2008 Olympia: Finally Made It
Crowded around a computer monitor, my friends and I watched Jay Cutler take home the title of Mr. Olympia 2007 over a live stream. The video was choppy and due to shared wireless internet, it frequently cut out, but that didn't matter to us. We got to see our heroes compete in the pinnacle of bodybuilding competitions in the world.
My friends and I, with our sharpie-drawn Ronnie Coleman shirts, hit the gym that day in the spirit of Big Ron by dressing in ridiculous neon pants and cut off flannel shirts while yelling phrases such as "light weight" and "yea buddies." After that day, my friends and I made it a goal to one day attend the Mr. Olympia competition weekend together.
Two weeks ago, swamped with a senior year college schedule plus maintaining a workout routine and social life, the thought of getting five friends together to road trip to Las Vegas for the 2008 Mr. Olympia seemed impossible.
Blessed with optimism and curiosity, as well as some extra time provided by procrastination, I conjured up a plan in which the six of us would rent a car and journey to Las Vegas, splitting the expenses and completely winging the details. Being the poor college students that we are, my idea only involved attending the expo, with mere hopes of somehow getting in to the Mr. Olympia judging.
At first, the plan seemed farfetched due to our conflicting schedules as well as impending imperative exams. A week passed, and after multiple obstacles we were two days from Mr. O with nothing set in stone. Tuesday night, the six of us got together one last time for a "family meeting" and although two of us still had complications, we all committed to doing everything in our power to have the chance to meet our heroes.
It literally wasn't until Thursday afternoon that the plan became reality. After the final exam, the six of us crammed in a minivan and began the thousand mile drive to the bodybuilding promise land.
On Our Way
Throughout the fifteen hour drive, the six of us conversed about the ultimate best case scenario when arriving in Las Vegas. Joking about what it would be like to hang out with Ronnie and the things we would do to watch the Saturday night judging were the main topics. Since we went in with the attitude that just being there was a dream come true, we had nothing to lose.
Arriving in Las Vegas with all of us recently turned 21 and now tall enough to ride the ride, we all rested in order to be ready to catch the end of the first day of the Mr. O expo. The six of us came to the conclusion that because of the time, one of us would go to the expo and scope it out, in order for all to experience it fully on Saturday.
At The Expo
As the designated scout, I arrived at the Convention Center with little over an hour remaining in the first day of the expo with only enough cash to pay for admission.
I parked in a restricted lot about one hundred yards from the front door, explaining to the parking attendant that I had just driven fifteen straight hours to get to the expo. With that plea, along with my bloodshot eyes and my man reek, he let me park for free. If I only knew this was to be the first of a series of fortunate events.
With only an hour left in the expo, I had three goals: shake Ronnie Coleman's hand, introduce myself to anyone at Bodybuilding.com, and scope out Saturday's route for my friends. Somehow I managed to do all three thanks to the endless supply of energy drink samples, and my life seemed now complete.
Little did I know what the weekend had in store for me. After reporting back to my friends, we devised a plan of action for Saturday's expo, celebrated our safe arrival in Vegas, and went to bed.
Saturday morning we awoke in a haggardly daze with the heart of a child on Christmas morning. Dressed for the occasion in our Bodybuilding.com shirts, we headed over to the expo. Blinded by the enormous displays constructed by the various supplement companies, as well as gorgeous fitness models, we were in heaven.
Like kids in a candy store, we eagerly took the handouts from the various companies along with posing for pictures alongside incredibly fit individuals such as Jamie Eason. At one point, I actually got on one knee and proposed to Jaime for a picture; like I said before, I was in heaven.
Not only did we acquire numerous samples of our favorite supplements, but we also got to talk to the company representatives about new products and training techniques. We split into pairs of two to approach various companies about their business models, goals, and what they look for in employees.
Two in the group, Stephen and Warren, got to talking with a representative from Bodybuilding.com who noticed their shirts and asked if they were going to be watching the Mr. O judging. Eventually Jeremy Deluca (Bodybuilding.com VP) joined the conversation and offered them two exclusive VIP passes to the Bodybuilding.com suite.
Immediately, we regrouped and decided to approach Jeremy and thank him and his staff for the privilege of going to the show. After noticing all six of us sporting Bodybuilding.com shirts, before we could even get a word out, he asked if the rest of us needed tickets to the Mr. Olympia judging. All of us looked at each other like we had just won the lottery and couldn't say no to his gracious offer.
The Orleans Hotel
Not knowing what to expect, we headed over to the Orleans Hotel where the Mr. Olympia judging took place. Even though only two of us had VIP bracelets, Jeremy and the people at Bodyuilding.com managed to get all six of us into the suite. Once in the suite, all of our jaws dropped at the amazing view of the stage as well as the abundance of remarkable food.
Little did we know that this was an invite-only affair, and we were standing in the same room as the likes of Lou Ferrigno and various major leaders in the bodybuilding industry.
We were talking among ourselves, still in shock, when up walks Ryan Deluca, the CEO of Bodybuilding.com. He was genuinely glad that we were there and took the time to hear our tale of how we arrived in the suite. That night, we also had the honor of meeting the VP and cofounder of BSN, Scott James, as well as Rich Gaspari of Gaspari Nutrition.
For us, this evening exceeded our wildest dreams. Not only are these people incredible leaders and entrepreneurs, they demonstrated their passion for each and every one of their customers in the way they treated us.
After taking a final picture with Ryan, Jeremy, and Scott, we watched 38 year old Dexter Jackson take the Mr. Olympia title, and with what we had just experienced, we felt as if we were right up there with him. Ryan graciously invited us to the annual BSN Olympia after-party, and we parted ways.
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Dexter Jackson At The 2008 Olympia.
View More Pics Of Dexter Jackson At The 2008 Olympia.
View Dexter Jackson's Posing Routine Here.
As if the day couldn't get any better, I jokingly placed my last twenty dollar bill in a video poker machine. In keeping with my magical day, on my fifth hand, I hit four Aces to win a $210 payout. I immediately printed out the golden ticket and ran to the cash out machine like Charlie anticipating meeting Willy Wonka.
We met up with Ryan and Jeremy at Risqué for the BSN Olympia after-party and were treated like first class celebrities. We got to personally meet and party with our hero Ronnie Coleman, as well as both BSN's Brandon Curry and Anthony Presciano.
Fortunately for us, we woke up Sunday morning in our hotel room and all of our dreams had come true. The friendships we made, as well as the experience we were blessed to have, are priceless memories that we will never forget. My name might be Will Smith, but I am not a celebrity, nor have I ever been treated like one, until my Vegas weekend.
This is a perfect example of the way in which Bodybuilding.com lives up to their mission statement: "To empower our visitors to reach their health, fitness and appearance goals through information, motivation and supplementation." They showed six ordinary guys that they really do care about people and have an unsurpassed passion for the betterment of each and every one of their customer's lives.
Finally, the six of us would like to thank Ryan and Jeremy, along with everyone involved, for making this experience one that we will never forget. You have instilled in us a growing respect for not only Bodybuilding.com, but for the people who are responsible for every aspect of the company. We are indebted to you guys for life, and by the way, this bracelet is never coming off.
Your new friends,
Stephen Aki, Shawn Henschel, David Hilderbrand, Warren Manning, William Smith, and Michael Yinger