The daughter of Vincentian body-building legend, Winston “Winty” Roberts, says her father’s death was “unexpected.”
Roberts, a pioneer and significant player in the bodybuilding scene, passed away peacefully on Dec. 21, at his home in Whitby, Ontario, Canada, his daughter, Ayanna Roberts, said. He was 78.
“My dad’s passing was unexpected, just three days after my grandmother Tabitha McIntosh’s funeral,” Ayanna told Caribbean Life in an exclusive interview on Monday. “While he was 78 years old, he was strong due to years of bodybuilding.
“I feel in my heart that he gained 20 years of life due to weight training and healthy habits, as his father and brothers all passed young (in their late 50s to early 60s I believe). My uncle, Alfie Roberts, was only 58 when he died,” Ayanna added.
“He (Winty Roberts) wasn’t perfect, but he was a visionary who had a huge influence on me,” she continued. “It hurts to know that he is no longer on this earth, but I truly do feel that he is watching over me and my sisters.”
Roberts was one of the most influential people in bodybuilding history, “but you’d never know it from how humble and modest he was,” according to Toronto’s Muscle Insider.
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, Spain 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.
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.
Born on Oct. 5, 1939, in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, Roberts, a former Master at the St. Vincent [and the Grenadines] Grammar School, was the first Black to hold the title of “Mr. Canada,” according to his obituary.
It said Roberts played an important role in Montreal’s black community in the 1970s and 1980s as a founder of the Carifete parade.
Roberts is survived by his daughters Ayanna (Pablo), Nataki (Donald) and Kamillah (Lucas); his grandchildren Nia, Amarra, Loïc and Myca; and his former wives Alison McIntosh and Guiseppina Azzue.
His funeral took place on Jan. 6 at the DeStefano Funeral Home in Oshawa, Ontario. His body was cremated.