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OLYMPIA WEEKEND 2008: WHERE LEGENDS ARE MADE



Posted in: Articles by ProSource, Superfeature Articles | Sep 30, 2008



Expanded Event Coverage/Contest Results

     Olympia Photo Gallery

     Top 3 Olympia Finishers

     Pre-Judging Links

     Fitness Focuses on Hollywood

MEET THE OLYMPIANS
THE PRESS CONFERENCE: 9/25/08 1:00 pm

MEDIA ALERT: WORLD-CLASS MUSCLE GETS READY TO RUMBLE

When the lights went down in the Orleans Hotel Showroom, the crowd was abuzz with anticipation of whether this would be an Olympia Weekend that would turn Vegas on its head, and the athletes delivered. The Mr. Olympia Press conference was actually a rousing affair, reminiscent of boxing's glory days '" full of playful trash talking, self-promotion and hyperbolic predictions.

Many different accents mingled in the auditorium as international press from muscle mags, '�zines, sites and newsletters, as well as fans from across the globe gathered to hear the views of the sport's current elite, who also represented a multicultural collective.

Nineteen of the best-built bodies among the human population entered the stage in monogrammed tracksuits, sat before microphones and name placards, and fielded questions from Pro Bodybuilding Weekly hosts Bob Cicherillo and Dan Solomon. For five of them '" USA's Kevin English, USA's Leo Ingram, Canada's Fouad Abiad, New Zealand's Moe Elmoussaoui and USA's Phil Heath '" it was their first time in the Olympia limelight.

A favorite to swipe the title on his first try, Phil Heath addressed his opting out of competing in the 2006 and 2007 Olympia contests for which he had qualified. Why was 2008 the right year? "I definitely wanted to make an impact at my first Olympia contest, with it being the Super Bowl of bodybuilding," Heath replied. "I wanted to give it my best effort and to be highly competitive, so it took me up until this point to step on this stage. I wanted to show the fans that I had put my time in, and I think it's been well worth the wait. Because I had a short amateur career, I definitely needed more experience'�to prove to the fans that I'm here and I'm ready to rock."

Heath next had to back up a statement from a magazine interview in which he claimed he would not only defeat but also "dominate" USA's Dexter Jackson, who has posed on the Olympia stage eight times prior to this weekend and was another odds-on favorite to finally grasp the gold medal. Dexter assured the fans in attendance that he and Heath are friends and the rookie's comments had been made in jest. "It's going to be a great battle, not only between me and Heath, but the other guys as well," added Jackson. "We're looking forward to putting on a good show for you."

Adding to the sense of an impending showdown among bitter rivals, part of the conference involved live playback of pre-recorded radio interviews of the athletes criticizing and "calling each other out."

Dexter Jackson had to defend words about the inability of the reigning Mr. Olympia, USA's Jay Cutler, to make the adjustments necessary to beat him. Continuing the conversation about who had what it took to take out the current champ, attention was turned to Russia's Dennis Wolf. To the question of whether Cutler was "running away" from Wolf to avoid a side-by-side comparison during the 2007 posedown, Cutler humorously responded, "Was Dennis in the show last year?" Testifying that every competitor trains to win, Cutler went on to say, "I was the bridesmaid to Coleman so many times," and this year he used the opinions of critics and the fans as motivation to train harder.

A jovial Leo Ingram, who served 20 years in the United States Navy, expressed that he was the happiest to be there, and he proved it by wearing a permanent grin and chuckling at the exchanges between some of the more vocal vets. The memorable verbal battles included a tit for tat between Spain's Silvio Samuel and Venezuela's Gustavo Baddell, who had referred to Samuel's physique as more of a "fitness physique" than a mass machine worthy of Olympia gold.

However, he true star of the press conference was marvelous Melvin Anthony. Anthony joked about never missing a meal and proceeded to pull out a container of food and, to the delight of the crowd, chowed down in the middle of the interview session. He continuously cracked jokes and kept the levity in the room, by taking jabs at USA's Toney Freeman (about who looks better from the rear), at Trinidad and Tobago's Darrem Charles (about the title for the better poser), and even played invisible violins, suggesting former trainee Elmoussaoui wanted sympathy for his comments.

Also in attendance were Germany's Dennis James, Russia's Sergey Sheletov, USA's Craig Richardson, USA's Kevin English, USA's David Henry, Germany's Ronny Rockel, and USA's Johnnie Jackson.

