For those who question the growth of professional bodybuilding, let's be reminded that Larry Scott was crowned the first Mr. Olympia in 1965. For his effort, Scott collected his share of a $1,000 prize purse that was divided among the top finishers. Fast-forward to October 25th 2003, when 16 of the world's top bodybuilders will be competing in Las Vegas for more than $400,000 in total prize money.
Mr. Olympia History
Ronnie & Dorian
Since 1965, there have been only 10 men who have claimed the sport's most coveted title. Most recently we have watched Ronnie Coleman string together 5 consecutive victories. Another win would tie him with Dorian Yates for 3rd on the all-time Olympia victory list. As the 2003 edition of Joe Weider's Olympia weekend draws closer, let's take a look at this year's showdown.
History has proven that a reigning Olympia champ only has to "show up" to collect another first place check. For some reason, the feeling is much different this time around. It seems that the bodybuilding public is yearning for a change.
Ronnie has spent the past year hearing fans speculate a possible changing of the guard. One might assume that this kind of "disrespect" has fueled the fire that burns within one the greatest bodybuilders in the history of the sport.
Unfortunately for Big Ron, the doubts are justified. In 2001, Ronnie was pushed to the very limit by a 28 year-old Jay Cutler. That was the last time these two men stood on the same competitive stage. Since 2001, Cutler has rattled off an impressive string of victories. In fact, Cutler has hardly been challenged since the '01 Olympia. His wins have been First Round Knockouts and his dominance has caused many to render Jay the "People's Champ".
Chris Cormier is getting very little respect among the contenders heading into the upcoming Olympia. His name has somehow fallen well beneath the radar screen. Cormier is regarded as one of the most "complete" athletes in the business and he's out to prove that he can stand next to anyone, including Ronnie. Perhaps this is the year that Chris finally brings it all together.
After Ronnie, Jay and Chris it's wide open. Yes, that goes for Gunter Schlierkamp also... wide open! I'm not quite ready to consider Gunter a legitimate Olympia contender. From where I'm standing, his physique simply lacks the detail and separation that I'd like to see from a top Olympia contender. The moment he is called out next to Jay Cutler, the audience (and the judges) will immediately see an obvious disparity in overall quality and conditioning.
Dexter, Darrem and Lee
Dexter Jackson seemed like an obvious choice for a Top 5 spot... until he was defeated by Darrem Charles earlier this year in Rome. Dexter has vowed that he will be razor sharp for the Olympia. A quick look at the field of competitors would indicate that the man they call "The Blade" will be among the early callouts. That takes us to Lee Priest, who has spent the past year contemplating his retirement. Lee's muscular proportions are among the greatest in the history of the sport. Historically, he has saved his best for the Olympia stage. It's difficult to prognosticate where Lee might finish following his public comments that have raised obvious concerns about his passion for the sport. This is likely his final Olympia.
There are currently just 4 athletes in this year's Olympia who have won multiple pro titles. This exclusive list includes Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler and Chris Cormier. Can you name the ONLY OTHER competitor in this year's Olympia who has won multiple IFBB titles?
He is planning to do some damage this year. Earlier this year he snagged a Top 6 spot at the Arnold Classic. He than followed that up by defeating Dexter and Marcus Ruhl in Italy. His goal is Top 6 and he has informed me that he "badly wants a callout with Dexter".
Don't worry Dennis... I haven't forgotten you. Dennis James is one of the true wild-cards in this event. "The Menace" has earned a reputation for peaking too early. His pre-contest photos are always impressive. But, as you know, contest day is an entirely different ballgame. I'm anticipating a much improved version of Dennis, but I'm not quite ready to put him in the Top 6. Although, Dennis has made it very clear that he intends to do just that.
The field of 16 includes a handful of other intriguing "sleepers" with Top 10 aspirations. Melvin Anthony, Art Atwood and Troy Alves have each shown the ability to bring a complete package to the stage. It remains to be seen if they will be able to garner any attention on a stage that is occupied by the very best in the world.
The following predictions are for your amusement only…
- Jay Cutler (overall package simply cannot be denied)
- Ronnie Coleman (the judges will allow zero margin for error)
- Chris Cormier (top 3 if he's on)
- Gunter Schlierkamp (his size and crowd support will keep him near the top)
- Dexter Jackson
- Lee Priest
- Dennis James
- Darrem Charles
- Melvin Anthony
- Troy Alves