OLYMPIA WEEKEND 2010: CELEBRATING 45 YEARS OF MAKING LEGENDS
By Admin | Monday, September 27, 2010 12:29:52 PM America/New_York
Las Vegas threw a birthday bash for the Olympia, which celebrated its 45th Anniversary over the weekend (September 24-25, 2010). The fitness and physique world's best athletes got together to party like college kids and to battle like warriors in their respective competitions.
On the women's side, the various divisions produced both repeat and new champions. Iris Kyle was crowned the Ms. Olympia Bodybuilding champ for the sixth time, tying the number of titles won by Cory Everson. Adele Garcia won the Ms. Fitness Olympia title for a record-setting fifth time. Erin Stern won her first Ms. Figure Olympia title. After a 13-contest inaugural season, the IFBB Pro League's Bikini Division made its debut at the Olympia. Sonia Gonzales made history, being crowned the first-ever Ms. Bikini Olympia.
On the men's side, the world's best bodybuilders fought for the title of Mr. Olympia under the watch of the 10 legendary champions who had held the title before them (Arnold Schwarzenegger was there in spirit). Two recent titleholders, Jay Cutler and Dexter Jackson, were among the athletes vying for the title at this year's event.
While 2009 was the year of the "Open-Door Opportunity," most 2010 Olympia pre-show predictions described a 4-Horse Race between 3-time Mr. Olympia and reigning champ Jay Cutler. 2009 Olympia Runner-Up Branch Warren, 2010 Arnold Classic Champ Kai Greene and 2010 Arnold Classic Runner-Up Phil Heath. Those unwilling to discount 2008 Mr. Olympia Dexter Jackson, simply because his hype was not strong, threw his name near the top of this race as well.
The $200,000.00 grand prize was grand enough to make competitors fight mercilessly in an effort to seize it. The lineup of Olympia contenders was loaded with a mixture of familiar and favored physiques, returning physiques that had been missing from Olympia contests in recent years, and physiques new to the Olympia stage. Lots of pre-contest posturing, trash-talking and showboating meant that, as always, there were many scores to be settled and massive amounts of exciting action.
MEET THE OLYMPIANS
Among the athletes appearing at the Meet the Olympians meet-and-greet event were IFBB Pros Jay Cutler, Phil Heath, Kai Greene, Hidetada Yamagishi, Jose Raymond, Dennis James, Tricky Jackson, Dennis Wolf, Troy Alves, Toney Freeman, Branch Warren, Marcus Haley, Victor Martinez and David Henry and others.
IFBB Pro Dennis James chose to drive to Vegas, as opposed to flying to avoid water retention. He stated his goal: "I'm going to be the best Dennis James that ever stepped on stage. My realistic goal is a Top 10 placing, because I think I'm a Top 10 athlete I want to bring the 'wow factor' so that people say 'He did his homework.' If I bring the conditioning at 100%, I can battle with anybody up there." As for predictions, James said, "We see where the hype goes. If Jay can duplicate the conditioning he brought last year, he's battling for first place with whoever shows up. But if he doesn't duplicate that, he's out. He brought that on himself. Coming in like he did last year, nobody expected that, so now he has to beat that. That must be more pressure than anything. But I think the winner is going to be somebody nobody expects."
IFBB Pro Dennis Wolf talked about his decision to split from several contest-prep trainers and prepare on his own. "I changed my workout. I started doing everything by myself. I know my body the best. If I look too empty or too small or something like that, I know exactly what to do. I'm working on the details. I'm looking better than ever and I'm excited to get on stage."
When the Russian Wolf, who currently resides in Las Vegas, was asked whether he truly believed he could win the Olympia, he replied, "I can. I believe it, but not this year, because I don't have the hype like Jay who won last year or some of the other guys, like Kai or Phil, who competed at the Arnold. But is it possible? Yes, it's possible." His thoughts on his fellow competitors? "Jay Cutler is 3-time Mr. Olympia, but he will have to bring the same shape and condition he had last year., probably bigger, because Kai Greene is the biggest guy right now. Phil Heath is there and has the details and the symmetry. But it's in the judges' hands."
IFBB Toney Freeman spoke about getting overlooked for higher placings "A lot of people tell me I'm too tall for bodybuilding. I believe the ideal man is 6'2", tall, dark and handsome, and I fit that description, so I don't know what [the judges] want. I was told if I was shorter, I'd be dominating, but I'd rather not be short. This weekend, I'm coming in 10 lbs. heavier, harder than I've ever been, more separated, more detail, fuller, drier, so I think I will show [the judges] something this weekend. I predict I'll be in the Top 6."