In the end, fans and press alike were left with the impression that many scores would be settled over the course of the weekend, and no one wanted miss a minute of the exciting action.

MEET THE OLYMPIANS: 9/25/08 7:00 pm

MEET-AND-GREET MAYHEM: PICTURES, POLITICS, PREDICTIONS & PROMOTION
 
The line to enter the Mardi Gras Ballroom at the Orleans Hotel stretched about a mile long. Likewise, fabric stretched across the buff bodies of guys in tight shirts and girls in tight dresses who waited to shake the hands of the champions of the stage '" the Olympians.

These top-tier men and women of bodybuilding, fitness and figure had won contests held throughout the year to earn the right to step on various Olympia stages and compete in their respective divisions.

Video camera crews were out in force, and the flashes of pocket digital cameras popped like sparklers, while autographed photos of oiled and flexing physique heroes exchanged hands. At their individual stations, the Olympians pumped their biceps for the cameras, posed for pictures, and promoted themselves with posters and other paraphernalia.

The longest lines at the meet-and-greet event seemed to form around the champ Jay Cutler, his heir apparent in some eyes, Dennis Wolf, and press conference showboats Melvin Anthony and Toney Freeman. Though carb-depleted and fatigued, some of the Olympians managed to respond to my barrage of questions.

Addressing the new 202 Showdown, the future of the Mr. Olympia physique, and the upcoming election were the following athletes: Joraslav Horvath, Jeff Long, Tricky Jackson, Curtis Bryant, Craig Richardson, Jason Arntz, Charles Ray Arde, Rashid "Roc" Shabazz, Leo Ingram, Kevin English, Gustavo Badell, James "Flex" Lewis, Fouad Abiad, David Henry, Charles Dixon, and Eric Castagnet.


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Joraslav Horvath


Residence: Koš\ice, Slovakia
Height: 5'5" Weight: 198 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Tampa Bay Pro & Europa Super Show

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend?  "I think it's a good idea. It's better for smaller bodybuilders, because it gives us a big chance to get good results within the 202 Class."

Should the 202 Showdown winner be acknowledged with an official title and have a final posedown between "Mr. Olympia" and "Mr. Olympia 202?" "I remember many years ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a winner and Franco Columbu was a winner. Then they met for a posedown and everyone enjoyed it. So, I think it would be good for everybody '" for big bodybuilders and smaller bodybuilders."


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Jeff "Box" Long


Residence: Atlanta, GA
Trains at: His own facility, Body Talk Gym
Height: 5'6" Weight: 195 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Houston Pro

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend?  "Considering I turned pro back in 1993, I think it's a hellacious advantage for us. When I look at me in my peak days when I was placing 5th or 6th with the big guys. If we had this Class back then, maybe we [202 competitors] could have been at the top of our game and we could have as much notoriety as any other Mr. Olympia. They should go back to the days of the Frank Zanes and Franco Columbus, when you had an Under 200 Olympia and Over 200 Olympia. We bring just as much dedication to the sport as any other athlete. But over the years, because the sport got bigger, they showed disrespect to the little guy and threw us out in the cold. But, if you think about it, the little athlete is what everybody aspires to be like. The Sandow is built like a Greek God statue, like the smaller bodybuilder -- wide shoulders, small waist '" that is what it's about. That's why I got in the ballgame, because the little man still had an opportunity, like David and Goliath, to knock [the big man] off his block'�I think bringing the 202 back is great. It's a little late for me, because I'm 42, but it's great for the other guys. But I'll be here until they have to wheel me in and wheel me off."

What are your thoughts regarding the 202 Showdown being held at the Expo, separate from the Main Mr. Olympia Show at the arena? "If you were to have the 202 show by itself, it would probably launch just as much crowd participation as, if not more than, the Olympia. It would only enhance the main show by putting us in the same venue because [the bigger guys] will see that there's more of us than of them. There are more people who look and say, I can be 202 rather than 302. That's what most guys go to the gym to be. Not everybody wants to be 300 lbs."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "I turned pro back in the early '�90s, when Flex Wheeler and some of those guys retired. Now we're looking at the best guys left to represent, like Dexter Jackson, one of the best guys out there and who I'm rooting for, or Darrem Charles or Melvin Anthony -- because they have that aesthetic physique which I got into the sport to represent. Bigger does not make better. If the contest is judged fairly tonight, one of them will come away with the victory."

Who are you voting for in the upcoming election? "It's going to be an historic election. When the winner comes out, it will be something we've been waiting for for years. It's time for a change. I'll just leave it at that."


