My first Olympia was in 2001 when Jay Cutler was very close to dethroning Ronnie Coleman. I remember the energy of the weekend, seeing the giants in person at the amazing Expo that is held there plus battle it out on stage. With all the hype surrounding the 2003 Olympia with Ronnie V Jay V Gunter, I couldn't resist and had to make the journey back to 'Sin City' to see this muscle bash once again.
Unfortunately, I was almost derailed on my journey before it had even started when just 2 weeks before the Olympia I had a bike accident and broke my right clavicle! I needed to have surgery and the bones needed to be put back together with a plate and pins. My doctor wanted to delay the operation to make sure that the initial swelling went down before they fixed it. But I made it clear to them that I wasn't going to miss this trip to the Olympia so I had surgery a week before the show allowing to feel more normal again.
The Olympia Expo
A real highlight for going to the Olympia is the Expo. A huge convention center filled with the major supplement companies, clothing wear and gym equipment manufactures. Not to mention tons of IFBB Pro's everywhere, signing autographs and having pictures taken. If you think they look big in the magazines wait until you see them in person, especially those not competing and are in off-season shape. I met a bulked up King Kamali, who was gigantic plus a really nice guy as well.
Due to my right arm being out of commission, I was lucky to have my wife and her parent come with me to the Expo to help carry the huge amounts of free supplements, T-shirts and magazines that are being generously given away. I've got a ton of different MRP's I can't to try to see what one's I like best.
I paid a visit to Bodybuilding.com's booth where I met Ryan DeLuca's dad who was great guy and kindly gave me a Bodybuilding.com t-shirt made specially for the Olympia and a free shaker bottle. Plus, I was luck enough to have my photo taken with some of the lovely ladies who were working at the booth. See photo link below:
As a fan of bodybuilding's 'golden era' of the 60's and 70's it was a thrill to see the legends of our sport in attendance and still looking healthy and happy. I saw Sergio Oliva, Mike Katz, Larry Scott, Ed Corney, Lou Ferrigno and Frank Zane.
Universal had one of the most original booth's. Following suit with their Animal Series ad campaign of hardcore lifting in the 'spit and sawdust' gyms of old they created this huge cage which was used as their base for doing bench pressing and bicep curling competitions. They had rock music blaring out inside the cage giving the added feeling of intensity and hard work. They were also conducting free seminars on all different aspects of bodybuilding. Great fun and it attracted huge crowds.
Muscle Beach Seminar's
Outside of the hotel next to the man made beach there was a 'Muscle Beach' set up with weights for people to get a workout in. Here there was many free seminar's held for the public. I went along to the Tom Prince and Shawn Ray seminar's which were both great. They happily talked for an hour each and answered all the questions thrown at them.
An interesting topic was raised with Tom Prince about training like a warrior or training for longevity. Tom talked about the different injuries that he has suffered over the years. He has had shoulder and knee surgery making training difficult at times. Tom said that his training style was to go full out all the time and that he wouldn't be motivated to train any other way. He said that he had talked to Dorian Yates about this subject in relation to Dorian's injuries as a result of his 'Blood & Guts' training style.
Dorian had said that he believed that he couldn't of trained differently and still won 6 Sandow trophies. Food for thought on this subject. On a positive note Tom said that when he was injured that it was always important to find something you can do without hurting the injured area. Such as, when he had knee surgery he could only do leg extensions and ride the bike. However, this really helped to keep his legs from atrophying. Also, that now he can only do machine exercises for chest due to shoulder surgery, but at least he could still go heavy on these movements and keep on improving. I was impressed by Tom Prince's down to earth nature and he said that he never stops learning and is always open to new information on all areas of bodybuilding, especially when it helps him reach his goals. Great advice many could benefit from.
Shawn was very vocal and passionate about his new role as spoke person for the IFBB male athletes. He said that he really wanted to assist his fellow pro's as far as amount of cash prizes and contracts are concerned. Shawn has already started trying to help the competitors by raising money for the best poser in the Olympia to give the guys something else to shoot for (I believe that Melvin Anthony won this award). He said he didn't rule out competing again and that at the age of 38 he still feels he could compete with the top players in the sport. It would be great to see him on stage again as he is always a class act.
