Going in to this year's Mr. Olympia, it was clear that Jay Cutler didn't subscribe to the philosophy that it was better to give than to receive when it comes to Sandows. Nevertheless, he proudly, happily passed the torch to his friend and protégé, Phil Heath, who became the 13th man to be anointed Mr. Olympia.
Jay didn't win, but he did make Olympia history by becoming the first man to place in the Top-2 for 10 consecutive years. That includes four 1st-place finishes and six 2nd-place finishes. Only Arnold, Lee, Dorian and Ronnie have more Olympia wins than Jay. And none of them have ten Top-2 finishes.
Earlier this week, Jay brought the statue onto the press conference dais. Phil "The Gift" Heath, sitting across the aisle from Jay, clearly had his eye on the prize. Jay brought his trophy into the room as a gesture of warm bravado to the other competitors but, in the end, he was tempting fate.
Jay has enough experience to know how the dramas between younger and older competitors eventually play out. Jay breathed down Ronnie Coleman's neck for years before he finally presented a physique the judges could not dispute as superior to the champ's in 2006.
Now, Phil provided the ending to the sequel. Heath beat Jay the same way Jay beat Ronnie - through patience and hard work. Despite his storied career, Jay is only mid-career in terms of age. At 38 and in second place, he's hardly washed up, but Phil may have pushed Jay into early retirement.
The word after last night's prejudging was that Phil dominated and Jay's torn biceps (recently suffered) was going to be his demise. But, that talk over-hypes reality. Jay looked much the same as he has for years. His physique was good enough to win the biggest competition in the world four times. He wasn't that far off from those previous wins, but Phil looked amazing. And he beat Jay. It happens. Even to the best.
Reality And Delusion
Bodybuilding has long been considered by many to be a "cult" sport, but this weekend's positivity sealed the deal. The good-vibe energy between the guys and many of their cheesy posing music selections, especially early in the evening, the event felt like a Scientology revival. Joel Osteen would have seemed like a downer compared to the cheery energy and good vibrations from the music. The theme seemed to be: Hey, no one told me I can't win.
Everyone can be a little delusional; we believe what we want to believe. Each guy at the press conference believed he could win the show. That's the cult confidence of bodybuilding. Each of us believes we can win the lottery when we buy a ticket. Old codgers believe they look younger when they grow long hair.
The 3rd through 6th-place finishers also qualify for next year's Olympia. They each deserved this honor and qualification. Here's what they had to say and our assessment.
Kai Greene "I have grown from earlier events and experiences." His hair has grown as well. His braid, unleashed as it was this evening, hangs to his navel.
Dexter Jackson "Allow me to reintroduce myself," was the theme of "The Blade's" posing music. The judges didn't seem to care. They already decided where this former Mr. Olympia belongs (fairly or unfairly) at the back of the top-tier, behind the younger guys.
Dennis Wolf Looked good. Aesthetic for a mass monster. He doesn't have future Mr. O carved in his forehead, but he could bounce around the top placings for a few years.
Victor Martinez Looked great, but impressed most with his original posing music that explained in rap that he has 30-inch thighs and a 30-inch waist. The music rhymed perfection with flexin'. And it worked. By far the best music of the evening.
And Now For A Short Break ...
The 19 men in the Olympia's 202-and-under category were limited to six posing routines to keep the show shorter … er, moving. The top performers included Jason Arntz, Kevin English, Jaroslav Horvath, Flex Lewis, Jose Raymond and Shawn-Joseph Tavernier. Flex Lewis appeared to be the clear winner over 2-time winner and defending champion Kevin English, but the judges went with the past over the future.
The 202 Showdown Placings
1. Flex Lewis by a mile. He was robbed. It seems there is always at least a 1-placing penalty for being European. Lewis hails from Wales. And he used Churchill's "Never give in. Never retreat," quote in his music. Now, that's not cheesy.
2. Jaroslav Horvath for aesthetics. Clearly the judges disagreed. Let's double Czech that. Okay, he's Slovakian. Bob Cicherillo announced that this was Horvath's final competition.
3. Kevin English for mass. It's always hard for the judges to bump the reigning champ all the way down to third. But that's how we saw it. In fact, it's hard to bump the reigning champ to second. They kept him first.
4. Shaun-Joseph Tavernier. Watch out for him next year.
5. Jose Raymond. Looking the best he's ever looked. The judges liked him even more than bb.com.
6. Jason Arntz. He's got a little bit of everything: mass, conditioning and aesthetics, but not enough of any single factor to beat the guys ahead of him. Still, he belonged in the Top-6. The judges got this one right.
Back To The Show Of Shows
Here's how the confirmation round played out.
Mid-show comment: This is the bottom of the Top-15. No surprises here. This feels right.
Post callout follow-up: A lot of guys didn't make the Top-15. Congratulations to these athletes for their achievement. It would have been great to see Troy Alves join them in the Top-15.
Mid-show comment: One of these guys isn't going to make the Top-10. And that leaves six guys for the top placings who have yet to be called. These placings are right, too. Especially based on last night's callouts. Ronny Rockel (6th in 2010) and Toney Freeman (5th in 2008) previously finished in the Top-6, so they're probably disappointed. But it's hard to come up with someone from the Top-6 to bump for this impressive second-tier crew.
Post callout follow-up: Shawn Rhoden is the guy who got left out. Still, an impressive rookie debut. Kudos to Shawn.
Mid-show comment: This is for 3rd through 6th. The judges know there's no suspense upon who's going to get first and second, so they're heating up the competition between the placings up for grabs.
- Dexter Jackson - He's already had his gift - Jay Cutler out of condition in 2008. Jackson really looks pretty good, but there's a sense that Dexter has already been given more than he is owed.
- Dennis Wolf - Back in top shape. A relatively aesthetic mass monster who's clearly Top-6, but not Top-3.
- Kai Greene - Should be third.
- Victor Martinez - Looks better in this round than he did earlier. May be due to getting his posing oil right. He looked a little flat under the lights.
Post callout follow-up: Victor looked better than he did earlier. Seems like a toss up for 4th through 6th.
Mid-show comment: This show has been between Jay and Phil since the start of the weekend.
- Jay - His physique is what it is, and he's won four times.
- Phil - Phil wins almost every pose against Jay. Will the judges acknowledge that?
Post callout follow-up: Lots of hugging and camaraderie. Jay seems to know that Phil is going to win. He's pointing to Phil's thighs, but it's hard to say if he's trying to point out a flaw or a strength. These guys like each other.
The Top 10 Mr. Olympia Placings
Here's how we would have called.
1. Phil Heath - We told you last night that he had the best physique even though the odds were in Jay's favor.
2. Jay Cutler - We can't bump this storied champ any lower than the judges did.
3. Kai Greene - In third, all by himself.
4. Dexter Jackson - Can't get no respect.
5. Dennis Wolf - They got his placing right. They just got the guy he finished ahead of and behind wrong.
6. Victor Martinez - Tightly bunched with Dexter and Dennis. We're quibbling a bit on 4th through 6th.
"I don't think about losing," Cutler said at the Mr. Olympia press conference two days before the final. At the end of the finals, Jay was emotional and happy when Phil Heath was announced as the new Mr. Olympia. It was clear that Jay knew Phil was going to beat him. But Jay wasn't thinking about losing. Instead, he took joy in his friend's win. That's what champions do. They turn every competition into a victory.