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Tricky Jackson


Residence: Louisville, KY
Trains at: Urban Active
Height: 5'5" Weight: 198 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Houston Pro, Tampa Bay Pro

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend?  "It gives an opportunity to athletes that are lighter in weight but just as good as bigger athletes to shine as a pro."

What are your thoughts regarding the 202 Showdown being held at the Expo, separate from the Main Mr. Olympia Show at the arena?  "I don't really care too much for that. At this point, I feel we're treated like [less than worthy] '�redheaded stepchildren' to be honest, but I know we've got to start somewhere. I think there's going to be a really big interest in the 202 Class. I've seen it on the message boards and from the response that I receive from fans on my blog on my website. Remember, on an amateur level, there are five weight divisions that fall under 202, and there are only two divisions above that. So, the bulk of the amateurs are in that weight category and want to strive to be pros. This 202 Showdown gives them something to shoot for."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "I hate to say it, but I see a trend where the champ has to be '�knocked out.' You see it in bodybuilding and a wide variety of sports. The winner should always be the person who was best that night, regardless of who was champion the year before. I feel when you come into a new year, all slates should be wiped clean and it's anybody's show. That's the way it should be, but, in reality, it's Jay's show to lose."  

Who are you voting for in the upcoming election? "Barack Obama all the way, baby."


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Curtis Bryant


Residence: Richmond, VA
Trains at: Wolfgang's Gym
Height: 5'6" Weight: 202 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Europa Super Show

How did you prepare for your first Mr. Olympia contest? "I'm happy to be here, and I'm anxious to see how I place. I was pretty much already in shape, so I tried to maintain what I had. I kept my weight where it was and added a lot of cardio."

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend?  "It brings back more pleasing shape, more hardness and dryness. It's good to see that come back, instead of that big freakiness that everyone has gotten used to seeing."

What are your thoughts regarding the 202 Showdown being held at the Expo, separate from the Main Mr. Olympia Show at the arena? "They should put both shows together, because it would draw more fans. The crowd wants to see both Divisions on the same stage."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "No. We're missing Victor Martinez, and that would have been a good mix, because Victor and Jay were pretty close last year. He probably would've given Jay a run for his money this year."  

Who are you voting for in the upcoming election? "Obama."


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Craig Richardson


Residence: Paterson, NJ
Trains at: The Lion's Den
Height: 5'7" Weight: 225 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Houston Pro

How did you prepare for your third Mr. Olympia contest? "The same way I always do -- moderate protein, high fats, low carbs, all the way through."

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend? "I think it's great, but I think, at some point, they need to separate it [in terms of allowing competitors to compete in both the 202 Showdown and the Mr. Olympia contest]. I'm all for more competition, but those [202] guys are actually able to earn double. A guy wins the 202 and gets that cash prize and then he gets to compete in the Open Division, ad he gets a double paycheck. Unless we can all earn a double paycheck, I think we need to [restrict] it."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "Whoever wins is still the best in the world. I mean, Victor is like a brother to me, but I don't think those [other] guys are ready for Jay just yet. There's still room for improvement for all of us. But Jay right now is on top of his game. He's gonna be really hard to beat no matter who shows up."

What's next for you? "I have to see what happens with my off-season. Usually I get up in weight, close to 250 lbs., and I'm usually still hard at 250. The problem is, as soon as I get there, I start dieting for a show, so I might do some of the later shows next year, so I can hold on to some of that weight. Make sure it's mine and let my body get used to it, before I start dieting again, so the weight doesn't just melt right off."  

Who are you voting for in the upcoming election? "Oh, Barack, of course."


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Jason Arntz


Residence: Monroe, NJ
Trains at: Powerhouse in Long Island
Height: 5'5" Weight: 202 lbs.
Qualified for O at: New York Pro

How did you prepare for your first Mr. Olympia contest? "Very carefully [laughs]. No, I did my thing. It felt good to have to make weight again. I haven't had to make weight since '97, when I was competing as a Light Heavyweight. I've said it before I'm really happy with the new 202 Weight Class. It's a little different from my past competitions, because I had to restrict a little more, do a little extra cardio, monitor my carbs more closely, make sure metabolism was going in the right direction to get down in weight. I feel tighter, harder, leaner, smaller waist. I feel great at this weight."