Throughout the weekend other greats such as Mike Matarrazo, King Kamali, Jean-Pierre Fux and Milos Sarcev also gave free seminar's but I could make all of them due to being at other events.
Mr. Olympia Pre-Judging
Finally, it was time for the pre-judging, a chance to see how these champions looked and watch them fight it out for the top honors. Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman were standing next to each other in the line-up, being numbers 3 and 4 respectively, which really added to the crowds excitement. Jay looked great, huge, cut and well polished. However, unlucky for Jay that RONNIE WAS BACK!
Silencing his detractors from previous years and if anything converting booing crowds into screaming fans. Ronnie looked mind-blowing, he had taken a huge leap forward from last year's performance. He was unbelievably massive, ripped to shreds and he stomach was tight as well. Straight away you felt that Ronnie was on the road to his 6th consecutive win. Gunter was on the other end of the line-up and I was expecting him to be included in the first call-out because he looked fantastic, big, ripped and ready. I saw his face drop a little when the first call-out was Coleman, Cutler, Dexter Jackson and Dennis James.
When this was repeated as the first call-out for round 2 you could see that the judges had already selected their top 4 and by all accounts Gunter would be heading for 5th place with Levrone in 6th. I felt Gunter could have been as high as 3rd or 4th but again it goes back to preference. As much as Gunter kills Dexter in size, his shape is overwhlmed by Dexter Jackson's superior lines and symmetry.
Knowing that Dexter and Dennis would be battling it out for 3rd it was a tough call deciding who the judges would prefer. Both looked at their best, especially Dennis, who was tighter than previous Olympia's and still full. Dexter looked to have packed on more size, with no negative effect on his razor sharp condition or great shape. He has a classic physique which fans of both size and symmetry can appreciate.
I was really impressed with Troy Alves whose body really flows well and it really was a toss up for position between him, Darrem Charles, Melvin Anthony, Johnny Jackson, and Rodney St. Cloud. Also, in the battle for a top ten position was fellow Brit Ernie Taylor. Ernie was the first one on stage and I was quite shocked at how good he looked. His quads, which previously have been criticized for being too small compared to his upper body, now were huge with great sweep and definition. Among this group there was very little was between them. Overall I felt the final positions could have gone a number of different of ways between this group.
From the call-out you could see that Art Atwood wasn't going to make the top 10 which I felt he was although a little off his best he was still being over looked. He still had great size with a tight midsection. Hopefully when his leg injury fully heals up he can come back next year and do some damage. Lee Priest was uncharacteristically way off. His upper body wasn't too bad with his arms still being amazing. But his usual freaky leg size and conditioning were not to be seen. I had read in Flex that he wasn't going to be competing, so maybe he left himself with too little time to get himself in shape. A shame as he is real popular competitor with many fans wishing for him to do better.
Mr. Olympia Finals
As custom with the Olympia the 'Father of Modern Bodybuilding' Joe Weider with his brother Ben welcomed everyone to the event and told the story about how they started the Olympia and how far its come since 1965, when Larry Scott only received $1000 winner's money. Plus, that they had donated 1000 free seats to the Olympia to the US Military in appreciation for their service.
In 2001 when Jay Cutler was leading going into Round 3 many criticized his routine as to why he didn't win. Having read that he made note of this I was expecting a better routine from Jay. I was a little disappointed, as he turned in a lackluster routine and although he was amazing to see perform you and left thinking that this is one area he needs to improve if he is going to prevent Ronnie from repeating victories again in 2004. Jay did manage to pull off a little muscle shuffle to hit song 'Right Thurr' but he needs to inject some energy into this round to liven things up. Nether the less, the crowd was going crazy at seeing this awesome athlete in action.
Ronnie's routine was very confident and looked like he was enjoying himself. His posing was vibrant as he hit one colossal muscle shot after another. From every angle he looked unbelievable. His rear lat spread and rear double bicep poses must now be without question the best the sport has ever seen, even eclipsing the great Dorian Yates. With lat spread ready for take off his huge and ripped hamstrings are equally breathtaking. Amazingly, Ronnie can almost still do the complete splits which the crowd greeted with thunderous applause.