IFBB Pro Phil Heath shed light on his readiness to take the champion's trophy. "I'm hungry for a Sandow more than anything. I think it's my time. I've made a lot of improvements over the past year. I learned a lot getting ready for this contest. I feel I match up well with a lot of the guys, and I can't wait to get it on Friday and Saturday night. It takes a lot of maturity to be the champ, because that is the pinnacle." In addition, Heath talked about the importance of confidence and personality and how he takes advantage of both in the Posedown round.
IFBB Pro David Henry discussed how his reputation in the 202 Division speaks for itself and, therefore, made him unconcerned with having to trounce the competition. "There's nothing I need to do to distance myself. I've already done that. I'm not trying to catch anyone," said Henry. "I think I'm as big as humanly possible for the category I'm in. But I've still got more room to improve. I don't see too many individuals overall that have everything put together to beat me. If everything is the way it's supposed to be, I am the true winner."
IFBB Pro Marcus Haley prepared for the contest with the training assistance of fellow Olympia competitor IFBB Pro Dennis James, and he spoke of the benefits of training with a peer and a veteran. "When you are training with another pro and you are both training for the same show it is different and you have to bring your 'A game' every time you step up. And Dennis has been on the Olympia stage several times, so there are things that I can learn from him."
Haley, who competes with a titanium rod in his leg, had come to Vegas seeking a chance to go toe-to-toe with the top physiques in the biz. "I just want to be compared with some of the big names. I would love to be compared with Ronny Rockel, Roelly Winklaar and Toney Freeman, Dexter Jackson and Branch Warren. I want to see what I look like standing next to these guys. Of course their legs are going to out-size mine, but conditioning-wise I'm comfortable in saying that I don't think anyone will out-condition me."
2010 MR. OLYMPIA FINALS
During a Prejudging Round, fraught with nail-biting tension, reigning champ USA's Jay Cutler faced some unrelenting competition from a pack of rabid wolves hungry for his title. The pack was led by USA's big-and-balanced Phil Heath and also included the following front-runners, based on comparisons: aesthetic Dexter Jackson (USA), massive Branch Warren (USA), proportioned Ronny Rockel (Germany) and striking Dennis Wolf (Russia).
At 5'9" and 270 lbs., Cutler's conditioning wasn't an exact duplicate of what he presented in 2009, which is what many predicted he would have to deliver to clinch the win in 2010. Cutler was, as always, humongous - huge legs on top of a big, dense torso, topped off with a spiky Mohawk. While he did not repeat last year's wow-factor, apparently he had done enough for the judges to grant him a repeat victory.
Detailed and popping at 5'9" and 245 lbs., Heath had a little extra size in all the right places and garnered the biggest crowd upon entering the stage, and deservingly so. During the final Posedown Round, Heath was still his teeth-baring, facial-contorting self. Full of youthful electricity and stacked with unobtrusive mass, Heath looked like the winner of the night. Heath was instead awarded 2nd place.
Unfortunately Branch Warren's superior leg development continues to overpower his upper body, which, in comparison to others, didn't possess the same detail from the front. What appears to be a symmetry issue in the shape of his lats, particularly on the right side, becomes more apparent in certain poses like the Front Double Biceps Pose. Warren, 5'7", 245 lbs., fell from the Runner-up spot in 2009 to 3rd place this year.
Jackson, 5'6"and 235 lbs, was consistently impressive with a flow that ties-in and connects all the parts of his physique into an aesthetic package. He finished 3rd in 2009 and dropped to 4th place this year. To avoid slipping further down the line, the man either needs to do something drastic physically or create his own hype. Otherwise, Jackson may continue to be a one-time Mr. Olympia unlike many of his recent predecessors with multiple wins. (Granted, his feat in 2008 is nonetheless respect worthy.)
Dennis Wolf is scratching his way back up the ladder on the strength of his quality 275-pound shape on his 5'11" height. Yes, some might complain that he does not read as the most monstrous, shadow-casting mass monster and his lats don't hang super low, but something about the composite of his parts demands attention. Going from a failure to place in 2009 to earning 5th place at the 2010 Olympia proves this.
At 5'6" and 225 lbs., Ronny Rockel is not the biggest onstage but is attempting to make a bigger mark on the Olympia ranks. He climbed from 7th last year to 6th place in 2010. Rockel is well balanced and proportioned. With great shape and quality muscle, Rockel is impressive but not intimidating...and that may be his challenge at this level. Generally speaking, fine-tuned aesthetics versus freak-level presence may be a good thing, but sometimes, at this level of bodybuilding competition, it could be what keeps a good man from being seen as a great man worthy of 1st place. Ironic, huh?
Somewhere along the way, Kai Greene lost his footing. Pre-contest, the buzz was that he would finish in the Top 3. Kai has mass, low-hanging lats, and big, feathered quads, but all of this was not enough to steal the shine from others. The deep, etched cuts he often brings were not on their best display consistently during the Pre-Judging Round and the headstand during his posing routine in the Finals Round was not enough to bump him up. He dropped from 4th place in his '09 Olympia debut to 7th place in 2010.