What are your thoughts regarding the 202 Showdown being held at the Expo, separate from the Main Mr. Olympia Show at the arena? "It was a little discouraging at first. But it is the first year they're having it, and it's only going to get better. It's been a huge impact on the bodybuilding scene. It's made big waves. It'll only take from here. So, next year, it'll be one of the main events."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "I take that question in stride. It's like the NFL, with Tom Brady being out. That's how it is. There are injuries, and even though Victor, Kai and Branch are out, there are some years where people are not out, but they're not at their best for other reasons. So, giving everybody their due respect, the best guy will win the show."

Who will win the 202 Showdown and who will win the Mr. Olympia? "I'm gonna win the 202. The Open is gonna be up for grabs, between Jay Cutler, the reigning champ, and I think Dennis Wolf and Dexter Jackson have a shot.

What's next for you? "The new 202 Class opens up a lot of opportunities for me and gives me a little more longevity in the sport. I haven't heard yet if they're having the 202 Class yet at the Arnold Classic. If they are, that will be next show. If not, I'll pick it up again at the Olympia next year."   

Who are you voting for in the upcoming election? "I'm an Obama guy."


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Charles Ray Arde


Residence: Campbell, CA
Trains at: His own facility, Ray's Built Tuff Gym
Height: 5'7" Weight: 202 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Houston Pro

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend? "It's a great thing. We smaller guys '" not necessarily '�short' '" everybody thinks we like to use the word '�short' '" just have a smaller frame. With our genetics, we appeal more toward aesthetics rather than freakiness. When we get mixed into the crowd of giants, we get lost in the shuffle. We normally don't get fair callings, in my eyes, but I think it's a great opportunity for all the 202 and under guys to get a shot at being on an Olympia stage."

What are your thoughts regarding the 202 Showdown being held at the Expo, separate from the Main Mr. Olympia Show at the arena? "I wasn't very keen on that. I mean, it is the first time, so it's a test run. I'm sure the outcome is going to be great this year, and I'm hoping that they'll combine them next year on the official Olympia stage. But you roll with the punches. Every athlete in the 202 Division '" no matter where it's held '" we're just really happy to be here."

Who will win the 202 Showdown and who will win the Mr. Olympia? "Who'll win the 202? I'm gonna have to say me. This is my Olympia debut, so I'm concerned with a few things. I don't have as big a name as David Henry, Kevin English or Flex Lewis; so, I'll just do the best I can. I know I have the capabilities of being in the Number One position. Kevin English seems to think otherwise, but he has something in store for him come show time. I'm a realist, and in the Open, Jay is strong. He's just freaky. Other guys might be in better condition or better shape; but, overall, when you stand them next to Cutler, they just get overpowered by his monstrous size. Top 5 could go any way. I think Dennis Wolf is a sleeper in that event. Of course, Phil Heath and Dexter Jackson are among my top picks."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "I absolutely think so. Regardless, Kai Greene and Branch Warren look phenomenal, but Kai needs another year. He's so freaky '" the back, the upper body. He just needs to work on his balance a little bit more. Warren is off and on, so when he comes in dialed-in, he could easily crack Top 5. Victor Martinez is one of my favorite bodybuilders of all time, so I'm hoping he makes a comeback next year. But for this year, it's such a tough era, because you've got Phil Heath, Dennis Wolf, Dexter Jackson and, of course, Mr. O. himself Jay Cutler."

What's next for you? "I've pretty much achieved everything I've wanted to achieve. I became a pro. I opened up my gym. I made it to an Olympia stage, where my goal is just to be the best I can. So that leads me next to have a family. I probably won't think about competing again until I create a family of my own, along with expanding my business."  

Who are you voting for in the upcoming election? "Wow. [Laughs] Well, I'll tell you that I'm a registered Republican; however, there are so many ups and downs with Obama and McCain. But if you're gonna put me on the spot right, I'll probably have to say Obama. One of my biggest concerns is war. I don't like how the U.S. tries to bully other countries around. With McCain's military background, he has some bad issues with other foreign countries, especially Europe. So, I think he'd be quick to pull the trigger on any kind of war. I believe Obama is more of a peacemaker. Each has his strengths and weaknesses, but, in the end, it'll probably be Obama."


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Rashid "Roc" Shabazz


Residence: Atlanta, GA
Trains at: His own facility, Fitness Pros Wellness Center
Height: 5'5" Weight: 202 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Europa Super Show

How did you prepare for your first Mr. Olympia contest? "I've done every 202 contest they've had this year, except at the Houston Pro, and I've been in the Top 5 in every single one of them. So, I've kept everything the same '" trained hard, kept the diet. I never get far out of shape, just 15-20 lbs. over the weight I compete at. I concentrate on detail, making sure everything is tied in."

