Many bodybuilding fans and athletes were shocked to learn that former NPC bodybuilder Matt Mendenhall passed away on August 28 at the age of 61. At the time of this writing, no cause of death had been officially announced.
Mendenhall was a fixture on the top amateur stages in the 1980s. While many saw the potential he had, he was never able to secure a professional ticket. The closest he came to was when he finished second in the heavyweight category at the 1985 World Games. As he retired as an amateur, his name was always remembered by people who fondly remember his era of bodybuilding.
Many people, past and present, paid tribute to a man considered by many to be the greatest bodybuilder who never turned pro.
Rachel McLish, former Mrs. Olympia, on Facebook
“I was shocked and saddened when I opened Facebook last night to hear of Matt's death. For all of us lucky enough to be his friend, we loved him most of all for his kind heart, generosity, sweet nature and of course his sense of humor. There is so much to be said about Matt and it's all good! Those who knew or saw him through the magazines or personally, immediately recognized that this guy was something special and that his physicality was out of this world. "
Shawn Ray on Instagram
“Matt Mendenhall. (AKA. Mr. Genetics) was one of the most promising youngsters in 1982 along with Lee Haney. He is considered to be the greatest bodybuilder who never turned pro. Matt has a list of unfortunate illnesses that kept him from peaking and earning his pro card. But for all his bad luck, he didn't give up on his dream until he was forced to – his body began to fail after years of intense bodybuilding. #rip #GodSpeed #Legende ”
Rich Gaspari, Arnold Classic Champion 1989 on Instagram
“It is very sad to hear of the loss of Matt Mendenhall. Matt was an incredible bodybuilder who had the greatest potential to become Mr. Olympia. At the Nationals he finished second behind @lee_haney_official. I met Matt when I moved to California and lived in Reseda. He was one of many great bodybuilders who trained at Gold’s Reseda Gym, which I ran and trained with Lee Haney. My condolences to Matt's family. #Rest in peace"
Cory Everson, former Mrs. Olympia on Facebook
“Over the past year, Matt and I had reconnected and communicated almost every day, and I was learning more and more about the incredible man he has become. I will miss our conversations. I will miss sharing our private stories and the laughs that come with them. Matt, I will miss your warmth and common prayers. I will miss you all, but I know where you are and who you are with, and I know you will be in the best of company and enjoy your well-deserved eternal life in health and happiness. I'm so happy for you, but sad because I was looking forward to our interaction selfishly. I thank you for everything you have done for me on this earth. Until we meet again, my sweet little brother. "
His death is the youngest in a group of athletes to have died in recent weeks, including John Meadows, former American gladiator Billy Smith, Phil Hermon and Alena Kosinova.
Everyone at Muscle & Fitness offers condolences to Mendenhall's family and friends.