2008 Mr. Olympia Review
The 2008 IFBB Mr. Olympia contest was a shock and a surprise, to say the least. After decades of the same ole', same ole', the IFBB has now decided to award the Mr. Olympia title to the person who is in the best shape instead of automatically giving it to the reigning champ.
When I reviewed the 2007 Mr. Olympia contest last year, I brought up the novel idea of giving the title to the bodybuilder who deserved it on that night. The Mr. Olympia is the one contest where the champ always wins, even if he is injured, out of shape or off that day. How much more exciting would it be for the fans, and the sport in general, if every Mr. Olympia was judged fairly, based solely on the condition of the competitors who lined the stage that night, instead of by reputation and publicity?
This year, things were finally different. After two years on top, Jay Cutler was dethroned by 3 time Arnold Classic champion Dexter Jackson. After Jay won last year in less than peak condition, the judges and Jay himself were roundly criticized by fans over the last 12 months. Remarkably, the judges were obviously listening to what was being said because they responded to the criticism by awarding the title to someone new.
The word before the contest was that Jay Cutler was in the best shape of his life, perhaps even equaling his incredible 2001 condition. Jay admitted in interviews that, after winning the title in 2006, he wasn't as hungry to win last year and that was the reason he was off. He was going to rectify his mistakes from last year and leave no doubt in anyone's mind that he was the champ in 2008.
Dexter Jackson was considered Jay's greatest threat to the title. After winning his third Arnold Classic title this year in his best shape ever, Dexter was determined to add even a few more pounds of muscle to solidify his chances of beating Jay. However, the Mr. Olympia title being what it is, I thought Dexter was going to do no better than second place.
Here is my review of all the contestants for the 2008 Mr. Olympia contest.
Out Of The Top 15
Fouad was competing in his first Mr. Olympia contest after taking third place at the Europa Super Show earlier in the year. Fouad has a very good physique with good shape and a small waist. However, tonight he was not hard enough to place higher in this very competitive contest. He can still afford to add more size to his frame but he is a young bodybuilder and the best is ahead for Fouad.
Sergey Shelestov from Russia was not in the condition he needed to be in to make an impact in the Mr. Olympia. Although Sergey is a very big man with a big structure, he is not as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other competitors so he really needs to come in ripped to place high. He had some great leg development but his upper body needed much more hardness.
The 2006 North American overall winner was competing in his first Olympia after taking third at the Houston Pro show this year. Leo has some of the biggest and thickest arms in the sport and his most muscular poses are also pretty freaky. What hurts Leo is the ever-present stomach bloat that is evident in his ab poses. If he could somehow bring the gut down, he would place even higher.
Kevin English was the first winner this year of the new 202 pound class that was instituted in the pro ranks in order to have a venue where the smaller professional bodybuilders could compete. Kevin won this class at the New York Pro Show and he also took second place in the open pro division at that contest.
Kevin earned his pro card at the 1998 NPC Nationals as a middleweight so he has really added some size to his physique over the last 10 years. He has very good arm and leg development and he just missed placing in the top 15 at the Mr. Olympia.
The Top 15
15th - David Henry:
David Henry dropped five places after making the top 10 last year at the Mr. Olympia. David also won the new 202 pound class this year at the Olympia so he is new "Giant Killer" as MC Bob Chicerillo dubbed him. David seemed to be holding a little water at the Friday night pre-judging but he was noticeably much harder the next night at the Mr. Olympia finals. I think he would have been at least 2-3 places higher if he would have brought this hard condition to the pre-judging.
14th - Ronny Rockel:
Ronny Rockel has one of the more pleasing physiques on the pro circuit. He has good thickness in his pecs, delts and legs from the front along with very thick abs. However, from the rear, Ronny does not carry the same impact with his narrow shoulder structure and back development that pales in comparison to his massive delts and thick legs.
At the Arnold Classic earlier this year, Ronny was uncharacteristically smooth but he was much harder here tonight. Still, he could have been even more ripped to challenge for a top ten spot.
13th - Craig Richardson:
Craig "The Diamond" Richardson was also not at his best for this year's Olympia. I saw Craig compete last year at the Atlantic City Pro and he looked incredible there, diamond hard with impressive thickness. Tonight, he didn't duplicate that rock hard condition.
Craig has great leg development along with huge delts but his back development is still lagging behind the rest of his body. When Craig competes in top condition again, he will be place much higher.