What are your thoughts regarding the 202 Showdown being held at the Expo, separate from the Main Mr. Olympia Show at the arena? "It's a new event. You've got to give it time to grow and to see the acceptance here in Vegas. At the rest of the pro shows, we got real good acceptance. If the fans like it, I'm sure they'll move it to a bigger venue next year."

Who will win the 202 Showdown and who will win the Mr. Olympia? "I'm gonna take the 202, if everything goes to form. I got 5th in New York, 2nd at the Europa, so I'm supposed to win this one. That's how it goes down."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "Always. With bodybuilding, it's about the best on that particular day. Any contest is won by the person with the best physique that shows up on stage that day. It has nothing to do with how someone looks before or who doesn't show up at the show. It's who's on that stage and who's the best bodybuilder on that particular day, so whoever brings their '�A game' takes it."

What's next for you? "I don't do anything haphazardly. I sit down after every show with my whole team. My wife, my trainer and I look at it, figure out what is the next show and put a game plan together."  

Who are you voting for in the upcoming election? "You know who I'm voting for. Obama!"


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Leo Ingram


Residence: Forest Park, GA
Trains at: His own facility, Gold's Gym in Ellenwood
Height: 5'9" Weight: 255 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Houston Pro

How did you prepare for your first Mr. Olympia contest? "After the Houston Pro, I went back to my standard routine, quickly brought it back to anabolic mode and tried to increase lean muscle mass. I wanted to bring the best package here to the Mr. Olympia."

It was noted at the press conference that you're just happy to here and you look it. Explain the permanent smile. "It boils down to a lot of blood sweat and tears. A lot of people don't know my history and the path that I've taken to get here. So, yeah, it's a smile on the outside, but inside is the struggle that I've had to get where I am today. Every competitive bodybuilder wants to be on the Olympia stage. They've dreamt of that in their early teenage years, and I was one of those. So, I'm actually living my dream, and that's why I have the permanent smile on my face."

How does your military background affect or lend to your bodybuilding career? "One thing I learned in the military is how to prioritize. People ask me, '�How do you do it?' It boils down to what's important to you, and whether you have the drive and determination to accomplish that goal. But it definitely helps a lot, especially when it comes to the leadership aspect of it. A lot of times the mindset carries over from military to bodybuilding. I wouldn't say it makes it easier, but teaches me to deal with it a lot better than most."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "Unfortunately, those guys are not able to be on stage this year, but that's the nature of the sport. We have injuries. It comes with the territory. Not to take anything away from the guys who aren't here today, but you have to judge the show accordingly, between the people that are on the stage. You can't look at who wasn't there."

Who will win the 202 Showdown and who will win the Mr. Olympia? "Don't put me on the spot like that. [Laughs]. I've got to go with my homeboy Roc Shabazz for the 202, so he better kick some butt. Open Class? I really can't say. I'm gunning for myself, even though I'm not considered a prospect for that lineup, but I train to win just like everybody else. I have a lot of thoughts in my head, but I prefer to keep them to myself."

Who are you voting for in the upcoming election? "Oh, come on. That's an easy question. Obama!"


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Kevin English


Residence: New York, NY
Trains at: His own facility, Bev Francis' Powerhouse Gym
Height: 5'4" Weight: 202 lbs.
Qualified for O at: New York Pro

How did you prepare for your first Mr. Olympia contest? "I took a year out from competition before the New York Pro. I put a team together '" a nutritionist, a personal trainer. We sat down and formulated a game plan for what we had to do to get me prepared for this show."

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend? "It's phenomenal. I have to thank Jim Manion for making it happen. It gives a lot of opportunities to guys to become pro at a lighter weight, to be able to compete and get some kind of recognition."

What are your thoughts regarding the 202 Showdown being held at the Expo, separate from the Main Mr. Olympia Show at the arena? "I'm a little disappointed about that, but I know the 202 is going to have a huge turnout. And with the great athletes that we have '" myself, David Henry, and Flex Lewis, who's an incredible nice guy with a phenomenal build '" I think we're going to take this sport to another level."

