Let's back up a bit to the start of the Olympia Weekend, and what a start it was. Breaking new, unexplored ground this year was the addition of the "Olympia pre game show" replacing the boring old press conference, and the "challenge round" which would prove to be just that, a challenge.
Olympia Pre Game Show
An idea long over due, the old press conference has traditionally been as exciting as watching paint dry. With the fans asking the questions, time would stand still as the most life-draining, either induced questions would be asked over and over:" How many chicken breast's do you eat a day?" "How much do you bench?" "What kind of car do you drive?" Etc.
The powers that be decided to bring it up a few notches by bringing me in the host and partnering me up with announcer Joe Amato (he and I haven't exactly seen eye to eye in the past), and lending some colorful commentary was none other than WWE superstar, HHH!
The majority of questions would now come from myself, HHH, and the press, and come they did! We fired things right up with a question to Gunter about his noticeable absence from the Olympia posters. Gunter responded in kind, and Ronnie didn't take too kindly to Gunter pointing out that the only man to beat the "big nasty" was Gunter himself, who would do it again! Iron jay Cutler then made it perfectly clear that this was certainly NOT a two man race, and when the dust settled, the title would be his.
Obviously, this set the tone for the rest of the afternoon with smack talk coming from all angles, and not just from the men but the women as well! Over the past year, Iris Kyle has been quite vocal when she was dissed last year taking 2nd place and would absolutely, positively, wrestle the title from Lenda Murray this year.
Lenda would respond that 'eight was great and nine would be fine" in beating the awesome Lee Haney's all time Olympia record. It was not to be.
Ronnie Throws Down The Gauntlet
Ronnie was quickly joined by "Iron" Jay Cutler and Guntermania, then promising newcomer Gustavo Badell joined in, along with Iris Kyle, Yaxeni Oriquen, and some of the women!
All hell was breaking loose and the audience was going berserk, now THIS is what I call a press conference! Gone were the days of Wayne Demillia fielding questions and the conference turning into an athletes platform on what's wrong with the sport. Thank God!
Just as things were calming down and we were wrapping up, HHH jokingly challenged me to a pose down, to which I reminded him that this was the IFBB not the WWE, and he would want NO part of me on MY stage. HHH then took huge exception to me saying that bodybuilding (not wrestling) was considered a "REAL" sport. I tried to explain to him that he was taking my comment out of context when HHH started getting in my face (bad move).
I then told HHH to "bring it" if he wanted and got in HIS face. Next thing I know Joe Amato sides up with HHH making it a 2 on 1, no problem. From out of nowhere my Mamaluke brother King Kamali came rushing up on stage and shoved HHH about 4 feet back! At this point the whole place was on their feet and going nuts as we were 5 seconds away from throwing down. Wisely, they both backed down and we decided to wrap things up and settle our differences another day.
Iris Kyle's Win
| Let me first give props to Iris Kyle in her upset of 8 time Ms. Olympia Lenda Murray. It's not easy beating a legend, but you did it.
Looks like Iris might just start her own streak of Ms. O titles.
Adela Garcia Friedmansky
Somehow, great champions seem to overcome and get the job done. New York's finest might just be on top for a long time to come!
The prejudging was pretty much business as usual. Three rounds:
Round 1: symmetry round
Round 2: muscularity round
Round 3: mandatory round
Anyone who's ever read any of my articles knows I have a HUGE problem with the "rounds" system of judging which actually is judged as follows:
Round 1: muscularity round
Round 2: muscularity round
Round 3: muscularity round
These "rounds" were introduced some years ago to gain acceptance into the Olympics. Since that's obviously NOT going to happen in our lifetime I've suggested many times switching to the NPC system of judging, which I believe to be more fair and gives the judges an opportunity to judge physiques without trying to make the scoring system work.
I've stated many times, the problem is NOT with the judges themselves, not with Jim Manion, but with the SYSTEM they're forced to use. This same problem would become apparent in the new "challenge round" which will be covered in depth later in this article.
The first round consisted of each athlete displaying the 8 mandatory poses with the stage all to himself. This gives a good look for the judges to see who's in contention, and who's not. Some guys look very good alone on the stage, but it's comparison that separates the champs from the runner-ups. The picture changes a great deal when the illusion is taken away.
After the second round, (symmetry round) it didn't take a genius to figure the top three would be Ronnie, Jay and Dexter, but the biggest surprise of the day was the most improved bodybuilder over the last 2 years, Gustavo Badell. Big Gus was knocking on the door of the top five bringing a balanced, muscular and well conditioned physique to the Olympia stage.
Round three didn't deliver anything out of the ordinary. The "muscularity" round basically consists of the same guys being compared with each other in the madatory poses.
There was some good production value that was added to the evening show this year, some not so good. Like an old Clint Eastwood western, the finals broke down like this:
- Big screen above the stage showing the athletes training before they entered the stage.
- Great stage setting with giant 7 foot letters spelling O-L-Y-M-P-I-A.
- The letter "M" rotated the athletes onto the stage.
- Appearances by Sly Stallone, Tom Arnold, and The terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger!
