My 2003 Show Of Strength Experience!

In two short years since the induction of the GNC Show of Strength competition to the IFBB calendar it has firmly stamped its place as one of the top three contests of the year, just behind the Mr. Olympia and Arnold Classic.
In two short years since the induction of the GNC Show of Strength competition to the IFBB calendar it has firmly stamped its place as one of the top three contests of the year, just behind the Mr. Olympia and Arnold Classic.

The fusion of various strength, power and physique events makes this show a definite must see. Over the course of the long weekend muscle fans are treated to the best in bodybuilding, fitness and figure, not to mention the awesome displays from the strongman, powerlifting and arm-wrestling competitions.

Living just 20 minutes away from the Cobb Galleria were the show was held I couldn't believe my good fortune when they announced they were moving the SOS show to Atlanta. Plus, the promoter's made attending this show very affordable as just $10 got you into the Expo, plus to see all the events including the men's pre-judging.

With no Ronnie Coleman competing after taking 2nd last year, the competition was all open for Jay Cutler to add another first place to his tally of five wins already in 2003. However, as Gunter showed last year the SOS could become known as the ‘Show of Surprises!' Here is my take on how the competition unfolded.

Showtime: Men's Bodybuilding

Fifteen IFBB Pros took the stage to battle it out for the $100,000 top prize. Immediately, you could see who the top contender were going to be, with Jay Cutler and Dexter Jackson going to be battling it out for first place. However, from the call-outs you couldn't predict easily who the judges liked due to the mixed call-outs. I found it strange that they would call out competitors who weren't going to place in the top six against those who were definitely top two. However, the judges worked the athletes hard doing multiple comparisons.

Top Six.

Kevin Levrone presented a greatly improved version compared to what he displayed two weeks earlier in Vegas. He was tight all over, with an amazing upper body, his legs although sharp still lacking the Levrone freaky size of the early nineties. In the evening he posed to a country song which didn't go over too well as he usually makes such an impression with his posing music and great posing ability. However, you could tell that he was in the running for a good placing especially as others had deteriorated since the Olympia.

Sadly, both Gunter and Dennis James looked a little off compared to their Olympia package. Dennis stomach wasn't as tight, and although he was still incredibly thick he didn't have the tightness to show his great physique off to the best advantage. The same goes for Gunter, who looks like he has lost some size from the 2002 version which catapulted him to the top place in the SOS. His legs especially look down on previous form and with his natural blocky shape when he's not at his best it becomes highlighted by those like Dexter with superior shape.

I was looking forward to seeing Chris Cormier back on stage, but I was disappointed as it looked like he hadn't fully recovered from the illness which prevented him from doing the Olympia. Chris looked quite soft and off his best. A really shame when you consider his amazing natural shape and symmetry while still being to pack on some serious mass. I hope that Chris can pull it back together and return to form in 2004.

During the call-outs Darrem Charles wasn't getting called out as much as I thought he deserved. Even though he was in excellent shape I thought that Darrem was going to be overlooked. I was happy to see Darrem be awarded 6th place, as I was expecting the judges to place Chris Cormier above him.

Atlanta's own Toney Freeman had a good crowd following and looked excellent. He is a real prospect for the future. He has nice lines for a big guy and if he can just add some more mass to his back I believe he could start being competitive in years to come.

The top two competitors being at opposite ends of physique preference makes deciding between them difficult. I personally thought Jay had won it. His size is just unbelievable and he manages to still be tight even though he weighed in at 270! In retrospect I believe there are a couple of areas which cost Jay. Firstly, he jokingly rubbed Dexter's abs, as to draw comparison between them. I can understand when competitors do this to those with bloated stomachs. But to highlight to the judges how tight a competitor is? Sure, Jay's abs were deeply cut too, but Dexter's were even more impressive.

Secondly, in my view from the front Dexter and Jay were about even in terms of condition, but from the rear Dexter had a clear advantage with his crisp lines and deep separation working down to his tiny waist. Plus, Dexter's hams and glutes were really tight. In comparison Jay's back lacked that those vital details which ultimately cost him. However, would this be enough to persuade the judges? Obviously it was as Dexter claimed a huge victory and a massive $100,000 check to match.

Dexter looked shocked when he won, almost in disbelief. Even though the crowd was also quite stunned there was no booing which was good as the result could have gone either way. I think most people were expecting Jay to win due to his track record. However, Jay was an amazing good sport raising Dexter's hand in victory and being the first to congratulate him. Dexter asked his wife to join him onstage to share the moment with him, while he thanked his supporters. A great day for him, which top's off an amazing year with his top 3 Olympia finish.

What will next year hold for Dexter? If Ronnie and Jay don't compete in the spring shows he must be the hot favorite to take the top honors. Furthermore, what will Jay's plans for next season hold? After competing in eight shows this year, will he try and duplicate that again? Or go for gold at the Olympia instead? He has always stated that he views bodybuilding as a business and this year he must have made collectively more money than anyone else with his six victories and being in hot demand for guest posing. With Ronnie Coleman stating he wants to continue his dominance of the Olympia, 2004 should be an exciting year.

