2008 Mr. Olympia Preview:
Can Jay Make It A Three-Peat?
Two big questions are being asked about the 2008 Mr. Olympia. Can Jay win his third Mr. Olympia title by defeating Dexter Jackson? The other question on the minds of the fans is who will place higher, Phil Heath or Dennis Wolf?
Last year Jay Cutler edged out Victor Martinez in a somewhat controversial decision. Many thought Cutler was off in his conditioning during the prejudging and Victor would triumph and become the new Mr. Olympia. Jay, however, managed to transform his body just enough for the finals and Victor faded slightly. This enabled Jay to regain the title. This year, Martinez is sidelined with an injury and that allows a few guys to start thinking about moving up a place or two in the final standings.
Speaking of guys moving up a place, Kai Greene has opted not to compete in the Mr. Olympia this year. He's using a strategy much like Phil Heath has done the last two years. Greene wants to rest, grow and make a huge impact when he finally does step on the Olympia stage.
Branch is out of the big show too. Branch Warren injured his tricep when he slipped walking down the stairs at his house. The injury required surgery to repair it. He's confident, however, that he'll be back in time for the 2009 Arnold Classic.
So Who Is In The Show?
As this article is being written, there is still one IFBB Pro competition to be held with Olympia qualifications up for grabs. The guys listed here will be based on the athletes who are scheduled to compete before the Atlantic City Pro Show. In alphabetical order, here is that list:
- Abiad, Fouad Canada
- Anthony, Jr. Melvin USA
- Badell, Gustavo Puerto Rico
- Cutler, Jay USA
- Elmoussawi, Moe New Zealand
- English, Kevin USA
- Freeman, Toney USA
- Heath, Phil USA
- Henry, David USA
- Ingram, Leo USA
- Jackson, Dexter USA
- Jackson, Johnnie USA
- James, Dennis Germany
- Richardson, Craig USA
- Rockel, Ronny Germany
- Samuel, Silvio Spain
- Shelestov, Sergey Russia
- Wolf, Dennis Germany
Not much more than a few drops of water and an ounce or two of fat separates the top 10 from the top 15 in the Mr. Olympia each year. It's usually more difficult predicting the placements of the athletes from 11 to 15 than the guys who take the top five spots. Without further adieu, here are my predictions.
15th: Fouad Abiad
Fouad is the Canadian guy in the MuscleTech ads. He qualified at the Europa and was still up in the air as to whether or not he would do the show this year. He's looking at it with the attitude that it wasn't a fluke that he qualified and he'll be able to qualify again. If he does compete, I see him in the top fifteen.
14th: Leo Ingram
Leo Ingram will be making his first Olympia appearance. He's got great size and his conditioning has been pretty good but not fantastic, compared to other Olympians anyway.
13th: Craig Richardson
Richardson has a very pleasing physique. He's complete, but he's not big enough to place higher in a show like the Olympia. Craig has a look like a late 80s or early 90s bodybuilder, which everyone seems to be saying is really great, but that style of physique is not being rewarded these days.
12th: Ronny Rockel
Great physique, horrible presentation. I don't think there's a guy with better proportions in the IFBB. He's got everything, but he looks like it's his first competition every time he stands on stage.
Better stage presence and posing ability could bump this guy up more than a few places. I hope he proves me wrong and dazzles everyone this year because I find out he's worked extra hard on his presentation. It'll be more money in his pocket too.
11th: Johnny Jackson
There's not a pro with bigger traps than Mr. Jackson. He's huge and powerful looking, which makes him look like a modern-day Franco Columbu. Like Franco, Jackson needs to bring up his thighs a bit and be a little tighter at every show for him to place higher at the big show.
10th: David Henry
David Henry is back on track and has had great success in the under-202-pound class this year. When he turned around at the Tampa show, he rivaled Ronnie Coleman. Not only does he have back thickness, width, and conditioning, but he has a lot of separation to boot as evidenced by all the lumps and crevices.
Keeping his weight down for the new class has brought out a new level of conditioning for Henry. Despite his short stature, there's a very good chance he'll make the top ten this year at the Mr. Olympia.
9th: Dennis James
Dennis James has trimmed down. He has his waist in control and does not have the over-filled appearance. James had struggled with a protruding tummy in years past, but he contrived a formula that allowed him to nearly grab a victory away from Toney Freeman - twice!
With one of the best most musculars in the sport, James is sure to finish in the top ten. Whether or not he can regain a top-six placing with his new look, is still to be seen.