- The backstage interviews were awkward and poorly conducted.
- People in the stadium seats couldn't see the big screen because of the light banks being too low.
- Award presentation lackluster and disorganized because of...
- The Challenge Round.
Let me start by saying I have nothing but respect for Dave Zelon for bringing this unique concept to the pro stage. I think this is a good idea and I believe with some modifications, it will become a permanent fixture for years to come. HOWEVER...
That being said, the challenge round is as flawed as the ballot boxes in Florida. I had big reservations about this prior to the event, and (unfortunately) my worst fears were realized.
First, I didn't like the idea that the points earned in the prejudging were basically tossed aside in favor of starting "fresh" with a 1 POINT difference separating all 6 seedings. My reasoning is simple, a lead is a lead. Why even have the prejudging if you're just going to disregard the points and margins that the athletes EARNED by already being compared to each other?
This would lead to the next problem. With just a single point separating all the finalists, the Mr. Olympia title would become a body part contest devoid of such ideals as symmetry, proportion, stage presence, posing, etc. (Remember, all of that was erased with the new format!)
Ronnie Vs Dexter
Jay Vs Ronnie
The biggest victim from this flawed format was Dexter Jackson. The "blade" was sitting in third place the entire day (most people had him in second followed by Gustavo), but when the bell tolled Dexter was in 4th! One placing, you say? No, one $10,000 placing. Big difference. Problem again was NOBODY thought that Gustavo was better than Dexter.
The challenge round also made for a completely lack luster finish. As the points went up, and Ronnie won the last pose against Jay, he won. No big announcement, no anticipation, no tense moments before the name of the 2004 Mr. Olympia is crowned, no nothing. It was like watching a movie that gave the plot away with an hour still to go. And after Ronnie was given his Arnold tying 7th Sandow, the other 5 guys were standing there like mamalukes, wandering around the stage until they started to award 6th place thru 2nd. Very strange.
Call me old school, or nostalgic, but I liked the presentation of the medals, the pose down, the roar of approval or booing when the 6th place athlete is announced, and now there is five, now four, now the top three, etc.
I have a few suggestions for consideration for next year's challenge round:
- Keep the points from the prejudging secret. No need to spoil the big finish!
- Keep the POINTS from the prejudging, and any lead that was earned.
- Increase the points in the challenge round from 2 to 5.
- Rotate from one guy to the next, not one guy making all 5 challenges in a row (this eliminates the Gunter spectacle as he lost all 5 poses in a row)
- Keep the pose down as usual as the points are tabulated from the prejudging and added to the challenge round points.
- Call out all six athletes back to the stage after a few minutes, and announce the 6th place finisher as you show the combined point total for that athlete.
- When there are two competitors remaining call out the WINNER'S name. We can all figure out who's in second!
Overall, the 2004 Olympia was a huge success; especially with the many changes the IFBB administration had this past year. It seems the new regime of Weider/AMI and the powers that be in the IFBB are ready, willing and able to bring some much needed excitement to our sport and are receptive to change.
By not being afraid to try new ideas, the bar can finally be raised to bring our sport to the status it rightfully deserves!
- Ronnie Coleman
- Dexter Jackson
- Gustavo Badell
- Jay Cutler
- Victor Martinez
- Darrem Charles (winner- best poser $10,000)
- Dennis James
- Marcus Ruhl (winner- biggest freak award $10,000)
- Chris Cormier
- Gunter Schlierkamp
Still nobody on THIS planet posing a challenge. Not man nor beast can stand with the champ!
Best conditioning of anyone, most consistent with Darrem.
Looked great, nailed condition. A little blocky, needs to watch midsection control.
Thickest guy up there, maybe TOO much muscle, needs more back separation.
Great potential, future champion, needs to work on presentation. Should have been in top five.
Also most consistent, and most overlooked. Top five, no question.
Needs more thigh separation, upper body enormous, actually starting to dwarf his huge legs!
Most massive bodybuilder alive. Still needs to come in dryer and darker.
Off his usual form. Arnold conditioning would've nailed runner-up spot at the Olympia.
Decent conditioning, a bit blocky, slightly off his best. Had guys with better symmetry ahead of him.
Still looks great for 42! Still bad in mandatory poses, too light, AGAIN. Starting to show a little age.
Good Olympia debut. Lost some leg size for conditioning, tough to stand next to guys 50-75 lbs. bigger.
Just a tad off. Great symmetry, needs new posing routine. Orlando conditioning would've been 6-8th place.
Lost some size, still coming down to bodybuilding physique from power lifting. Great future.
Fell from debut of 7th last year to 15th this year, off his best, soft from the rear. Troy lost some training time due to hernia surgery early in the year.
Great potential. Looks outstanding from the front/side. Needs a bigger back to compete with the big boys.
Lots of muscle, very blocky. Legs over-shadow upper body, needs better posing. Needs to streamline physique.
Very slender look, legs need to come up, big-time! Looks like he over dieted or overtrained, flat. Once he figures out his body will be top tier pro.
Still brings some of the best conditioning and calves in bodybuilding. Does a lot with not so great genetics.
2004 Olympia Main Page!