The remaining Top 10 included: 8th Dominican Republic's Victor Martinez, 9th USA's Toney Freeman, 10th Japan's Hidetada Yamagishi.
The rest of lineup included: 11th Germany's Dennis James (tie), 11th USA's Johnnie Jackson (tie), 13th USA's Marcus Haley (who performed one the best posing routine's of the night full of energetic bravado and smooth dance moves that revved the crowd), 14th Netherlands' Roelly Winklaar, 15th USA's Troy Alves, 16th USA's Ed Nunn, 17th Russia's Evgeny Mishin, 18th USA's Bill Wilmore, 18th USA's Craig Richardson, 18th USA's Erik Fankhouser, 18th Spain's Francisco "Paco" Bautista, 18th Poland's Robert Piotrkowicz
OLYMPIA 202 SHOWDOWN
The Finals of the 202 Showdown made its debut on the Olympia main stage last year. This year, the 202 Division contestants demonstrated that pro muscle's lighter athletes are just as competitive and put on an equally good show worthy of bodybuilding's largest stage.
Some of the Olympia 202 Division competitors showed that they could carry impressive mass in proportion to their frames, proving that mounds of mass are not strictly the domain of the Olympia Open Division physiques.
Reigning 202 Mr. Olympia, USA's Kevin English, successfully defended his title, taking 1st place at this year's show. This marks English's third Olympia victory in a row.
In fact the Top 3 lineup was just a rehash of last year's results. USA's David Henry took 2nd place again, which did not satisfy a large segment of the crowd. Once again, Brazil's Eduardo Correa was put in the 3rd place position.
English is extra thick. Correa is super separated. Henry seems to be a mix of both. On one hand, because it's still in its infancy, the 202 Division is still sorting out which type of physique will be its gold standard. On the other hand, English's triple crowning seems to be setting a Class trend that will spark as much debate as the Open Division's indefinable standards.
The rest of the Top 6 included: 4th USA's Jose Raymond (up from 6th in 2009), 5th USA's Jason Arntz (up from 8th in 2009), 6th Slovakia's Jaroslav Horvath (who did not compete in 2009 but placed 9th in 2008).
The rest of the field included: USA's Daryl Gee, USA's Stan McQuay, USA's Richard "Tricky" Jackson, Nigeria's Bola Ojex, USA's Mike Valentino, Sweden's Ahmad Ahmad, USA's Roc Shabazz, France's Luc Molines and Hungary's Steve Namat.
At the Olympia Expo, fitness celebs, Olympians, pro sports stars and promotional models interacted with and entertained tens of thousands of fans and attendees at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Amid the blaring sights, sounds and product booths screaming for attention, the usual fitness and strength events took place. The highlights included the Pro Powerlifting Championship, the America's Strongest Man challenge, the Grapplers Quest Submission Grappling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Supershow.
Bodybuilding's biggest names (and bodies) mingled with various sports-entertainment industry stars who also made appearances at the expo, including 6-time Mr. Olympia and former IFBB Pro Dorian Yates, IFBB Pro Silvio Samuel (who recovered from a heath scare in 2010 that had many speculating whether he will ever compete again), IFBB Pro Markus Ruhl, IFBB Pro Shawn Rhoden (who made his pro debut at the 2010 Europa Super Show), IFBB Pro Andy Haman and IFBB Pro Brandon Curry (who made his pro debut at the 2010 IFBB Tampa Pro Bodybuilding Championships).
Also spotted were pro wrestler Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, actress/model Carmen Electra, and "Jersey Show" cast member J-Woww.
WORLD'S STRONGEST BODYBUILDER
IFBB Pro Ben White qualified to compete in the 2010 Mr. Olympia contest, but he opted to bypass the bodybuilding stage to compete on the powerlifting stage instead.
Last year's pro bodybuilder powerlifting contest, the inaugural "Duel in the Desert: World's Strongest Bodybuilder Lift Off," was won by IFBB Pro Johnnie Jackson. Jackson beat White, logging 815 lbs. in the deadlift and 523 lbs. in the bench press.
The Duel was on again this year. Coming to the stage with a combined (squat, bench press and deadlift) lift total of 2,221 lbs., IFBB Pro Stan Efferding was ready to challenge IFBB Pro Ben White for the $20,000 prize.
Regarding his preparation for the World's Strongest Bodybuilder event, IFBB Pro Ben White said, "After my two successful placements this year, I was able to go back and lift heavier for this show. I am back to lifting 405 with sets of eight and pulling over 700 in the rack. As for dieting for powerlifting, I know my body well enough to know that sticking to high protein - to keep lean - and super high carbs to keep me full as well as strong works the best."
