The lineup was loaded with high-caliber athletes. After one round of judging and seeing each competitor individually, it was evident that Phil Heath was in the best shape of all the competitors. Phil Heath showed off an incredible new package with about 15 added pounds of muscle combined with extreme conditioning. Silvio Samuel was also in his perpetual state of shreddedness. Toney Freeman was off and it would be interesting to see what he looked like compared to the other athletes.
The smell of vasodilators, which smells like Ben-Gay, filled the air of the Los Angeles Convention Center as the crowd waited for the pre-judging to begin. Everyone wanted to know what Heath looked like and if Freeman would be in the same shape as last year and redeem himself from his Olympia showing. After walking around backstage for a while, I grabbed a seat and waited for the judging of the 2008 IFBB Pro Iron Man to begin.
For the semi-relaxed round the competitors filed on stage in smaller groups. With 32 competitors it was not possible to fit them all on stage together. In the first group, which came out in numerical order of their appearance, Gustavo stood out in that field. He stayed behind for a moment to hit a few shots as the other guys filed off stage. Phil Heath did the same thing in the second group. Silvio Samuel stood out in the third group.
After the athletes completed their small-group showings, all the competitors came back on stage and waited to the sides for the all-important first callout.
The silence broke with the announcement of would be in the ever-so-important first callout. Gustavo, Moe, Phil Heath Silvio were the first four called out. Moe surprised me and looked extremely dry but his lack of oil hindered his appearance. Correct oil application would have brought out his details even more. After a few quarter turns, Heath was moved next to Badell. And they spread out for the mandatory's. I had Heath in first, Gustavo in second, Silvio in third and Moe in fourth. At the end of the round Heath and Badell hit a few more comparisons for the crowd.
Moe, Silvio, Johnnie Jackson, Desmond Miller and Eddie Abbew were in the second callout. Last year's champ, Toney Freeman had not made it to the second callout. In this round I had Silvio, Johnny, Moe, Desmond, and then Abbew.
The third callout consisted of Gustavo, Phil, Silvio and Johnnie Jackson. Gustavo looked thick with good coloring and was in good condition. Heath could have used a little more oil to bring out his detail a little better. Heath had the prettier physique and looked fuller with more sweeping muscle bellies. They switched positions on stage to make better comparisons and from the back Phil's hamstrings were like deeply-etched cords in the back of his legs. The Gift definitely lived up to his nickname.
The Rest Of The Pack
The fourth callout was Eddie Abbew, Toney Freeman, Troy Alves, Desmond Miller, and King Kamali. I thought Troy Alves was best in this callout. Freeman looked better than the Olympia but was nothing like the package he brought to the Iron Man last year.
Will Harris and David Henry came up as Abbew and Miller stepped back. Alfonzo joined the group. Will Harris was not as sharp as the Olympia and neither was David Henry where they placed 15th and 10th respectively.
Will Harris, JoJo, and Alfonzo were added and to make more comparisons. The judges were now looking for the top fifteen.
JoJo, Ray Arde, Omar Deckard, Armin Scholz, Sergey made the next callout. Sergey showed an impressive back during the individual round. Armin looked off from the last couple showings at the Iron Man. Ray Arde looked good for his pro debut, but was a tad soft. Omar looked flat. He's looked fuller. JoJo was in the best shape that I've seen him. He also showed a boost of confidence that I hadn't seen in him before.
Nathan Wonsley, Ray Arde, Omar, Enrico, and Paul Baker were in the next callout. I don't think Enrico even belonged in the group. He was much smoother than the other competitors in this group. He should have been in with group with Kenny Jones. (I joked with Flex Wheeler, who was sitting in front of me, that Kenny Jones was going to win it. He said we both were in agreement then.)
DeShaun Grimez didn't make it until the next callout. Grimez looked like he needed a couple more weeks of dieting and better coloring.
At this point I was waiting for the final callout. This would be a very good indicator of who would be the top four or five.
Johnnie Jackson was called out with Moe El Moussawi. I thought I would pick Jackson in this comparison, but I thought Moe had him - especially from the back. Moe was just a little tighter.
Phil Heath and Gustavo were called out for one more comparison. As they went through the comparisons, I thought Gustavo had a fuller chest and was a little wider in the delts, but Heath's arms, legs and conditioning were superior to Badells. Heath's arms were incredibly thick and had astounding shape. Even his front abdominal shot, his biceps were huge and noticeably larger than Gustavo's biceps.
Phil & Gustavo Go Head-To-Head During Webcast.
At the end of the judging, I had Phil Heath in first place, Gustavo Badell in second, Silvio Samuel in third, Moe El Moussawi in fourth and finally Johnnie Jackson in fifth place. In a few more hours I will see if my predictions are correct.