Two of the best routine were performed by Kevin Levrone and Melvin Anthony. Both noted for their amazing posing and neither let the crowd down. Kevin posed very gracefully to Staind's 'So Far Away' moving effortlessly from one signature pose to another. Anyone who is thinking about competing could benefit from viewing Kevin's posing as a lesson in how to show your physique to its absolute best and how to make the routine flow, not only hitting the poses correctly but also the transition from pose to pose.
Melvin, as always was very charismatic. Starting with voice over done very theatrically and expressive. He also paid homage to many bodybuilding legends by hitting some classic poses made famous by Shawn Ray and Arnold. He then completed the routine by his own signature moves, body popping while moving his upper body backwards and parallel to the stage, showing amazing balance. This was a fun routine which the crowd loved.
Gunter being a strong crowd favorite got load cheers when he did his routine. He even tried to mix it up with his on style of robotic dancing. Which for a guy near 300 pounds he pulled off quite well and got the crowd going. By this point, Gunter must on realized that his dream for a top 3 place was gone but he still beamed his smile for the crowd and looked to give it 100% as he hit one huge pose after another as a way of thanking the loving audience.
After all the 16 athletes had completed their routine the crowd was about to have a guest poser which for me was one of the highlights of the show.
Simon Robinson: A Moment of Inspiration
If the name Simon Robinson didn't ring any bells with the Olympia crowd that wasn't a surprise. He is a British bodybuilder who six years ago had just turned an IFBB Pro when he was involved in a horrific car accident. Kerry Kayes, of Dorian Yates Approved, told Simon's story. Kerry explained how Simon back in 1997 was in a coma for 12 days following the accident with collapsed lungs, and that due to the injuries suffered to his right leg it had to be amputated below the knee. Even worse, then the surgeons had to go back and amputate again this time above the knee. Furthermore, his left leg had been broken in ten places and when it failed to heal properly the surgeons had to re-brake his leg to straighten it. Then for the following year he was in a leg brace which had screws which needed to be tightened to keep his leg straight.
Kerry Kayes, who along with Dorian Yates, runs the IFBB English Grand Prix explained how four years ago Simon attended the event in a wheelchair, then three years ago he attended the event on crutches. Furthermore, two years ago he walked to the show unassisted with the aid of a prosthetic leg. Then unbelievably last year he was the guest poser at the contest. Wayne DeMillia watched this and was so impressed by Simon's courage plus how great he looked as he guest posed that he invited Simon to pose on the greatest stage of all.
When Simon came out he got a massive standing ovation and there wasn't a dry eye in the house. If anyone ever needed a lightening bolt of motivation and inspiration then this was it. Not just the fact that Simon was on stage but because he looked GREAT! He has an amazing upper body on him, wonderful full muscles with great cuts and condition to match. His surviving leg looked amazingly athletic, unbelievable when you consider what that limb has been through. As he moved from pose to pose you felt that the crowd was in awe of the display of determination and courage of Simon. For the entire time he was on stage the crowd remained standing, cheering him on. This great moment was completed with Joe Weider awarding Simon with a Olympia medal.
The King Is Here!
Earlier in the evening Joe Weider had said that Arnold would be coming to the show. The crowd buzzed with excitement and when all the 16 competitors came on stage to receive their Olympia medals the audience erupted when Arnold came out to present them. With never-ending wild applause not even if Elvis could of matched if he walked in! Being a huge Arnie fan I was almost in disbelief in seeing Arnold with my own eyes.
Arnold took the microphone and said, "Finally, I feel like I am at home!" He went on to thank Joe & Ben for their help at the start of his career and how they were still the first ones to help him with campaign contributions and exposure when he stated he was going to run for Governor of California. It was great to see how much bodybuilding still means to Arnold as he said it is the best base to start from and how without bodybuilding he wouldn't be where he is today.
Watch The Video Of Arnold Thanking Joe Weider
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If that wasn't enough we were treated to an Arnold and Franco double-act. Franco Columbo had been presented with an award and when he was saying comically how happy he was to receive an award while Arnold didn't get anything, Arnold reemerged from back stage to start doing sign language to the crowd to help everyone understand over Franco's thick Sicilian accent. The audience fell apart and was amazing two old friends still having fun and banter together.
