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Bodybuilders Who Died in 2023: Honoring Their Legacy and Achievements



Well-known member
Aug 7, 2023

In 2023, bodybuilders weren't just sculpted figures on magazine covers. They pushed the boundaries of human potential, inspiring millions to embrace discipline and self-improvement. But beyond the sculpted physiques and competition victories, these individuals touched lives with their stories of resilience, dedication, and the relentless pursuit of their dreams.

This article isn't just a tribute to the physical feats of those we've lost. We honor them for the muscles they built and the legacies they leave behind.

The Bodybuilders We Lost​

The year 2023 saw the bodybuilding community mourn the loss of several influential figures who left an indelible mark on the sport and beyond. Their dedication, passion, and stories of overcoming adversity touched countless lives and sculpted physiques on stage. They were mentors, inspirations, and voices of strength.

  • Tonya Knight
  • Gustavo Badell
  • Joe Lindner
  • Neil Curry
  • Leo Rex
  • Shaun Davis

Celebrating Their Lives and Careers​

Tonya Knight
Tonya Knight

Tonya Knight emerged as a towering figure, captivating audiences with her impeccable posing, well-proportioned physique, and remarkable conditioning. Throughout her professional career, spanning over a decade, Knight asserted herself as a formidable competitor and etched an enduring legacy in bodybuilding.

  • Early Life and Background: Tonya Knight played volleyball and softball in school. As a teenager, she became interested in bodybuilding after seeing Rachel McLish on the magazine cover.
  • Career Highlights and Achievements: Tonya Knight's journey reached its zenith in 1988 when she first appeared at Ms. Olympia, finishing an impressive fourth. The subsequent year saw Knight clinch victory at the 1989 Ms. International competition. In 1991, Tonya Knight made a triumphant comeback, reclaiming the Ms. International crown without controversy.

  • Contribution to Bodybuilding and Fitness: Her dedication to pushing boundaries and challenging norms was pivotal in popularizing women's involvement in weight training during that era. Tonya Knight's influence extended beyond the bodybuilding arena. She transitioned seamlessly into the entertainment world, making a notable appearance in the American television series "The American Gladiators" alongside Mike O'Hearn.

  • Fitness Regimens and Nutrition: She did both exercises and lifted weights. Squats, deadlifts, and bike riding were exercises she did repeatedly to get in shape. To give her body a break, Tonya stopped going to the gym for a day. Tonya always ensured she had a lot of proteins so her body could keep building muscle. The steak was one of her favorite ways to get nutrients.

Gustavo Badell
Gustavo Badell

Gustavo Badell's legacy in 2000s bodybuilding remains a testament to his resilience, skill, and ability to triumph over giants of the sport. Whether dominating challenge rounds at the Olympia or securing victories in pro shows, 'The Freakin Rican' left an indelible mark on the bodybuilding landscape.

  • Early Life and Background: Gustavo first did weightlifting in his home country, where he quickly became a well-known figure. His body was attractive and huge, which truly reflected how hard and dedicated he worked.

  • Career Highlights and Achievements: Badell's crowning moment came at the 2005 Olympia, where the bodybuilder displayed his prowess by defeating Coleman and Cutler in the challenge rounds, marking a significant highlight in his professional career. 2006, he claimed the top spot at the Iron Man Pro Invitational and the San Francisco Pro Invitational. The momentum continued in 2009 when Badell secured another victory at the Atlantic City Pro.

  • Contribution to Bodybuilding and Fitness: Everyone, not just bodybuilders, can learn from his hard work, discipline, and never-say-die approach. Many athletes say Gustavo taught them how important it is to keep going even when things get complicated. His return with more energy showed that the journey was more important than the destination, even when he didn't win a competition.

  • Fitness Regimens and Nutrition: He trained six days a week, hitting each muscle group multiple times. He stuck to the same training split all year, but during other times, such as off-season or competition prep, he would alter the rep range, weights, and amount of sets. His diet during the off-season consisted primarily of complex carbs, with some lean protein sources and red meat. He cut out carbs and piled on lean proteins like salmon, chicken, and egg whites during contest preparations.

Jo Lindner
Jo Lindner

Jo Lindner, better known online as "Joesthetics," was more than just a sculpted figure on Instagram. He was a fitness influencer, mental health advocate, and a relatable friend who touched millions with his honesty, humor, and dedication to a healthy lifestyle.

