All eyes on the Olympia...
Around this time each year the best bodybuilders on the planet get totally jacked up for the Mr. Olympia. Reigning champion, the genetically-gifted Phil Heath, has ruled the sport for the better part of a decade. Now he’s gunning for his seventh consecutive Sandow, the statue named after the famous Prussian strongman who first wowed Victorian-era crowds with his muscular physique.
If successful, Heath will tie Arnold’s record and will inch ever closer to the all-time record of eight wins, jointly held by Ronnie Coleman and Lee Haney.
When we look at the Mr. Olympia to gauge it’s overall popularity, it is interesting to note that last year’s competition and fitness expo covered more than 500,000 square feet with a total of 1,100 vendors and exhibitors selling their wares, and more than 55,000 visitors roaming the space at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The O is still a big affair. It also has a rich tradition. Held in Las Vegas since 1999 after travelling to places as diverse as Finland, Australia and even South Africa, the contest is the fulfillment of bodybuilding pioneer Joe Weider’s dream of crowning a champion of champions.
It was, however, not always a showcase of heavily muscled men. Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia weighed 94kg with twenty-inch arms. Today, Heath is a walking human anatomy chart, boasting twenty three-inch biceps. We all know he is not the biggest by far. Since making his Pro debut, Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay has managed to grow bigger and bigger. Will 2017 be the year the fisherman-turned-bodybuilding phenomenon finally decides to stop overindulging on Kuwait’s anabolic chicken with the aim of coming in tight and super shredded?
Despite the renewed interest in the attainment of perfect bodily symmetry, the majority of fans are still intrigued by the main act of the day, the quintessential monsters packed with freaky muscle. Some pessimists in our midst will say that bodybuilding is in an existential crisis, no matter which side of the size-versus-aesthetics debate you’re on. I tend to differ, though. Although I have to admit the competitive landscape has changed over the past few decades, there are now more divisions to compete in than ever before, with youth participation rates, especially in the Men’s Physique and Classic Physique divisions, soaring to new heights. There are divisions and classes specifically designed to bring in a wider variety of the population to compete and push themselves to become the absolute best they can be. Some would say getting on stage, no matter what division, is enough of a challenge in its own right.
Olympia fans can this year look forward to the return of the legendary Flex Wheeler, who will be competing in the Classic Physique division, as well as the possibility of Dexter Jackson reclaiming the crown he wore with pride back in 2008. If a new bodybuilding king is indeed crowned, he would have to fit the genetically-superior mold perfectly. Shawn Rhoden, William Bonac and Cedric McMillan all are strong contenders, but are they good enough? We will have to wait and see.
Let’s hope the O will bring new excitement and exceed all our expectations! Whatever happens, we’ll bring you all the action online and in the next issue.