Final Results For The 2003 GNC Show Of Strength:

  1. Dexter Jackson
  2. Jay Cutler
  3. Kevin Levrone
  4. Dennis James
  5. Gunter Schlierkamp
  6. Darrem Charles
  7. Chris Cormier
  8. Melvin Anthony
  9. Toney Freeman
  10. Johnnie Jackson
  11. George Farah
  12. Rodney St. Cloud
  13. Aaron Maddron
  14. Stan McCrary
  15. Claude Groulx

Elsewhere At The GNC SOS...

I always look forward to the Expo's at these events, being able to get close to the stars in the magazines is always fun. The GNC Expo didn't disappoint. Packed with trade stands everywhere with free supplements to sample. I was fortunate to meet and speak to many IFBB pro's all who were more than happy to chat to the fans and have photo's taken. I was talking to Johnnie Jackson who always seems very happy and he was said about how excited he was to meet Arnold at the Olympia. It was nice to see a pro share the enthusiasm of seeing such an icon. Plus, that he loved the whole experience of competing in Vegas. He seems to really love what he's doing and hopefully this will transcend into big things for Johnnie in future years.

With Idrise Ward-El & Bob Cicherillo & Art Atwood.

I met the huge Idrise Ward-El at the booth. Wearing a sleeveless shirt used could see his massive arms and he looked really impressive. He said he is going to be doing the Ironman in 2004, I defiantly think he's got a good chance to do some damage there. It was good to see Vince Taylor at the Pinnacle stand, always a gentleman and great character he is always happy to spend time with the fans. Still looking healthy and huge but sadly with no plans to return to the stage. Vince said that after losing the Masters Olympia last year he doesn't see the point in continuing when he can't win that show.

Bob Cicherillo was on hand at the GNC booth. He is all better after his illness earlier this year and was looking massive. He said he'd be back on stage next spring. I also saw Gary Strydom walking around the Expo and later on stage presenting Jay Cutler with his 2nd place, he is still looking huge considering he hasn't competed in years.

MHP Strongman Championship

Being a big fan of watching the strongman events on TV I was really looking forward to seeing first hand these athletes in action. Needless to say, I was blown away. Not just by their huge size, but also by what they are capable of doing. The event was set up to be USA versus Rest of the World. The 2002 & 2003 World Strongest Man, Mariusz Pudzianowski, was leading the European charge. Mariusz is an awesome athlete who combines unbelievable strength with speed and anaerobic endurance. Also competing in the ten man field was the great Svend Karlsen along with Hugo Girard, Mark Phillippi and current USA Strongest Man Steve Kirit to name a few.

I managed to watch quite a lot of their events. The Conan's wheel, where they have to lift a bar which carries the weight of a motorcycle and walk around the pivot for as long as possible. This was an extremely impressive display of strength, balance and endurance. Also, they performed a more conventional lift in the clean and press. However, instead of weight plates they had truck tires and to make it harder the bar was very thick and didn't rotate, making the clean part very tough with many finding it extremely hard on their forearms. Oh yeah, the weight was 310 pounds!

The task was to complete as many reps in 75 seconds. I was amazed at how easily they pushed the weight overhead after they managed to get it to shoulder height. Most of the athletes managed between 3 …amp;quot; 7 reps, while Mariusz blasted out 9 reps, making it look easy! Phil Pfister from the USA made an impressive 7 reps, especially considering his 6'6" height. Up close he is a mountain of a man, and was more than happy to sign autographs for the crowd. Overall Phil finished 3rd the highest placed American, with Svend Karlsen second. First place went to Mariuz who won 5 of the 10 events showing his dominance in this field of giants. Supplement company MHP did a great job of presenting this event, with 2 commentators on hand to inform the crowd about the athletes and the events, plus to help get the crowds enthusiasm going making the events exciting to watch.

Powerlifting & Arm Wrestling

This was the first time I have ever seen a powerlifting or arm wrestling contest and thought they were both amazing to watch. The intensity these competitors take to these sports is fantastic. Not to mention how shocking it was to see one powerlifter who weighed 160 pounds bench press over 500 pounds breaking the world record! Furthermore, the camaraderie and sportsmanship between the athletes in both sports was great really cheering each other on and encouraging others to reach new levels.

Various competitors.

I think combining all of these minority sports together was a fantastic idea as it can lead to more fans for each sport especially as they are all share a similar interest. I would now go and see a powerlifting show by itself and read more information about the sport and training techniques. Plus, it makes for a great way for the promoters to keep the fans happy and occupied all day with different events. Rather than having 4 or 5 hours to kill in between pre-judging and the finals.

In closing, I really enjoyed the whole weekend's experience and would recommend anyone to attend next year. I believe the future is bright for the GNC SOS event, with $400,000 in total prize money being offered, the promoters mean business and let's hope this great show continues to grow, as this is an excellent way to complete the end of the IFBB calendar.

Also check out my 2003 Olympia Report!

All the best,