  • Early Life and Background: A BMX injury forced him to abandon his dream of a professional dirt jump career, but it planted the seed of his future passion: fitness. Starting as a regular gym-goer, Joe developed his dedication and work ethic, transforming his physique and sparking a desire to share his journey with others.

  • Career Highlights and Achievements: 2014, he won the German National Championship in the Men's Physique category. The following year, he won the European Championship. He came in eighth position in the Men's Physique category in the 2017 Bavarian Championships and was only 24 years old. In 2022, he returned triumphantly to competition after a long hiatus, finishing second in the Thailand Pro Qualifier.

  • Contribution to Bodybuilding and Fitness: His relatable personality, open discussion of mental health struggles, and honest approach to training and nutrition resonated with audiences worldwide. Jo challenged unrealistic expectations and advocated for body positivity, encouraging his followers to focus on individual progress and overall health instead of chasing unattainable ideals.

  • Fitness Regimens and Nutrition: Joe's training philosophy emphasized high-volume sessions with moderate weights, focusing on building lean muscle and maintaining functionality. He advocated for a balanced diet emphasizing whole foods, debunking myths, and promoting sustainable, healthy eating habits.

Neil Currey
Neil Currey

From a budding enthusiast to a celebrated IFBB pro, Currey's story inspires aspiring athletes on the path to greatness.

  • Early Life and Background: Neil Currey's enthusiasm for fitness ignited at a tender age, fueled by a love for football during his school days. His journey into the world of weights commenced alongside his football pursuits. Over time, Currey's focus evolved, honing in on a dedicated workout routine and meticulous diet planning.

  • Career Highlights and Achievements: In 2017, Neil Currey made a resounding entry into the bodybuilding scene, marking his debut at the World Championships. A commendable fifth-place finish in the pro muscle category hinted at the promise of a rising star. The following year, he witnessed Currey's transition to the NPC level, where he clinched the top spot at the NPC Worldwide Amateur Olympia Italy competitions. The pinnacle of his achievements came in 2022 when he clinched the gold at the New York Pro, earning his ticket to the coveted Olympia competition.

  • Contribution to Bodybuilding and Fitness: Everyone who followed his path could see his passion, perseverance, and devotion to his art. Neil may have battled mental health issues brought on by the demands of the bodybuilding profession. No one is immune to the silent killer that is depression, even the most accomplished athletes.

  • Fitness Regimens and Nutrition: He ate a healthy diet, fueling his extreme pre-workout rituals while maintaining a lean physique. Currey followed a meticulously structured workout routine to sculpt and uphold his physique. This commitment to a disciplined training regimen is reflected in his on-stage performances, showcasing the dedication and effort invested in achieving and maintaining an exceptional physique.

Shaun Davis
Shaun Davis

Shaun Davis, affectionately known as "Dinosaur" in bodybuilding, wasn't just a muscle titan. He was a gentle giant, a champion of resilience, and a testament to the transformative power of dedication.

Early Life and Background: Initially a promising footballer, a broken leg cut his athletic career short. But it was in the gym, alongside friends, that he discovered his true passion: bodybuilding. Starting with humble ambitions, Shaun's unwavering work ethic and natural charisma began to turn heads.

Career Highlights and Achievements: He captured Mr. UK, Mr. Britain, and Mr. Europe titles before claiming the coveted Mr. Universe crown in 1996. His imposing physique, weighing over 330 pounds at his peak, earned him the "Dinosaur" nickname, but behind the intimidating size lay a kind heart and a contagious smile.

Contribution to Bodybuilding and Fitness: Shaun became a mentor and motivator, inspiring countless individuals to push their limits. He was known for his accessibility, always willing to advise and encourage aspiring athletes. From shy teenager to champion, his story became a testament to the power of hard work and self-belief.

Fitness Regimens and Nutrition: He favored high-intensity workouts with heavy weights, pushing himself to the limit. While strictly regimented during competitions, his diet emphasized healthy meals, focusing on protein and complex carbohydrates. He believed in a balanced approach, advocating for rest and recovery alongside dedicated training.

Legacy and Impact​

A pioneer in women's bodybuilding, Knight's sculpted physique, fierce determination, and infectious charisma challenged stereotypes and paved the way for generations of female athletes—her story of overcoming discrimination and achieving success empowered girls and women to embrace their strengths.

Badell's electrifying energy and larger-than-life personality made him a fan favorite. His signature broad back and powerful legs redefined the aesthetics of the classic physique category. His dedication to heavy compound lifts and explosive training methods inspired countless athletes seeking to build functional, powerful physiques.