8th: Gustavo Badell
Gustavo Badell is one of those guys you just can't rule out. He might come in fantastic shape and make a run for the entire show, which he did in 2004 and 2005, or he might place in the number-eight spot and complain that he got overlooked.
Whatever the case might be this year, Badell is a shoe-in for a top-ten spot and might be in the top six if he nails his conditioning and keeps his legs full.
7th: Silvio Samuel
Silvio Samuel has been climbing the ladder and moving ahead of many guys who have been in the pro ranks longer than he has. Samuel's conditioning is almost always second to none and he has great muscle separation. He still needs to bring up his delts and he needs more lat width, especially in the front double biceps pose.
Taking time off, however, and doing some offseason growing is the only way for him to make those improvements. Once he brings those areas up, he'll be in the top five.
6th: Melvin Anthony
Melvin Anthony seems to be able to bring his conditioned package to the Olympia each year but somehow manages to come in smooth at other shows. Melvin has a very balanced and proportional physique. If Melvin is on, he's a top-six finisher. If he's not at his best-ever conditioning, he could easily slip to ninth or tenth.
5th: Toney Freeman
The X-Man, Toney Freeman, has come off two strong showings at the Tampa and Europa contests. After a dismal showing in the 2007 Mr. Olympia - where he clearly messed up - and a disappointing finish at this year's Iron Man and Arnold Classic, Freeman has redeemed himself.
After the Iron Man, I thought we had seen the best of Freeman, but he has found his winning formula again and is hoping to crack the top six at this year's Mr. Olympia. If he can hold onto to his conditioning for the Atlantic City show and the Olympia he will be in the running for a top-six or top-five finish this year.
4th: Dennis Wolf
When Dennis Wolf walked out on stage last year, it was obvious that he was there to some real damage. He had done his homework and his coach, Milos Sarcev, had timed his peak perfectly. When Wolf hit his first most muscular shot, no one would be able to beat in that pose the rest of the night.
Wolf gained a lot of fans after the 2007 Mr. Olympia. With his superhero proportions, wide shoulders, and tiny waist, many fans felt he actually should have won the competition. He made quite an impression on everyone, except Cutler.
The current Mr. Olympia summed him up as overrated with structural flaws. Granted, Wolf did need some work on the hamstrings and his calves were much too small. His lower back didn't have the thickness or development of Cutler or Ronnie Coleman either.
That being said, however, he did have a much more dramatic and flaring physique and the other competitors lacked his "wow factor," including Cutler. But even though he's working with Chad Nichols this year, I doubt Wolf can bring up his weak areas enough in only one year to place much higher than fourth.
3rd: Phil Heath
Phil "The Gift" Heath will finally take the Olympia stage after foregoing the competition even after qualifying for it during two consecutive years. Seeing how he compares to the other competitors at the Orleans Arena is one of the most anticipated events of the 2009 Mr. Olympia. (Personally, Phil Heath versus Dennis Wolf is the matchup I'm looking forward to most.)
With more muscle packed onto his five-nine frame, The Gift looked incredible at his Iron Man win earlier this year. Badell gave him a little competition, but Heath won it fairly easily. A couple weeks after the Iron Man, Heath made a run for the Arnold Classic title where he placed second to an improved Dexter Jackson.
After those two shows this spring, Phil took some time off in order to grow a little more and prepare for his debut at the Mr. Olympia.
With the exception of his much-talked-about "narrow" shoulders, Phil has a very complete physique and has shown that he has an incredible ability to achieve great conditioning. Because of those two factors I see him placing above Dennis Wolf, but I don't think he's ready to defeat Dexter Jackson.
2nd: Dexter Jackson
Dexter Jackson has gone on record stating that he thinks this year is his year to win the Olympia. He's never had a better chance. Since this year's Arnold Classic win, where he sported an extra few pounds of muscle, Dexter believes he might have a chance to knock Jay off the throne. It's now or never.
1st: Jay Cutler
When fans started questioning Ronnie Coleman's placings in 2001 and 2002, everyone remembers the outcome of 2003. Coleman redeemed himself with an incredible showing that year and closed all the mouths of the naysayers. Cutler is feeling something like Coleman in 2003. Last year, Cutler won but by a very narrow margin.
He was off because he messed up his preparation. Fans said even Wolf had him beat. They said he was scared and that he ran away from Wolf during the posedown and so on? Well folks, things like that make champions train harder.
It drives them; spurs them on. Even though Dexter thinks he might have a chance of dethroning Jay this year, his chances are very slim. Photos of Jay from a few weeks out show he's on target. He's big and he's ripped. Sandow trophy number three looks like it will be placed in Jay's living room in the vacant spot that he has reserved for it.
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