12th - Johnnie Jackson:
The Strongest Bodybuilder in the World, Johnnie Jackson, was a little off tonight at the 2008 Mr. Olympia. Johnnie took a strong 9th place in last year's contest coming off a victory at the 2007 Atlantic City Pro. This year, Johnnie was a little too smooth and he dropped down to 12th place.
Johnnie has incredible thickness in his pecs, lats, traps and delts but his structure is a little narrow so he needs to come in really hard to showcase all that thickness. His legs have always been a little behind his upper body and his calves are particularly weak so he still needs to bring up his 'wheels' to balance out all that upper body mass.
11th - Darrem Charles:
Darrem Charles never seems to get any respect at the Mr. Olympia. Although Darrem has won his share of pro titles (at least nine professional wins), he always has a hard time cracking even the top ten at the Olympia. Darrem is now 40 years old and he recently won the Masters division at the Atlantic City Pro Show (beating Toney Freeman) and took third in the Men's Open Professional division. Tonight, Darrem competed in top condition as always and gave a high-energy posing routine that didn't have the impact it normally does because of a poor choice of music.
Darrem gives away a lot of mass to many of the other competitors in the Olympia and that is why he has a more difficult time beating the top guys. However, Darrem is one of the top pro bodybuilders in the world with a quality physique and an excellent poser so it's always a pleasure to watch him perform.
10th - Gustavo Badell:
Gustavo Badell hit the Olympia stage with his trademark aggressiveness and intensity. Gustavo has been trying to regain his top three placing at the Olympia that he earned back in 2004 and 2005. His combination of size and thickness with hard muscularity catapulted him to the top of the sport four years ago.
Gustavo has dropped in the placings over the last few years because of an expanding waistline along with a slight imbalance of the legs compared to his thick upper body. Tonight, he was in very good condition and I could have seen him a place or two higher but the competition was very, very tough. If Gustavo can bring up his legs some more while keeping his gut in check, he may be able to get to the top five at the Olympia again.
9th Place - Moe Elmoussawi:
The surprise bodybuilder of the year is Moe Elmoussawi from New Zealand. Moe's sudden rise to the top is very similar to Gustavo Badell, the guy he beat out at this year's Olympia. Moe never placed in the top ten in a big pro show until this year's Pro IronMan Invitational where he took a surprising 3rd place.
His hard conditioning along with thick muscularity is helping him leap past other bodybuilders who get more publicity than he does. Moe doesn't have the biggest structure but he does carry some good mass with excellent arm development. It was his hard conditioning that earned him a top ten placing at this year's Olympia.
8th Place - Dennis James:
Dennis James was back in the Olympia after a two-year layoff from the biggest contest in bodybuilding. Dennis revamped his physique this year by competing at a lighter bodyweight and really bringing his waistline down to create a more aesthetic, pleasing physique. Dennis has always had one of the thickest and massive physiques in bodybuilding for the last ten years.
His highest placing in the Olympia was back in 2004 when he took 4th place with his most refined condition yet. Dennis has been a pro bodybuilder since 1998 so he might be coming to the end of his pro career pretty soon but he showed he still has more gas in the tank tonight by taking a strong 8th place finish.
7th Place - Silvio Samuel:
The most conditioned bodybuilder in this year's Mr. Olympia was Silvio Samuel. I think Silvio was overlooked this year and he could have easily been a place or two higher. I definitely would have placed him over 6th place finisher Melvin Anthony. Silvio always brings incredible conditioning to every contest he enters but he was noticeably thicker and bigger at this year's Olympia. This was the most impressive I have seen Silvio since the 2007 Pro IronMan Invitational when he made his first big impact in the pros.
Silvio has been competing too often since that Pro IronMan show so he wisely cut back on his competition schedule this year, competing only in the Pro IronMan, the Arnold Classic and the Houston Pro (which he won). His reduced contest appearances translated into a bigger and thicker Silvio at this year's Olympia. Combine that added thickness with his characteristic skinless muscularity and you have one freaky bodybuilder who definitely deserved to be in the posedown.
6th Place - Melvin Anthony:
The Marvelous One, Melvin Anthony, was in the top six at the Olympia for the third year in a row. Coming off a strong victory at the Atlantic City Pro two weeks earlier, Melvin was not quite hard enough at this Olympia. With great shape and proportions, not to mention the best poser in bodybuilding, Melvin has all the tools necessary to be in the top three at the Olympia.