Gustavo embraced his cultural background and challenged stereotypes, proving success in bodybuilding wasn't limited to a specific mold. His journey from humble beginnings to Olympia contender is one of the inspirational stories focusing on the power of self-belief and hard work.

Lindner's physical statistics encouraged people to embrace body positivity, prioritize self-care, and find joy in the journey of personal growth. His community involvement also showed his advocacy for mental health.

Currey was an outspoken advocate of mentorship. His mentors significantly influenced his path, which he frequently discussed. His mentorship and training encouraged aspiring athletes, which was just as impressive as his accomplishments as a bodybuilder.

Remembering Their Final Days​

Tonya Knight (March 24, 1966 - February 7, 2023)​

After battling with cancer, Knight died at the age of 56. Many remembered her kindness, fighting spirit, and dedication to empowering women in the sport. Fan reactions and reminiscing of fellow athletes poured on social media.

Gustavo Badell (November 3, 1971 - July 12, 2023)​

Badell's sudden passing in 2023 shocked the bodybuilding community. He passed away after a deadly stroke at the age of 50. He had a lot of media appearances, including in many fitness and magazine articles and on the cover of Flex magazine. His most common MuscleTech ad appearances were for their Nitrotech Hardcore and Masstech protein powders.

Jo Lindner (January 14, 1993 - June 40, 2023),​

This German fitness influencer had a fatal aneurysm and passed away at the age of 30. Lindner had posted on June 30 about the health problems he was having as a result of TRT. His girlfriend claims that he had been experiencing pain in his neck. He also mentioned that an uncommon genetic disorder makes his muscles abnormally sensitive to pressure and movement.

Neil Currey (December 14, 1989 - September 11, 2023)​

Neil Currey is said to have killed himself. This terrible event has also led to essential talks about mental health problems, especially in high-stress jobs like bodybuilding. His former trainer and mentor, Milos Sarcev, confirmed the suicide and talked about how sad he was, but there were a lot of different fan reactions and views on social media.

Shaun Davis (April 15, 1966 - December 1, 2023)​

Davis endured chronic renal disease. He had to retire from his successful career due to chronic kidney disease, which led him to undergo dialysis treatment for three years. Despite having a kidney transplant, he still succumbed to his illness.

Tributes and Memorials​

Countless athletes, fans, and industry professionals have taken to social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter to share their memories, express their condolences, and celebrate the lives of the fallen athletes. Posts are filled with photos, videos, and heartfelt quotes from peers and families, creating a virtual space for shared grief and appreciation.

Fitness publications and websites have published in-depth articles and tributes, delving into the lives and careers of the athletes, highlighting their accomplishments, and sharing personal anecdotes from friends, family, and fellow competitors. These pieces are permanent records of their contributions and offer deeper insights into their personalities and impact.

Discussions on Health and Wellness​

These events brought renewed attention to the potential health risks associated with intense training and extreme diet regimens. While bodybuilding promotes dedication and discipline, pushing the body to its limits can pose risks to cardiovascular health, hormonal imbalances, and mental well-being.

The open struggles of certain athletes with mental health challenges, including anxiety and depression, normalized seeking help and prioritizing psychological well-being alongside physical training. It encouraged healthier conversations about mental health within the often hyper-focused realm of bodybuilding.


2023 witnessed the heartbreaking loss of several influential figures in the bodybuilding and fitness community. These weren't just sculpted figures on stage; they were mentors, advocates, and pillars of strength who touched countless lives with their dedication, passion, and stories of overcoming adversity. Their legacies extend beyond physical achievements, leaving a ripple effect of inspiration and positive change.

Let their stories serve as a reminder that true strength lies not just in physical achievements but in prioritizing mental health and sustainable training practices. Carry their dedication and passion forward, pushing your limits with unwavering determination while celebrating individual journeys.

Frequently Asked Question​

What can we do to honor the memory of these bodybuilders?

Carry their lessons forward. Whether it's their dedication to health, advocacy for mental well-being, or passion for supporting others, find ways to incorporate their values into your life.

How can I find more information about the careers and legacies of these bodybuilders?

Search for their names on fitness websites, bodybuilding forums, and social media platforms. Many articles, interviews, and photos are available online. Look for documentaries about their lives or competitions. YouTube often has workout videos, interviews, and fan tributes.

How has the bodybuilding community reacted to these losses?

Many organizations planned memorial events and competitions. The bodybuilding community reignited conversations about health, mental well-being, and inclusivity within the sport.


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