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Soviet legend Vasily Alekseyev dies

MOSCOW -- Super heavyweight lifter Vasily Alekseyev, who dominated the sport throughout the 1970s and set 80 world records for the Soviet Union, has died. He was 69.

The Russian weightlifting federation confirmed the death Friday of Alekseyev, describing him as "one of the strongest people on the planet" and a "legend of Soviet sport."

Alekseyev was unbeaten from 1970 to 1978, winning two Olympic gold medals and eight consecutive world titles.

He held the world record of 1,419 pounds for three lifts set in 1972. The record will stand because the triple competition is no longer held.

Alekseyev died in a clinic in Munich, Germany, where he was being treated for heart problems, Russian news agencies reported, citing officials from the southern Rostov region, where Alekseyev lived.

"His brilliant victories will remain forever in the memory of his fans and will serve as an example for young athletes," a statement issued by the Rostov governor's office said.

Alekseyev lived in Shakhty, a small mining town that had been his home since 1966.

He won his first Olympic gold medal in 1972 in Munich and his second four years later in Montreal. He retired after falling short at the 1980 Games in Moscow.

Sports Illustrated put him on the cover of its April 14, 1975, issue with the title "The World's Strongest Man." Alekseyev weighed more than 352 pounds at the time.

Fellow Soviet weightlifter David Rigert, who won the gold medal in a lower weight class at the Munich Games, expressed surprise at the news of Alekseyev's death.

"My heart is heavy," Rigert was quoted as telling the Sovetsky Sport newspaper.