Antonio Krastev was heading east on Hwy. 13 in Mendota Heights at 3 a.m. on July 9, speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road, went through a stop signal, flipped his Yukon on a curve, was ejected and died under the vehicle. He was not wearing a seat belt and alcohol was involved.

Krastev was 58 and a two-time world weightlifting champion for Bulgaria as a super heavyweight. He set a world record with a snatch of 476.2 pounds in 1987 and it was not outdone until 2017.

How did Krastev wind up in Minnesota?

He emigrated to New York in 1991. In the late ’90s, he came to the Twin Cities to train with Ken Patera, another international weightlifting star who had carved out a successful career in pro wrestling.

“He got here and immediately started talking about having a match with Hulk Hogan,’’ Patera said Friday. “I kept saying, ‘Tony, that’s not the way it works,’ but he kept talking about soon wrestling the Hulk.

“He wasn’t interested in putting in the hundreds of hours in the ring it was going to take. I only lasted a few months with him, then convinced Brad Rheingans to take a shot.’’

Patera laughed and said: “He lasted three weeks with Rheingans. Working in the ring wasn’t his thing. Tony liked weightlifting, where we can take a few practice lifts, then go outside and have a smoke.’’

Brian Derwin, a U.S. team member in weightlifting for the boycotted 1980 Olympics, teamed with Krastev to train young lifters for the Police Athletic Club in Minneapolis, also in the late ’90s.

Derwin, the owner of Team Spartacus gym in Mendota Heights, said: “Tony had some techniques that were very different that I still teach. One day, Decia [Agnew Stenzel] asked him to watch a practice session. Very quickly, he said, ‘Widen your grip.’

“She did three, four things to prepare for this dramatic change. He stared at her, held up his hands and said, ‘Decia, your hands are bigger than mine. Widen your grip.’ And she did so with great success.’’

PLUS THREE

• Krastev’s address was listed in Otsego and he had been working as a truck driver.

• Krastev was the world champion in 1985 and 1986. He missed the 1984 Olympics because of the Soviet bloc boycott and the 1988 Olympics when two Bulgarian gold medalists in lighter weights failed drug tests. The team then left Seoul before Krastev could compete.

• Power Lift magazine in the U.S. declared Krastev the “Strongest Man on the Planet’’ after his record-shattering lift in 1987.

 

Write to Patrick Reusse by e-mailing sports@startribune.com and including his name in the subject line.