When was the last time a major pro event came down to 3 equally deserving athletes? As the athletes were narrowed down to 3 finalists... Jay Cutler, Chris Cormier and Dexter Jackson awaited the next announcement.
A reasonable argument could have been made in favor of each of these guys. Dexter was razor sharp. Chris was near his all-time best. Jay, the defending champ, brought his classic size and condition to the stage.
When Dexter was announced 3rd place, it became obvious that SIZE MATTERS in Columbus. The two "big" men remained. Cormier had already finished 2nd four times in Columbus and was forced to miss the Olympia just 5 months earlier. He had seen his stock plummet after a 7th place finish at the GNC show. After a renewed commitment to the sport, "The Real Deal" was Real once again. Cormier now stood among the final 2 at the Arnold Classic.
In the end, as predicted on Pro Muscle Online, Jay found a way to win.
Cutler showcased a slightly streamlined version of his massive, visually stunning physique. His quad separation remains the best in the business. It also appeared that (at a lighter weight) he was able improve his glutes, an area that has long been a weakness for Jay. The victory upheld Iron-Jay's bold promise that he would become the first man in history to claim three consecutive Arnold Classic crowns. In case you're counting, that's 3 Hummers, a nice collection of Gold Rolexes and a cool $300,000 cash.
Gunter Schlierkamp finished in the 4th spot, despite a slightly smooth appearance in the evening show. Markus Ruhl, who was very prepared for the event, rounded out the Top 5 (I personally had Ruhl ahead of Gunter). Markus and Chris snagged the only 2 Olympia qualifications of the evening (Jay, Dexter and Gunter were already qualified).
Jay defeated Chris by exactly 1 point on the scorecard. Despite the narrow defeat, Cormier reminded us all that he still remains among the very best. Dexter, Chris and Jay have 7 months to prepare for the Olympia. With Ronnie Coleman "in the center", there is only room for 2 of these guys in that coveted first callout.
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In Other News...
Former Mr. Olympia Samir Bannout has announced his return to the stage! "The Lion of Lebanon" will compete this weekend at the San Francisco Pro Invitational. Event promoter Giorgio Tsoukalos has reported to Pro Muscle Online that Samir will join an athlete lineup that is already highlighted by a Chris Cormier - Dexter Jackson showdown.
Did you know... Jay Cutler was only 9 years old when Samir won the '83 Olympia.
Titus - "On" but not "In" - Craig Titus was near his all-time best in Columbus. For his efforts, he earned a spot in the final posedown. Unfortunately for Craig, he still remains un-qualified for the Olympia. After failing to qualify in his first 2 events, Craig will need a Top 3 finish in San Francisco to get that Olympia sized monkey off his back.
Kamili Struggles Continue - All the way back in October of 2001, King Kamali capped off an outstanding rookie year by finishing among the Top 10 in his very first Olympia. It's been all downhill since. Despite several long breaks between events, Kamali hasn't been able to regain the package that he brought to the stage as a rookie. His attempts to add size have resulted in a failure to "dial in" on contest day.
A Real Ironman - For those of you living across the pond in the United Kingdom, be sure to pick up the current issue of Muscle & Fitness - UK Edition. Don't miss my interview with baseball "Ironman" and future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. (March '04 edition).
More IFBB updates coming soon!
2004 Arnold Classic Main Page!
As always, visit www.ProMuscleOnline.com for all the latest from around the industry.
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Until next time...