Then there was six! After previous Olympia's when the athletes came down into the audience this year the stage was too high for that to be possible. I thought was a great move as it was one of the best posedown's I've seen. All the athletes looked like they were having fun and enjoying themselves. A great shot was when Jay sat in front of Ronnie and started posing and Gunter was behind Ronnie and the crowd was treated to a triple layer front double bicep shot! This is going to make an amazing photo in the magazines. When hitting most-muscular shots Jay and Ronnie would link up arms and show the crowd some serious beef. Overall, it was an amazing display of camaraderie and muscle.
Watch The Video Of The Final 6 Posedown
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The top six held no surprises, nor were the placings met with much disapproval. Sure, everyone has their favorites, but even the boos following Gunter's 5th placing didn't last long. Everyone could see that at 287 pounds this was Ronnie's night and that he was back on top of his game and furthermore bodybuilding had just seen the bar of excellence raised even further. Just like Dorian Yates did in 1993 when he set a new standard, Ronnie has now taken it even further leaving all his competitors wonder what they have to do to now catch Ronnie Coleman, let alone beat him.
TOP 6 PLACING:
6TH â€¦quot; Kevin Levrone
5th â€¦quot; Gunter Schlierkamp
4th â€¦quot; Dennis James
3rd â€¦quot; Dexter Jackson
2nd â€¦quot; Jay Cutler
1st â€¦quot; Six Time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman
Check out the full scorecards, click here!
Olympia Winner's Seminar
The morning after the Olympia I attended the seminar which was going to be held by the winner of the 4 different competitions at the Olympia.
First to talk was multi Ms. Fitness Olympia Susie Curry. Susie announced that this was her last Fitness event. She explained that a lifetime of gymnastics has taken a toll on her joints and that she is now going to enter the Ms. Figure event instead. Now, I'll admit that I don't pay much attention to the fitness or figure classes but was very impressed by the level of dedication needed to compete in these events. Susie talked about how much training she does, weight training 5 days a week, cardio 6 times a week plus all here gymnastic training for her routine. That is a huge time and lifestyle commitment, with dedication anyone can admire and appreciate.
Second up was the new Ms. Figure Olympia Davana Medina who was giving her first seminar as she has only been competing for a couple of years. She explained how she was a dental assistant for 12 years before ever competing in her first figure competition. Davana now works full-time for Met-Rx and travels all over with the sport. Talk about a sport changing your life! Davana's dedication like Susie's was impressive. She does up to 2 â€¦quot; 3 hours of cardio a days and trains instinctively with weights, for example she said for this years Olympia she trained her back 3 times a week to bring it up. Now, most would tell you not to do that but Davana listen's to her body and said that her back really improved as a result.
Wayne DeMillia had to fill in for 45 minutes as we waited for more champions to turn up and he was very interesting.
Wayne explained how the IFBB has been trying to get the sport on TV with no luck over the years. He said that once they offered the major television net works $1.5 million dollars to have an hour of air time on a Saturday night to show the Olympia and that none of the major networks would touch them. Hence, why they have now gone the Pay-Per-View route. But that comes with problems too.
As the IFBB only sees 40% of the money the customer pays after the cable companies take their cut. Then when you're finished paying everyone else off whose involved in the production of airing the event then you're not left with much. Furthermore, last year Physical TV actually lost money and couldn't afford to pay everyone including Joe Weider and WWE's Triple H who co-hosted. Needless to say this year the IFBB had to step in to help make sure the Olympia made it to PPV so that fans from afar could enjoy it. He stated that through PPV they hope to expand it into different markets in Europe and prove to TV executives that bodybuilding fans are loyal and do want to watch the sport.
Wayne explained how that with the finals being shown live on pay-per view and with only two and half hours available time was getting very tight. Because if the event didn't finish within that time window the satellite link would be cut and obviously cause huge annoyance to fans at home, who would end up asking for a refund which would cause massive problems. Funnily enough, he said that the two people that ran over their agreed time limit was Joe and Ben Weider during their opening speeches!
Furthermore, with Arnold flying in from California they were going to have to work out a way to fit him into the script. Arnold was chaperoned in by California State Police, who had to work in sync with the Nevada Police and Mandalay Bay Security to ensure that the new Governor elect was properly guarded. Arnold, knowing the television business was very gracious said DeMillia and happy to work in wherever possible. They had only planned him to give out the medals, the magic later with Franco was just a bonus! Backstage Arnold was said to have been in his element, watching the guys pump up and talking bodybuilding with Joe Weider. Wayne said it could have been a scene from 30 years ago.
