2002 Show Of Strength Report!

I must say that I was star struck and in for the treat of my life. I had no idea how
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I arrived at the Morial Convention center at about 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. The first thing that I did was check in as a first time member of the press. I must say that I was star struck and in for the treat of my life. I had no idea how "into" the action I would be. Mr. Ryan Deluca from Bodybuilding.com "hooked me up"! Anyway, I thereafter made my way over to the Bodybuilding.com booth located in the expo hall. It was there that I met Russ DeLuca, Scott, and April from the Bodybuilding.com. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention Lee & Cathy Priest, Kelly Ryan, Valentina Chepiga, and Rosemary Jennings (pics coming below); yeah they were all in the booth too. After visiting with Russ for a while I was given my assignment. I was to take photographs of the stars, other events, gather the info needed to write this article, and have fun.

Many Events To See

The first event that I checked out was the 2nd session of the Kurt Angle Classic where the USA was taking on the world's best wrestlers. I took a few shots and returned to the Expo to catch some more stars before the men's pre-judging began. Before that event, which was to be the main event for the bodybuilders, I caught the GNC Pro Performance Arm wrestling competition. Immediately following this exciting event I made it over to watch the WPO Met-Rx Semi Finals for the men's heavy weight squat.

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Arm wrestling and regular wrestling were highlights of the weekend.

Talk about exciting, these guys were opening up with 700-800 pound squats. I even witnessed one lifters nose gush with blood while coming up on a heavy squat, a squat that he completed mind you. These guys were intense and serious competitors! If you have never been to an arm wrestling or powerlifting competition it is definitely something that you should experience. These guys get so psyched up it makes you want to get in to the action.

Some of the strongest men in the world showed their strength!

Now, the next big event was to be the men's pre-judging but before I go into that I must tell this one little story. I stopped by a booth that had Kevin Levrone, Mike Matarazzo, and Shawn Ray in it. I always heard that Shawn was a money hungry kind of guy. Well, I did not believe it because I always give individuals the benefit of the doubt. Mike and Kevin let me take a shot of them for the website. When I asked Shawn he began to grab a pen like I was going to buy an autographed photo of him. I said no, no, no it is for our website Bodybuilding.com. He said, well I am going to pre-judging right now. I said "so I should come back after pre-judging?" He said yeah. I never went back, his loss.

Kevin Levrone, Mike Matarazzo... but no Shawn Ray.

Men's Pre-Judging

And now for the full scoop on the men's prejudging... Well, it was obvious from the first of many callouts that the top three were going to be Ronnie, Gunter, and Chris. Now I must say that going into the pre-judging I was a little biased and I wanted Gunter to win. I never really liked Ronnie's physique since it was just not pleasing to my eye, but I gained a lot of respect for Mr. Olympia that Saturday Morning. After seeing the comparisons over and over again I really felt that Ronnie deserved to win, as you all know the evening show would tell a different tale.

Gunter Schlierkamp and Chris Cormier.
Chris Cormier, Gunter and Ronnie Coleman.

I am in no way upset that Gunter broke the political strong arm of the IFBB's judging panel. I am happy for the sport and I am happy for Gunter. This is just what the sport needed but it was perhaps done at the wrong show. Gunter had Ronnie at the Olympia but Ronnie had him at the Show of Strength. Other placings were, in my mind, a little thrown off too. For example I thought that Chris Cormier could have been much harder but he came alive during the posing rounds so third may or may not have been his destiny. Still, I though that Lee Priest deserved to be 3rd. And I do not know where to place Big Art Artwood but he was on time and was definitely over looked. Dexter Jackson was on too, he really looked sharp. I am not saying the Dennis James did not deserve 5th but he was in bad shape "health wise" during the comparison posing rounds at the Pre-judging. The head judge actually had to ask him if he was all right. He continued to pose but once placed back out of the line up he dropped to one knee to recover.

At the end of pre-judging the judges asked to see Ronnie and Gunter alone and as one would expect the crowd went wild. This is what they had all been waiting for. The judges ran them through the mandatory poses. Once they were released by the judges Ronnie and Gunter got into a little posedown. The crowd loved it but to everyone's surprise Gunter walked offstage before Ronnie did. Ronnie had the stage to himself and hammed it up. He must have felt great out posing the number one contender in front of the judges and crowd. Gunter loved the respect and applause he was receiving and you could tell he wanted to stay up there but he felt too bad. I saw him walk right past me after prejudging with a friend. He looked like he was in pain and really weak. His friend said to him "don't even stop, just keep walking", as if not to stop and talk to people so they could get him "right" before the evening show.

Gunter and Ronnie.
Gunter, Ronnie and Chris.

Back To The Expo

That was that for Prejudging but once the crowd let out the Bodybuilding.com booth had a few visitors. I saw several local bodybuilders like Larry - the 2002 Novice Heavy Weight Mr. Louisiana, Rommel Cordova - NGA Professional, Jeff - Mr. New Orleans, and Chrissie - Miss Fitness America to name a few. After the Prejudging I continued to walk around the huge Expo. To my surprise I, yes me, was noticed by several people as "Dino from the Bodybuilding.com website". I was so honored to talk to all of these people. Some had seen me compete before and others had just read my stuff on the Internet. Either way I enjoyed every bit of my fame because it showed me that you, the people, like what I am doing for you. That means a lot to me! Scott, the Tallahassee Bodybuilding.com warehouse manager even said that I was getting more attention than the girls in the booth. I cracked a joke saying that next year I would have my own booth.