However, with all his gifts, Melvin seems to have difficulty really nailing that ultra-hard condition that is required to win today's top professional bodybuilding competitions. Melvin has one of the smallest waists in the pro ranks along with excellent shape and mass so the future is all in his hands.
5th Place - Toney Freeman:
Toney Freeman redeemed his poor 14th place showing at last year's Mr. Olympia by being the first name called out in the comparisons at this year's Olympia. Toney is called "The X Man" because of his superior frame for bodybuilding. His wide shoulders, small waist and sweeping thighs on a six-foot frame create an imposing threat to any competitor on a bodybuilding stage.
Toney made some major improvements to his physique in the two weeks since the Atlantic City Pro Show where he only took 4th place in the Open division and second place behind Darrem Charles in the Masters division. With added size to his legs and arms, Toney only needed to harden up in order to showcase his size and incredible proportions for a top five Olympia placing.
I personally thought Toney looked a little soft at the pre-judging Friday night and was surprised he was called out first in the comparisons. However, by Saturday evening, he was much harder with prominent vascularity covering his legs and arms. He was still thick and full and his posing routine radiated confidence and an attitude that he was one of the top contenders.
4th Place - Dennis Wolf:
One of the most highly anticipated athletes onstage at the Olympia was Dennis Wolf from Germany. Last year, Dennis surprised everybody by placing 5th and quickly becoming the fan favorite of the contest. With his incredibly wide shoulder structure and narrow waistline, Dennis clearly has the potential to dominate the sport. At 6'1", Dennis towers over most of the line-up and everyone was anxious to see if Wolf could pull an upset by winning the title this year.
Unfortunately, Dennis did not create the kind of excitement that he did the year before. Maybe it was the incredible pressure he was under to win the show after last year's spectacular performance but The Wolf did not dominate the stage this year.
Even though Dennis has the best structure in bodybuilding, some of his individual bodyparts are out of proportion to the rest of his physique. From the back, Dennis still needs to bring up the middle-lower portion of his lats. He also needs bigger calves to balance out those huge quads.
Wolf is one of the youngest competitors so there is still plenty of time for improvement and muscle maturity. As he continues to add size to his large frame, Dennis could be the future of the sport if he fulfills his enormous potential.
3rd Place - Phil Heath:
Phil "The Gift" Heath finally competed in his first Mr. Olympia contest after skipping it the last two years, even though he was qualified. Phil wanted to wait until he was really ready before he stepped on the Olympia stage and, boy, was he ever ready tonight!
My vote for the 2008 Mr. Olympia would have been Phil Heath. After losing a very close decision to Dexter Jackson at this year's Arnold Classic, Phil came to the Olympia even bigger and better. The genetics that Phil possesses is truly one in a million as he seems to make substantial progress in his physique every six months or so. He really is an incredible bodybuilder!
Phil was very hungry for the title and he showed more fire and determination than any other bodybuilder onstage. He was ready tonight and he knew it! Heath presented a massive and ripped physique that showcased the best arms and delts in the sport. His posing presentation was aggressive and polished, which is amazing considering his short time in the sport. Phil even showed signs of Ronnie Coleman as he pushed back Dexter Jackson onstage during the posedown and wouldn't allow the Blade to stand next to Cutler and himself.
It was a sight to see as Phil stood next to his mentor, Jay Cutler, in the judging comparisons. It was Jay who saw the potential in Phil and took him under his wing several years ago. Cutler recognized that this kid had what it took to be the very best in the sport and he helped guide Phil in the right direction with his career. How ironic that when the student and the teacher finally competed with each other, the student clearly outshined his mentor.
The professional sport of bodybuilding will be very exciting in the coming years with the addition of Phil Heath to the line-up. He possesses the rare combination of outstanding physical potential along with the intelligence and patience needed to fulfill those genetics. Most importantly, he also seems to have the hunger and desire to dominate the stage and WIN! If he is judged fairly, I predict he will be Mr. Olympia very soon.
2nd Place - Jay Cutler:
The reigning champ, Jay Cutler, returned to the stage determined to win back both the fans and the judges after his disappointing and controversial win last year. The rumor was that Jay was better than ever and he was expected to win the title easily this year, putting to rest the critics who burned up the internet boards all year long saying that Cutler was given a gift by winning another Sandow trophy in 2007.