A question asked to Wayne DeMillia was about the judging of the athletes, with emphasis on how Ronnie Coleman could win the posing round when he isn't the best poser. Wayne's reply was very interesting. He explained that the competitors are always being judged on the same criteria: shape, size, symmetry, muscularity, presentation and condition. Furthermore, that there is not a symmetry, muscularity and posing round. These are general names given by the athletes and magazines which are misleading.
Wayne stated that there is only Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3 and that the judges are looking for the same criteria in every round. It is just that due to the semi-relaxed state of Round 1 and flex state of Round 2 that these are dubbed the symmetry and muscularity rounds. Now for Round 3, which has always been a source for debate why the best poser doesn't get the best score. Wayne explained that Round 3 is just a chance for the athletes to display their body to its best ability to the judges with the poses of their choice and can conceal their weaknesses and show their strengths, while using music and choreography to help facilitate this.
He said that he explains this to the pro's at every athlete meeting before competitions but they still think of the rounds as symmetry, muscularity and posing rounds. Furthermore, he emphasized that this is why you don't get a former dancer with lesser physique winning the round over a better competitor. Great to listen to and I would have loved if Shawn Ray were there to debate this view.
Lenda Murray took the podium. Having claimed here 8th Ms. Olympia Lenda said during the dieting for the show it never seems to get easier, only harder and always says never again as to if she will be back again to defend her title. However, she said that you don't know how you'll feel later on when full of carbs and the bad memories of dieting are gone. It sounded like Lenda had been really busy over the past four years opening a gym which she works full-time at, plus her own training on top making for a really busy life. At 45 years old Lenda looked great in person, a real inspiration to how bodybuilding and healthy eating can keep you young.
Finally, Ronnie was up to talk about discuss what it meant to him to win the night before. Everyone wanted to find out what Ronnie had done over the past year to make such dramatic improvements. He said that the key to this past off-season diet was not cheating like he normally would. Gone was the trips to McDonald's and Pizza Hut. Ronnie said that this year all he did was eat clean every day, making sure he was always getting the right bodybuilding foods in every day.
He ate only Chicken, Steak, Turkey and Egg Whites day in, day out and with the addition of two protein shakes he was getting 600 grams of protein in daily. For carb sources, Ronnie said he only had grits, potatoes and rice, with pancakes on Sunday. Funnily enough when asked about his post-workout nutrition Ronnie said he doesn't drink a carb and protein shake immediately after the workout. Instead he said he just goes home and eats a meal. Plus, he eats no vegetables "I never could get in to them!" he said. Rather, he said he supplements his diet with loads of vitamins and minerals.
This keep it clean and simple approach allowed Ronnie to go up to 320 in the off-season and be ready for the show at 295 pounds. However, he decided to get tighter and brought it down to 287 for the show, where after seeing the photo's that morning he had shocked himself. "I'm pretty big" he said in his Texan drool. Amazingly, Ronnie felt that before the show he felt small from what he saw in the mirror! He commented how he didn't realize how big his quads were until he saw the shows photo's. Funny what mind-tricks a diet can do you!
Check out the pictures, here.
When asked what his family means to him Ronnie's eyes welled up as he talked about how important they are to him and his success. He said that he couldn't do this without them. In a sport which many see as very individual and self-centered it was great to see Ronnie give praise to others who help him on his journey and he said they are all a team, working together for success.
Great news for fans of Ronnie's last video 'Unbelievable' there will be a new video soon. This will be showing his alternative workout with all different exercises but still awesome weights. He will be seen squatting 800 pounds, benching 500 and leg press with 2500! I for one can't wait.
Ronnie said that he won't be doing the Arnold or GNC shows anymore, he is going become an Olympia only athlete. He will definitely be back again next year to try and equal Arnold's record of seven Olympia's and is going to continue doing so as long as God wants him to follow this path. Which by going by the U-turn his physique took this year compared to 2002 it could be for a while yet!
In closing, this weekend was absolutely amazing and would recommend anyone fan to make the trip to Las Vegas for an unforgettable experience.
Be sure to also check out my 2003 Show Of Strength Weekend Review.
HUGE 2003 OLYMPIA COVERAGE!
All the best,