Hey Russ DeLuca, got a spare room at the Palms for me? The Expo will be held across town at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I'll reserve my judgment, but can't see how this will be an improvement over having it at the same venue as the contest.
A "Wildcard" showdown, held on Friday night at the women's Fitness and Figure Championships, giving away 10 grand, and an 'Olympia qualifying berth, to the victor. Will hold judgment on this one, although the quality of the line-up certainly won't be enhanced by this addition (but, perhaps ticket sales to the Friday night festivities will be).
A tweak to the Challenge Round, with another 50k added to the pot (25k to the winner). I dissed the Challenge Round last year; after long thought, can certainly do without it again this season, tweak or not.
And, last but certainly not least, a mandate from Ben Weider saying, to abridge, that the "look" bodybuilders need to be presenting features a small waist, flat tummy and V-taper. Guess I've got no shot. Inject synthol and your shoulders may swell, your final placings will shrink, the directive says.
The Swami's Predictions
Who Will Win?
So, after digesting all of the above, did The Swami encounter any alterations in his crystal ball regarding how things will play out on stage October 15?
Hell no. The Big Nasty, once again, will win the show. Eight in a row for Ronnie Coleman who, at 41, is aging like fine wine. Now, do I possess some inside info I'm not letting out of the sphere? Nope.
Other than emceeing Branch Warren's victories at the Europa Super Show and the Charlotte Pro in the past few weeks, and getting a good look at Dennis James, second to Warren in the latter event, I haven't had a peak at any of the main contenders.
Coleman's just a baaaad man. And, smart enough to know that his detractors have continually pointed to an extended belly, which is singled out as a no-no, obviously, in Weider's decree. Ronnie is too much of a competitor, and much too smart, to let that be a problem this time around.
Besides, even if it turns out to be a negative, the man just has too much muscle, - especially from the back - to be defeated. If, that is, Ronnie comes in top shape. Perhaps 10-15 pounds lighter than the 295 he carried last year. Swami sez he will.
Who's Takes Second? The "First Loser" Is...
Swami also sez
Jay Cutler, the perennial best man at the Coleman wedding the past few years, will wind up in his usual position again.
And, that the 32-year-old hometown fave will look absolutely terrific. Cutler was at his best at the 2001 battle, and will duplicate that look this time around.
Jay's either been too heavy, which slams him in the back-detail department, or too light, which flattens him out. This version will hopefully come in around 265 (at 5'9") and might possibly give Coleman a run for his money - which, by the way, will be $150,000 this year, up 30k from last year.
The Battle For Third!
Dexter Jackson sitting this one out, the battle for third could be the tightest fight of the night. Swami likes the chances of five candidates who should have a real shot at finishing behind The C & C Company: James, Gustavo Badell,
Chris Cormier, the German Giant contingent of
Markus Ruhl and
Badell was third last year, but has not been given the respect due him in '05 (yes, even after opening up the new year with a big win at the IRON MAN). His critics point to an enlarged midsection as well, caused by an increase of bodyweight of 16 pounds (234 to 250) from the '04 to the '05 IM.
Like Coleman, I say the 5'7" Gustavo is too smart to let this hamper him again at The Big Dance.
Cormier, as always, is the Big Enigma.
If he's on the money, he'll be as sweet as honey.
If he's off-again, he'll have major problems trying to land in the top six. At 38, time is running out on Chris to fulfill his Mr. O dreams.
James was about 10 pounds too heavy at the Charlotte event, thus losing to Warren, the most underappreciated star in the game today. If Dennis sharpens up, he has the goods to battle for a top three slot.
Schlierkamp told me back in April "Guntermania is back", in reference to his sublime 2001 season, where he was the most popular fifth place finisher ever, and when he went on to defeat Coleman at the Show of Strength a few weeks later.
Gunter told me, without hesitation,
Now's his chance to prove it. The 5'11", 280-pound Ruhl is a damn freak, the crowd loves him, and so do plenty of the judges. Always in the money.
NOTE: Lee Priest has just announced he will not be competing at the Olympia!
| Lee Is Out - Forum Discussion:
Lee Out Of The Olympia?
Discuss Lee Priest's shocking withdrawl from the Olympia in the forum here.
What does the sphere show about Russia's Alexander Federov, the latest "big thing" to hit the 'Olympia stage? Plenty of media hype, but I'm not sure the hype matches the might.
A threat to Ronnie? No way, Jose. At least not at this point. I'll tell you more when I get my first up close and personal look at Federov next week.
Back to Cormier's enigma status for a moment. Another guy in that category is Victor Martinez.
Oodles of potential, but was nowhere near top form this year. He can be a top six guy when spot on, a non-factor if he doesn't show up at least 20% sharper than he did earlier in the year.
And The Rest...
I love the physiques of
Melvin Anthony and
Darrem Charles, and have great respect for Kris Dim and Warren. Marvelous Melvin and Dazzling Darrem, when "on", are simply terrific, but are also too small to hit the big six, I say.
At least in evaluating what the judges prefer. Dim has loads of muscle, but the 5'5", 200-pounder is also is hurt by a lack of stature.
Warren is the only one, at 5'6 1/2" and 240 lbs, who can "beef" it with the big boys; Swami sez top 10 for Charles, Anthony and Warren, and Dim could be a surprise.
A Tough Line-Up
Hell, this is a tough line-up. Anybody out there who thinks this is an easy job, make sure to stop by the Bodybuilding.com webcast site at the Convention Center on Friday, October 14, where I'll be hosting an hour show, and you can put in on the line. Timea Majorova will be my sidekick on the broadcast. Bet now you'll stop by!
And, a pre-contest warning: don't be chasing me down if your fave finishes higher than I foresee. All these cats are good, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just ask Heidi Klum.