When the aesthetically gifted bodybuilder Brandon Curry swept the field at the 2008 USA Championships, some observers saw him as future Mr. Olympia.
Obviously, it hasn't happened. Not yet, anyway. But the Olympia buzz is back and stronger than ever. After an up-and-down pro career, the 36-year-old Curry gave signs of a revival with three wins in 2017, followed by an all-time best fifth place finish at the 2018 Olympia.
Then, of course, came the biggie—the victory over defending champion William Bonac at this season's Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio. Along with a check for $130,000 came whispers that Curry has what it takes to take home the Sandow come September.
A Fateful Meeting
The turnaround began with a chance meeting after prejudging at the 2016 Olympia. That's when Curry connected with Abdullah Al Otaibi, a trainer from Oxygen Gym in Kuwait. Al Otaibi was working at the time with another veteran IFBB pro, Victor Martinez.
Al Otaibi told Curry he would like to train him, that he felt Curry could be top six at the Olympia. Curry, who was already signed up to compete in the Kuwait Pro in two weeks, thought about what it would entail; namely, moving from his hometown of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Kuwait for 11 months.
Ultimately, the 5-foot-9-inch, 245-pounder packed his bags, kissed wife, Brandy (a pro figure competitor), and their four children goodbye and moved 7,000 miles to train under Al Otaibi's watchful eye.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Anatomy of an Upset
In an Arnold Classic preview piece I wrote for Bodybuilding.com, I tabbed Roelly Winklaar as the favorite—if he showed up in prime-time shape. And, if he didn't, I continued, the title would go to either Bonac, or Curry.
Winklaar, plagued by inconsistency throughout his career, was off—way off—and lucky to place fifth. As envisioned, a Bonac-Curry duel was next on the list, and it was a dandy.
Bonac, who's about 5-feet-5-inches and 230-235 pounds, carries about as much muscle on his frame as anybody in the game. That was highlighted when he was presented with the most-muscular award.
In the end, Curry's lines—set off by a tiny waist, great guns, and a back double biceps pose that should cause former Mr. Olympia Phil Heath concern—proved to be the difference in a 12-point victory. And his legs, a weak link in the past, were improved.
Eyes on the Prize
With Shawn Rhoden upsetting Heath at last year's Olympia in a shape-over-mass victory, does this mean that Curry now becomes a bona fide challenger to make Rhoden a one-and-done champion?
Curry, for one, thinks it can happen. "Yes, I can win the Olympia," he said by phone two nights after his impressive victory. "I still have things to work on…continue concentrating on improving my lower-body fullness and get in even better condition. I was actually lighter at the Arnold than I was at the Olympia—I was just under 250 there—but I looked bigger. As long as I keep my conditioning on point, everything should fall into place."
So, what's the key in that happening? "Abdullah has an old-school approach," said Curry. "He didn't over diet me…didn't have me overdo it on cardio, which he did with me most of the time. And he had me eating more. He actually pulled me back in all areas, which resulted in my best look ever onstage.
"The second time I went to train with him I was there for five months. This year I will go to Kuwait in June and spend about 12 weeks in preparation."
Then on to an Olympia victory?
The soft spoken, yet assured Curry paused for a moment, then replied, "That's the plan."