To his credit, Jay was in much better condition than last year for the 2008 Mr. Olympia. It wasn't his conditioning that hurt him; however, it was the shape of his physique. Cutler was never one of the most aesthetically pleasing bodybuilders and, as he has continued to add size and get bigger over the years, his waistline has expanded dramatically. The larger waist has destroyed his symmetry and lines and has earned him the unfortunate moniker, The Refrigerator.
Jay is one of the largest bodybuilders competing today. His super wide shoulder structure is balanced with some of the best legs in the sport and his wide, thick back can knock anyone off the stage. At 5'8" and 270 pounds onstage, Cutler has the mass that the audience loves to see. In addition, Jay is also one of the most well-liked and respected bodybuilders in the sport, always giving 100% to the fans and judges alike.
This year, Jay was still not in peak condition for the pre-judging on Friday night. He wasn't as far off as last year but he was definitely retaining water and, compared to the hard and ripped physiques of Dexter, Heath, Wolf and Silvio, Jay didn't compare favorably. Still, the Mr. Olympia being what it is, I thought Jay showed just enough to retain the title.
The next night at the Finals, Jay was much harder and in better condition. He shed 10 pounds of water in the 24 hours since the pre-judging and it looked like it was going to be enough to help him retain the title. The extra hardness, however, was off-set by a somewhat flat appearance. His pecs, in particular, didn't have the fullness and size that he normally displays.
It was interesting that the music selections Jay chose to pose to reflected his poor condition the year before. He started his posing with the song "It's Too Late to Apologize" and finished with the song "I'll Do Whatever It Takes." The latter song included the lyrics, "I'll do whatever it takes to turn this thing around" and "I know that I've let you down."
Jay appeared very confident and relaxed during the Finals and was definitely did not appear concerned with the possibility of an upset. I'm sure it was a total shock to lose the title to Dexter but Jay showed true character by waiting onstage until Dexter composed himself so he could be the first one to congratulate the new champ. After all, Jay was in the same position as Dexter only two short years ago when he dethroned eight-time champ Ronnie Coleman.
1st Place - Dexter Jackson:
In one of the most shocking upsets in the history of the Mr. Olympia, Dexter Jackson beat out two-time champion Jay Cutler to become the new Mr. Olympia. Dexter was considered to be Jay's biggest competition this year but even he was shocked to actually pull out the win and actually become the new Mr. Olympia.
Dexter really opened some eyes earlier this year when he held off the threat of the new rising star, Phil Heath, to win his third Arnold Classic title. Dexter showed some major improvement at the Arnold by adding some quality pounds of muscle to his frame while retaining his sliced conditioning. He didn't earn the nickname, "The Blade", for nothing.
Dexter now possesses a physique that is not only aesthetic and symmetrical but also massive and ripped. His front double biceps pose was probably the best in the contest with his massive arms and wide shoulders tapering down to a tiny waist and massive, separated thighs. Dexter was shredded again for the show tonight with his rock-hard back, striated glutes and deep abs. Next to Silvio, Dexter was the most conditioned athlete onstage.
Dexter's posing routine was somewhat uninspired but it did showcase his incredible physique with his slow posing and deliberate moves. In the posedown, I actually thought Dexter would be moved out of second into third by the incredible physique of Phil Heath but Dexter managed to surpass not only Phil but the champ himself, Jay Cutler. Congratulations to Dexter Jackson, our new Mr. Olympia winner.
The Next Year
Now that the judges have abandoned the age-old tradition of rewarding the Mr. Olympia title to the current champ, the sport of bodybuilding is re-energized by the concept of an upset. No longer is the reigning champ guaranteed first place each year. Now, Mr. Olympia will have to EARN the title by showing the best physique onstage.
Next year, there is the possibility of Jay Cutler returning to try and regain the title. Unlike Ronnie Coleman's failed comeback a year ago, Jay is still only in his mid-30's so it's possible for him to achieve winning condition again. In addition to Jay, we will have last year's runner-up, Victor Martinez, coming back to claim his rightful Mr. Olympia title.
Also, what kind of improvements will the young lions, Phil Heath and Dennis Wolf, make to their physiques with another year of training? No doubt about it, the 2009 Mr. Olympia should be one of the most exciting ever!
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