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Alameda athlete Yazolino discusses struggles in new book

By any measure, Alameda athlete Paul Yazolino has enjoyed an absolutely remarkable multisport career with highlights that include a silver medal at the 1967 National Powerlifting Championships, a 1979 Mr. USA Masters Bodybuilding title and a first-place finish in the 500-meter competition at the 1996 World Masters Sprint Cycling Championships.

Paul Yazolino appears after a tough workout at Hellyer Velodrome Track in San Jose circa 2000. (photo courtesy of Sheryl Yazolino)

Yazolino further challenged himself on his 45th birthday in 1983 by climbing San Francisco’s famed Lombard Street while carrying a 308-pound barbell on his shoulders and on his 50th birthday in 1988 by pedaling a bicycle up Mount Diablo in less than an hour. Though these achievements garnered much attention and adulation, very few knew of Yazolino’s lifelong struggles with depression and anxiety.

Yazolino now shares his story in “Unlikely Champion: The Paul Yazolino Story,” a new book he co-authored with author and fellow Alameda native James Francis McGee. Yazolino details his life’s journey in the book, beginning as a shy child growing up on Alameda’s Regent Street.

Unlike current times when mental health concerns have come to the forefront, Yazolino grew up in an era when they were largely ignored, dismissed or ridiculed. Encouragement for writing the story began with Dr. Danny Goldstine, the Berkeley Therapy Institute’s chief psychologist (who wrote the book’s foreword).

“For about 10 years, I have been involved with Dr. Goldstine, who told me, ‘I want you to write your life story, including your struggles,’ ” Yazolino said.

So Yazolino did that, but it just took a while to get it finished. It also was about a decade ago when Yazolino got to know McGee, who, like Yazolino, grew up in Alameda as the middle of three brothers (Yazolino graduated from Alameda High School in 1957 and McGee in 1982).

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