Before the evening show I was able to catch some of the WPO Met-Rx Bench Press and Deadlift Competition as well as Twinlab's Strongman Hercules Hold competition. These events were action packed and exciting events. I saw guys deadlift over 800 pounds and someone attempt a 600 pound bench press. Unbelievable! After these events were complete the finals were to begin shortly thereafter.

History Is Made At The Finals

Despite the upsetting turn out from the audience the few New Orleaneans and Louisiana natives that did attend gave the competitors the feedback that they deserved. The show kicked off with a terrific show of strength from two athletes performing aerials utilizing two ropes that were attached to some type of pulley system. You had to be there but the opening act was great. Soon after the opening the show began. The crowd respected all athletes during their routines but they all wanted to see Ronnie and Gunter again to make those last minute comparisons. Before we get into that, because I have a story to tell involving Levrone, I must mention Johnnie Jackson. Johnnie made his pro debut and he looked great. He was full, hard, and symmetrical. He reminded me of a shorter version of the old Flex Wheeler. Hats off to Johnnie Jackson for doing a great job.

Johnnie Jackson
Dennis James, Dexter Jackson, Lee Priest

Well, here is the inside scoop. This is so good I could probably sell this story to all the major magazines, check this out. So, I am sitting in the press pit, which is located directly behind the judges, to my left is Robert Kennedy of MuscleMag and to my right is Mitsuru Okab, who produces many of the popular bodybuilding videos. Two of the greatest bodybuilding photographers are on each side of me and here I am a rookie playing with the big boys. Well, right behind me in the front row was Gunter's friend that I talked about earlier in the article and Kevin Levrone. When Gunter came out his friend begin to yell things at him in German, which is his native tongue. It was obvious that Levrone wanted Gunter to bring down the champ because he would repeat whatever Gunter's friend would say as if he too spoke German, which he does not. Then Gunter jumped off of the stage and when into the crowd.

Levrone approached the press/judges pit and looked right at one of the judges and said "Ronnie won it, huh?" The judge would not respond to his question. Levrone in a playing manner said, "You gotta tell me, he won it, huh?" but still no reply came from the judge. After Gunter was through posing another judge looked to the judge that Levrone was talking to and said "what are we doing"? He asked this question as if he were saying, are we going to give it to Ronnie when the crowd wants Gunter to have it, what are we to do?

Then came the posedown it was as if a co-alliance to shoot the champion down was in affect. As soon as the judges let the athletes go for the posedown all of the bodybuilders left the stage except Gunter and Coleman. I found it a little too odd for all of the bodybuilders to walk off stage rather than chase the champion. They entered the crowd instead, but still I feel that they were letting the judges and fans see what they wanted, Ronnie and Gunter alone duke'n it out.

Gunter and Ronnie
Ronnie Coleman

Well it came down to the wire and when the announcer said that "history was made tonight... in 2nd place Ronnie Coleman", Ronnie's jaw dropped. He just stood there shocked for a second with his arms mannering like huh, no way. His eyes were bouncing from side to side like a ping-pong match was going on in his very skull. After that he gestured like I can't change this and he posed for the cameras, but before leaving the stage he removed his 2nd place medal in disgust and confusion.

When Gunter learned that he defeated Mr. Olympia he dropped to one knee with tears of joy and tapped the stage floor with his right fist like he was expressing that he had finally done it. I do not know who was happier, Gunter or Levrone. Levrone has placed second to Ronnie on several occasions and just wanted someone to beat him. When Gunter did it he jumped on stage and picked up the 305-pound monster. No that is not a mistake, he actually weighed 305 that night, not 300.

Dexter Jackson, Ronnie and Gunter
The champion: Gunter Schlierkamp

All hail Gunter now that Mr. Olympia has been defeated, but Craig Titus could not have said it better the next day in the Bodybuilding.com booth. Craig was talking to some fans and he said that the following night had hurt Ronnie. It hurt his heart because not only did he lose, the crowd loved it. I agree with Craig thatit has got to hurt. Speaking from experience, when I place second to someone that has political power or someone that I think I deserve to beat I cannot think about anything else for months. I re-live that painful night over and over till it gets me sick. Ronnie has to be feeling the same way or worse.

After The Show

Sunday was filled with talk of the results and people's feelings about the recent upset all around the Expo hall. I hung out in the Bodybuilding.com booth for most of the day talking to people that knew me from competing or through the website. I did attend the Train with the Pros Training Seminar. I caught all of the athletes giving demonstrations but Shawn Ray's bicep workout, damn I wonder how much money they had to pay him to do that. Anyway the seminar was great and featured Gunter who once again ran out of breath so bad he could barely speak into the microphone. I thought that he did not do cardio or something but he said that he was doing 2 sessions at 45 minutes every day getting ready for the show.

Overall the show was awesome. The only let down was the attendance. My prediction is that the GNC Show of Strength will be a huge event next year. Once the pictures hit the magazines and the world finds out about the show it will grow. This event attracted bodybuilders, wrestlers, arm wrestlers, fitness competitors, models, and powerlifters. With events available to satisfy everyone there is no doubt that this will be a success next year. Who knows maybe we will witness what we are all dieing to see now that Gunter has done the impossible. That is right... Ronnie, Gunter, and Cutler running through the callouts in the pre-judging in 2003. I for sure will not miss it. Granted that Mr. DeLuca allows, you will be able to catch me in the Bodybuilding.com booth once more in 2003.

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Dino Paul Pierce, CFT (III)
B.S. Dietetics
Natural Bodybuilder