybuilding history, “but you’d never know it from how humble and modest he was,” the Insider said.
It said Roberts began his bodybuilding journey as a competitor, with accolades such as winning the “Mr. Canada” title twice and participating in Mr. Universe “pose-downs” in the IFBB amateur ranks. The International Federation of Body Building and Fitness (IFBB), headquartered in Madrid, is an international professional sports governing body for bodybuilding and fitness that oversees many of the sport’s major international events, notably the World and Continental Championships.
“But what we’ll all remember is how this jolly-giant always had a kind word, a hug, and a smile for anyone at an OPA (Ontario Physique Association) or IFBB show, no matter how busy he was,” the Insider said.
It said, on migration to Canada, Roberts first moved in Montreal but ultimately ended up in Whitby, Ontario.
Until his death, he was president of Winston Roberts Incorporated, which organizes competitions at the local, provincial and professional levels.
Roberts was an IFBB judge at the pro level since 1985.
“There’s really nothing he hasn’t done in the decades he’s been involved in the industry/sport,” the Insider said. “Back when bodybuilding was in its infancy, Winston was heavily involved as a pioneer, working alongside many of the golden-era greats.
“As an example, Ben Weider, the father of modern bodybuilding, delegated Winston the task of writing the constitution of the IFBB,” it added. “Winston took that assignment one step further and also wrote the initial IFBB rulebook for judging, which is still used today.”
Roberts was elected general secretary of the IFBB in 1972 and used his IFBB credentials to begin the Canadian Federation of Bodybuilding (now known as the CBBF).
The Insider said Roberts was also responsible for two “extremely significant moments” in bodybuilding history: “one which revolutionized bodybuilding competition was the suggestion to open prejudging to the public; the other Winston used bodybuilding to help end an era of oppression and segregation in South Africa by allowing the president of the country to host 1975 Mr. Olympia and World Championships (Mr. Universe) competitions only if the audience was denied its common practice of limiting seating sections according to race.
“This proposal was accepted and was documented in the 1975 bodybuilding hit ‘Pumping Iron,’ which catapulted bodybuilding’s status into the mainstream,” the Insider said.
According to Carl Cheung, a National Level competitor and OPA judge: “There’s nothing more heart dropping than receiving the sad news this morning, that the great legendary Mr. Winston Robert has passed away.
“I had the great honored of knowing Winston for many years and traveled to various shows to be judging by his side,” he said, adding that Roberts was “a man of knowledge not only about the sport, but also about life.
“I was very lucky to have the pleasure of eating meals with him during our event adventures, laughing with him, receiving much advice over the years, etc. He is what I called an all-around achiever, from being legendary in the sport of bodybuilding to family and even career,” Cheung continued. He shared the history of the sport and taught us how to continue carrying that torch for the generations to come.
“Winston, we will always miss your long speech in all the opening ceremony of each show,” he said. “Your voice will always be in my head; and each time I judge a show will never be the same without you nearby.”
Vincentian Elma Gabriel, who befriended Roberts, said on Facebook: “A sure way to confirm one’s blessings is to have crossed path with legends through your journey. Such humble and modest soul he was.”