While being a two-sport athlete can be fun and impressive, White realizes that sometimes a choice must be made to truly soar in a particular sport. "This will be my last year doing the World's Strongest Bodybuilder competition because my win in Tampa has made me decide to focus more on bodybuilding," White announced. "This is basically my farewell, whether I win or lose. This is for the fans and everyone else, but I won't let them down the next time they see me on [the bodybuilding] stage."
Ultimately, Efferding won the WSB title, with a record-setting WSB total of 1428 lbs. Efferding pushed 628 lbs. on the bench press and pulled 800 lbs. in the deadlift. Miraculously, White suffered a pec injury during a 501-pound bench press attempt, but went on to pull 700 lbs. in the deadlift.
About his win, Efferding said, "It was exciting for me. It was exciting for the fans. We [the competitors] tossed a lot of crap back and forth on this deal, but no disrespect to [my competition]. I love them as fellow athletes. I just wanted to make sure I had an opportunity to prove what I knew I could do."
The Olympia Expo introduced yet another powerlifting contest for bodybuilders to its lineup of events. The inaugural Pound4Pound Challenge was open to any currently active IFBB Pro League athletes and NPC national-level competitors. Each contestant had a single attempt at the squat, chest press and deadlift, vying for $1500 for the highest poundage lift per category and $4000 for the highest overall score.
Among the contestants were IFBB Pros Ben Pakulski and Derik Farnsworth, as well as NPC competitor Pete Ciccone. The three bodybuilders hoisted and lifted and squatted, trying to move bigger weight than the next guy. The test of strength ended with Farnsworth as the victor and Ciccone in 2nd place.
Farnsworth and Ciccone tied in the bodyweight bench press for 26 reps each. Farnsworth deadlifted twice his bodyweight for 25 reps. Ciccone squatted 460lbs for 8 reps, but was topped by 300-pound Pakulski who squatted 600lbs for 10 reps. Farnsworth squatted 405lbs. (approx. 2.25x his bodyweight) for 20 reps, wish placed him above the other competitors.
45th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION
In a moving ceremony, all the former Mr. Olympia champions appeared on stage to honor the 45th Anniversary of the IFBB Mr. Olympia. A video tribute to each titleholder preceded his moment in the spotlight. In attendance were Mr. Olympias Larry Scott (1965-1966), Sergio Oliva (1967-1969), Franco Columbu (1976, 1981), Frank Zane (1977-1979), Chris Dickerson (1982), Samir Bannout (1983), Lee Haney (1984-1991), Dorian Yates (1992-1997), Ronnie Coleman (1998-2005), Jay Cutler (2006-2007, 2009-2010) and Dexter Jackson (2008).
One of the sport's most prominent sons, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (1970-1975, 1980) was not in attendance, but sent his well wishes in a heartfelt and humorous speech via video. It was touching and inspirational to see the elder statesmen of the sport flexing under their suits and ties, while fans showered them with applause at the Olympia Finals.
Bodybuilding icon Lou Ferrigno escorted Olympia creator Joe Weider onstage for the presentation of the 1st place medal and trophy, while best friends and former training partners Cutler and Heath embraced, awaiting their fate. After announcer Bob Cicherillo's suspense-building joke that there was a tie, he declared Cutler Mr. Olympia. The more physically complete Heath and his supporters would rather the verdict had actually been a tie or, more appropriately, that Heath obtain his first Sandow. But that was not in the cards.
Meanwhile, another athlete punched his card, ending his work with the IFBB. A few weeks ago, Dennis James had announced intentions to retire from competitive bodybuilding after making his 10th visit to the Olympia. It was conformed by host Cicherillo onstage at the Finals. James took the microphone and, in a tear-filled speech, said, "What better way to go than on the Olympia stage? What better day to go than on the day when every Mr. Olympia in the history of the IFBB was on the same stage. You've made my career."
In his victory speech, Cutler thanked the "Father of Bodybuilding" Joe Weider, who celebrates his 90th birthday next month - double the age of his gift to the industry: The Olympia. Funny how it all comes full circle, isn't it?
ANDREW OYE'S VERDICT
In closing, the 2010 Olympia Weekend was a special and exciting event. The 45th Anniversary provided an opportunity to honor legends of the past and create legends of the future. The battles for supremacy in the Open Division, and the 202 Division were fueled by raw competitiveness, steely determination and awe-inspiring physiques. These athletes wanted titles, industry cred, cold hard cash, and a place in Olympia's next 45 years of history.
Bodybuilding fans witnessed the physique world's best athletes with pro status flex and fight for legend status. The annals of the Muscle Stage were inscribed with a new chapter. Champions were given the green light to reign over the respective divisions for the next year...until the next anniversary unites them with new and old challengers to see who truly qualifies for the legends' legion.
All Photos by Raymond Cassar