An Inside Look At Chris Cook.

Chris proved he knows a lot more than I do about what vocation to pursue. Not that there weren't bumps in the road along the way. Find out what they were and how Chris did it...
Being an altruistic sort of guy, it was natural for me to give Chris Cook some well heeded advice when I first met him at the 2000 NPC Nationals in New York, "Nice smile, high-quality hair, great calves - you should be a Calvin Klein model," I told Cook, amidst his crowded hotel room as he prepared for his first crack at a pro qualifying event.

The then - 24-year-old was more than a bit taken back by the suggestion, especially since he was coming off a victory in the Heavyweight class at the Sacramento Bodybuilding Championships a week earlier. Hey, that was a nice win, kid. But, at 5'11" and 216 pounds, it was time to pursue that modeling contract. Didn't even have that much weight to lose.

As I surmised, Cook went out and got blasted in his first crack at a pro qualifying event, not making the top 15. But, fortunately for the determined young man, he didn't pay much attention to my proposition.

Fast-forward four years. At the 2004 Nationals in Dallas, as we all know by now, Cook, tipping the scales 32 pounds heavier than his ill-fated New York disaster, dominated the Super heavyweight class, then took the Overall crown as he made a permanent exit from the amateur ranks.

Chris at the 2004 Nationals.

Chris proved he knows a lot more than I do about what vocation to pursue. Not that weren't bumps in the road along the way.

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And, I'm not just talking about his back to back disappointments at the 2003 and 2004 USA Championships, the most severe frustration taking place last July where the contest favorite won his class but watched as Overall champ Mark Dugdale and Heavyweight winner World Harris left the arena with a pro card.

Chris at the 2004 NPC USA's.

Until recently, Cook had endured some tough times. Three years ago Chris, living in San Jose, CA, had lost his job working on private aircrafts after the 9/11 terrorists attacks. He took a week of, pondering his future, then told Denise, his future wife, that now was the time to make the move to Southern Cal to pursue his dream of bodybuilding success.

Denise, who was managing the Gold's Gym in San Jose at the time, remained in their apartment while her man made the most significant move of his career.

Cook, with very little cash in his pocket, lived in his truck for the first two weeks, planted in a McDonald's parking lot in Venice. Cook had no money; he literally lived through his credit card. He eventually landed a job, working 16 hours a day selling memberships for Bodies in Motion in Century City. Then, Cook zipped back to San Jose to get Denise, wedding ring in hand, and was able to get the company to hire Denise in a similar capacity at their Northridge location. They married on February 8, 2002, but not before Cook filed bankruptcy papers. He was $60,000 in debt, broke, and still living on a dream.

Things began to look up for Chris when he took the Superheavyweight class at the 2003 USA Championships. Despite being disappointed by not getting his pro card, he still had reason to smile. Both MRM and Weider offered him endorsement deals, which suddenly made life a lot easier, especially in the arena of paying bills.

Despite the defeat Cook, who I gave the moniker "The New Blond Bomber" to a year earlier, was bodybuilding's latest glamour boy. In addition to the dual contracts, he landed on the cover of five magazines in 2003. How could anyone stop him from winning it all at the '04 USA? He found a way.

When Chris landed on stage at the Friday night judging, he was clearly not as sharp as he needed to be. Looked like a replay of 2003, where he wasn't nearly detailed enough to pull a pro card out of the hat. Unfortunately for Cook, history did repeat itself, and it was back to the drawing board.

Cook, who met Hany Rambod at the Gold's in San Jose and worked with him through the 2004 USA ("Hany took me from 216 pounds to 250 on stage - no doubt he's been very instrumental in my success."), decided to enter the Nationals in November, and wanted get another point of view with regards to pre-contest prep. Two weeks after the USA, Cook put in a call to noted nutrition guru Chris Aceto, who agreed to work with Chris for the Nationals.

The union proved to be an engaging one; Cook was much tighter when I saw him at the Thursday night weigh-in in Dallas. He was so excited about his condition, actually, that he literally dropped his pants in the Fairmont Hotel restaurant the following morning, proudly displaying his wheels of fortune and shredded glutes to the members of my breakfast club.

Not exactly what I wanted to see at 9 a.m., especially while trying to enjoy my oatmeal, but Cook was so wound up about his look, chopping at the bit to get on stage, that I overlooked the ass-in-my-face display.

It was a wonderful weekend in Texas for the Cooks: Chris wins it all and Denise, his exotic half-Thai, half-white spouse, finished fifth in the Fitness competition in only her third contest.

Now, both of them are focusing on May competitions - Chris at the New York Pro on May 21, Denise at the 'Cal a week later. Cook knows the judges will be looking for improvements when he hits the Tribeca Performing Arts Center stage, and is spending the holiday season hitting it hard at the Santa Clarita Athletic Club. The weights, that is, not the eggnog served at the juice bar. No time to rest on his laurels, Cook points out. The only thing harder than getting there is staying there, as the saying goes.

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When he first began his bodybuilding career, Cook had one major goal-the become Mr. Olympia. He thinks he can achieve that honor by 2007, when he'll have just turned 31 years old.

If not, there's always the Calvin Klein option.

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