Hey, I had laudable reason for uncertainty in 2003; Coleman was 39, coming off a loss to Gunter Schlierkamp at the 2002 GNC Show of Strength and was a controversial winner, to put it mildly, over Kevin Levrone at the '02 'Olympia. And, let's not forget Ronnie's highly criticized victory over Jay Cutler at the '01 affair, where Jay was ahead by six after the pre-judging, only to mysteriously come out on the short end of the stick by a couple of digits when the finals were completed.
Coleman was seething after reading and hearing about his "underserved" victories in recent times, and that anger gave him more focus than ever in his training, which is saying a mouthful. The naysayers said he was too old, couldn't nail that freaky condition any longer. And, do I have to tell you how many times his extended belly was the main topic of conversation?
Ronnie promised to come in bigger and better in '03. He's definitely a man of his word. Of course, I already knew that-he's the only person I've researched to actually have the college degree he claims. Yup, in Accounting, from Grambling University. Cum Laude, to boot.
Ronnie @ the 2003 Olympia.
As you remember, Ronnie hit the stage at around 286 pounds on his 5'11" frame, more than 30 pounds heavier than the year before. And, in premier condition. President Bush should have been there. The WMD was finally located, but in Nevada, not Irag.
He was the obvious winner as soon as he hit the backstage pump up area prior to the judging; he admitted he was still pissed about being dissed throughout the year and was out to prove a lot of people aren't as smart as they think they are in this game. Coleman destroyed the field; the only real battle was the fight for second, won by Cutler over Dexter Jackson.
Rumors out of Arlington, Texas have Coleman at 305 pounds three weeks out from the contest. And, in as good as shape as he was the same distance out in '03. As frightening as this sounds, Ronnie says the only change we'll probably see in '04 is that he'll be three, four pounds heavier. Say what? Just when I thought I'd seen it all.
Coleman gave me his company line when asked about his chances to another victory:
No arguments this time around, big guy.
But, I will argue with anyone who thinks Cutler is not still a prime time contender. Jay got bashing of his own after his third consecutive victory at the Arnold Classic this year.
Remember, the 31-year-old from 'Vegas ended 2003 on somewhat of a downer: a lot of folks had Jackson, not Cutler, as the rightful second place finisher to Coleman at the 'Olympia, then was bested by The Blade at the Show of Strength a couple of weeks later.
Then, Cutler was admittedly vastly over dieted, probably tipping the scales under 250, along the way to a divisive one-digit win over Chris Cormier in Columbus.
Dexter & Jay at the 2003 Show Of Strength.
I got a chance to see Cutler on stage on October 2, when I emceed the NPC San Francisco Bodybuilding and Figure Championships and Jay guest posed. He said he was around 280; I'm not sure he was quite that heavy, but that main point here is that Cutler is going back to what got him here in the first place - a lot of well conditioned beef that overpowered his opponents. If anyone can push Ronnie, it can only be Jay.
Jay Cutler guest posing in San Francisco 4 weeks from the 2004 Olympia!
Photos are courtesy of Bill Comstock - www.graphicmuscle.com
Jackson, I insist, does not carry the 220 or so pounds he says he does on his 5'6 1/2" frame, but that really doesn't matter. Dexter has proven to be among the best in the game, and should challenge Cutler for the runner-up slot behind Coleman. Jackson is always in great condition, and now has the confidence to know he can flex with the big boys.
So, what about Cormier? Wish I knew. Cormier probably has the best, all-around physique in the industry. But, as we all know by now, you never know which version of Cormier will land on stage. At last year's event, Cormier pulled out of the show a week out, citing flu factors, and ended up with a microphone on the pay-per-view broadcast instead of a trophy on stage.
He bounced back at the Arnold Classic, looking like the Chris of old, but his fifth straight second place landing in Columbus might have knocked the wind out of Cormier's competitive drive.
According to a source who saw Chris a couple of weeks back, The Real Deal was behind in his conditioning and will have to really turn it up in the late innings to have a shot at landing in the top five.
If anyone can pull the rabbit out of the hat, however, it is Chris, so I'm not quite ready to discount his chances at this point. At 37, has Cormier seen his better days? Ask me on Halloween.
A guy who is seeing better days, and a definite top six threat, is the Dominican Dandy, Victor Martinez. Vic the Brick (as in thick) followed his 2003 Night of Champions victory with a win at the GNC Show of Strength over the weekend.
I wasn't there, but judging by pictures from the contest, Martinez was big and full, but not as sharp as he needs to be to make a dent in the 'Olympia line-up. Now, that's to be expected, a full three weeks out from the Big Dance; come October 30 I assume Martinez will be right on the money and should be leaving Las Vegas with exactly that - a lot of money as he hits the quick six.
Martinez will be battling the two immense German dudes - Gï¿½nter Schlierkamp and Markus Ruhl -, and a one half-German dude, Dennis James, for a top six position, and I hear all three of them looking swell and swole. Dennis, if you remember, is coming off a strong fourth place finish from a year ago and the 35-year-old from Thailand looks to be finally putting it all together.
Let's not forget Darrem Charles, either, who pushed Martinez to the SOS title and a guy who, like Jackson, never shows up out of shape. In fact, I've spoken to several people who say Darrem, not Victor, should be holding the latest SOS championship trophy in his hands.
The Battle For The Top 10
The battle for a top 10 slot should be a great one, even without Lee Priest, Melvin Anthony and Jaroslav Horvath, all who decided to pass on the '04 'Olympia to concentrate on the early shows next season.
Gustavo Badell, Troy Alves, Richard Jones, Ahmad Haidar, Johnnie Jackson and Kris Dim are all first-rate physiques, and aren't making the trip to 'Vegas with the familiar theme, "I'm just happy to be there."
Let the posing begin.
Early Look At The Olympia!
| Ronnie Coleman
| Gunter Schlierkamp