As the wind howled outside my Columbus hotel room the night after the 2009 Arnold Classic, I couldn't help but think that the winds of change might be blowing in the IFBB. The Mr. Olympia title and the coveted Sandow trophy could be changing hands this year - from Dexter Jackson's to Kai Greene's.
In the aftermath of the competition, the dust settled and all the embarrassing false rumors have been squelched. Although people love to speculate and try to figure out Kai's game plan, the truth is only Kai himself knows what that plan is and he most certainly seems to know where he's going.
The Meteoric Rise
I saw Kai at the 2006 Iron Man in Pasadena and Kai didn't even make the top fifteen to allow him to perform his entire posing routine. (For his introduction at that particular Iron Man, he ended up doing an unusual team posing routine with Rodney St. Cloud where each of them wore white masks. That was only a foreshadow of the incredible displays Kai would bring to the IFBB pro stage shortly after that show.)
Weighing 257, Kai packs a lot of muscle on his five-foot-seven physique. It is incredible how much muscle he has accumulated in recent years. It's a remarkable metamorphosis and almost unheard of at the pro level. In a little more than one year's time Kai Greene went from "did-not-place" status at the 2006 Iron Man to winning the 2007 Colorado Pro. It's reminiscent of Ronnie Coleman's historic transformation between the 2002 and 2003 Mr. Olympias.
Now, to really paint an accurate picture, Kai Greene was competing in drug-tested events as late as 2004 when he won the overall Team Universe. That was the second time he won the overall at the Team Universe. 1999 was the first year he won it.
To sum it up, he went from drug-tested NPC athlete in 2004 to "did-not-place" at the 2006 Iron Man. In 2007 he won the Colorado Pro. He won the 2008 New York Pro and has now won the prestigious Arnold Classic in 2009 where he defeated Victor Martinez, who Ronnie Coleman deemed to be the next heir to the Mr. Olympia. If Kai Greene keeps making those improvements or he looks just like he did at the finals of the Arnold Classic, he could very well be battling Dexter Jackson and Phil Heath for Mr. Olympia titles in the very near future, possibly as soon as the fall of 2009.
The Unique Presentation
Kai had the most dynamic routine in the competition. He does a series of twists, twirls, spins, slides and headstands while doing bicycle kicks that no one has ever even tried before. It was tame compared to his routines in the past, but I liked it much better than ones I've seen in prior competitions.
In my 30 years of experience in this sport, I have witnessed many bodybuilding competitions. I've seen countless routines performed by amateurs and professionals. Until Saturday night, I thought I had seen it all. I hadn't. Kai brought a presentation to the stage so unique that I saw the jaws of the spectators in attendance literally drop.
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I've seen a number of Kai's routines in the past and, to be perfectly honest, some of them made me, well, a little uncomfortable while I watched them. His 2009 Arnold Classic routine, however, was different. It was a combination of muscle control, classic posing, balance, gymnastics, weird poses and dancing all wrapped up into one dynamic routine. I was speechless at its conclusion.
When I was in junior high school, I remember watching a 76ers game and my favorite player, Julius "Dr. J" Erving, did this incredible double-pump lay up where he glided in the air around two defenders and came up and around to the other side of the basket and gently laid the ball into the hoop while spinning around to face it. It was on highlight reels for years afterwards. I was mesmerized by that seemingly impossible display of athletic ability. I got the same kind of feeling watching Kai Greene's routine as I did when I saw Dr. J make his extraordinary move to the basket. Both displays were awe inspiring.
I couldn't help but think that this might bring a new flare to other pro routines. And then terror struck me when I thought of amateur guys trying to imitate the routine. Think of the "Clueless Competitor" and come up with your own visual imagery.
Kai Greene truly deserved to win the 2009 Arnold Classic he had the best combination of mass, symmetry, proportion, conditioning and presentation. You could probably see this on the web cast but it was really obvious when you could observe the comparisons live. Sure, I thought Victor's shape was better, but he was smooth too and his legs hadn't fully recovered from his surgery. Kai was sharper during the judging and he got even tighter during the finals. Victor faded.
The advantage of seeing the judging live is that you can really judge for yourself. You can look back and forth between the competitors and see things in a whole different perspective. On a web cast, you're at the mercy of the camera. For instance, during the side chest comparison, Kai had visible striations on the outside of his bicep. No one else had that. No one. But you can't get see that on a computer monitor or a TV screen. You can only see those little details in person.
Is Kai Greene's physique perfect? Nope. Like I said earlier, I thought Victor had him in the shape department. Kai had the best combination of everything - mass, proportion, symmetry, shape and conditioning. Silvio had great conditioning also, but he was too small. Kai dwarfs him and outweighs him by at least 30 pounds. That's a huge difference.
Greene had extreme conditioning and he was able to show everything to his advantage. His quads and hams were almost on par with Branch's, but when he did his bicycle-kicking thing, his hamstrings looked better than Branch's. Now, my guess is that Branch's hams might look like that if decided to do that bicycle thing, but something tells me we'll never see Branch strike that particular pose.
Click To Enlarge.
Branch Warren And Kai Greene At The 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic.
It's been said that the Mr. Olympia title is won by having the best back. Think about. Starting with Samir and all the way through Jay Cutler, the winner had the biggest and baddest back. It wasn't the same with Dexter last year. Jackson has a good back, but it ain't Ronnie's. No, buddy!
Even though Greene's back looks sort of compacted because of his short torso, his Lee Haney-like shape and thickness might propel him to a Mr. Olympia title. He has the width and thickness needed plus he's has lots of details. When he moves his back, it looks like writhing boa constrictors have been shrink-wrapped to either side of his spine.
Kai's proportions are very good. Nothing is really overdeveloped or underdeveloped; he's balanced. His waist appears to be wide in some poses, but I think that has more to do with his short torso and structure more than it does with a large and growing waistline due to added mass. We all know how much Ronnie's and Jay's waists blew out and they've fought to keep that problem under control. It doesn't look like the same problem to me.
The physique that Kai brought to the stage at the 2009 Arnold Classic shows what he is capable of achieving and that he is going to be a formidable opponent for the likes of Dexter Jackson at the Olympia this fall.
In all honesty, I hate to admit that Kai Greene looked better than I thought he would. It surprised me, but that's what I get for listening to all the experts on the Internet. They said he was too heavy and would not be in shape or he might drop out. Well, obviously he didn't drop out. He won the whole show and the Best Poser Award. By winning the 2009 Arnold Classic, Kai Greene has solidified himself as one of the greats in the history of pro bodybuilding and that win did not go unnoticed by the top-four placed guys at the 2008 Mr. Olympia. I guarantee each one of those guys was watching very closely.
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