Who will win the 202 Showdown and who will win the Mr. Olympia? "As far as winning the 202, that's myself. In the Open Class, I think Jay's untouchable right now, so I have him winning. I see myself placing somewhere in the Top 10 in the Open. I would love to come in Top 6, if possible."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "I think Kai Greene and Victor Martinez being out lets a lot of people slip into a higher position they wouldn't normally be able to get. Greene and Martinez are definitely the future of this sport. I could have seen either one of those, if not winning, coming in second in the Mr. O., definitely pushing Jay for the title."

What's next for you? "I'm going to see how the 202 Showdown and the Mr. Olympia go. At that point, I'll sit down with my team and discuss what will be the next move. It will either be the Arnold Classic or the New York Pro."  


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Gustavo Badell


Residence: Las Vegas, NV
Trains at: Gold's Gym
Height: 5'8" Weight: 243 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Iron Man Pro

How did you prepare for your sixth Mr. Olympia contest? "Same as always. This is number six for me, so I train hard for the Olympia because it's the Super Bowl. I train to be the best ever. I give it 150% because it's the biggest show."

Was the heated back-and-forth between you and Silvio Samuel about his "lack of mass" at the press conference real beef or just friendly trash talk? "Yes, we're friends. We always respect each other. He's a professional. I'm a professional. I have more time in the professional level than him. We just have different personal opinions, but I happen to agree with the judges. It's like apples and oranges. "

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend? "Bodybuilding is a great sport. It gives lots of opportunities to everybody. But when it comes to Mr. Olympia, bigger is better. The 202 Division is a chance to try. It's a test to see what happens. But people are definitely coming here to see big guys, the biggest guy on stage. We respect the hard work of guys of all sizes who compete at 202, but a guy who competes at 250 is totally different. It's harder for the little guys to be at the Olympia and try to compete against bigger guys. "

Should competitors in the 202 Showdown be restricted from also competing in the Open Division of the Mr. Olympia? "You'll see guys compete in the 202, but when they compete in the Mr. Olympia, they're not gonna be Top 10. It's not because they look bad. They look great, but they don't have size. In bodybuilding, muscle size is very important, because bigger is better. Like I said, this is the Super Bowl. It's not just another bodybuilding show. This is the most important show of the sport."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "The guys who won't compete this weekend are great guys and are not here because they have injuries, but they'll come back next year. We have a lot of good, quality athletes this year. I feel very confident this year will be better than ever, so I'm ready to be at 110% percent on stage and get the best placing."

Who will win the 202 Showdown and who will win the Mr. Olympia? "I hear David Henry was favored to win the 202. In the Mr. Olympia, you never know, because there are a lot of guys and it depends on what the judges are looking for. It also depends on which guys are favored to win, because of predictions from last year. But in the end, it depends on how your body looks. This is a new game. This is a new show. What happened last year is last year. Fuggetaboudit, this is a new year. I'll definitely be ready. We'll see what happens. Between 19 competitors, we have a lot of potential. We're gonna fight to see who's the best."


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James "Flex" Lewis


Residence: Brentwood, TN
Height: 5'5" Weight: 198 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Tampa Bay Pro and Europa Super Show

How does it feel to compete at the Olympia Weekend for the first time? "It feels great to be here at my first Olympia. It's a surreal experience. I'm standing here next to guys I've looked up to. I thinks it's really going to hit me in a couple weeks' time."

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend? "The 202 Showdown is the perfect Class for me, coming out of competing as an amateur and having the goal to train for a show like this."

What are your thoughts regarding the 202 Showdown being held at the Expo, separate from the Main Mr. Olympia Show at the arena? "It's a little bit disappointing for a lot of the fans, but certainly for us competitors. But in terms of it being the first 202 at this show, I think it proves itself, even though no one has taken the stage yet. They're already talking about what they're going to do differently next year for the 202. It's exciting. It's not a one- or two-man horserace like it is in the main show. So it's exciting not only for the new guys who are coming up the ranks, but also the older guys who haven't had a chance to step up against the other bigger guys at the Olympia."

Do you hope to eventually crossover into the Open Division of the Mr. Olympia? "I'm going to do as much as I can in the 202. And once my bodyweight can't physically stay there anymore, then I'll jump ship and go to the Open.

Who will win the 202 Showdown and who will win the Mr. Olympia? "I've trained to win the 202, but, on the day of the show, it's in the judges hands, of course. But any given person in our class could win. It's how you turn up on that day. I have full respect for all the other athletes."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true representation of the sport's best physique? "Representation is a big word. You have to represent not only onstage but offstage, too. Jay has done a great job of doing that. If Jay wins, he's been a great ambassador for the sport, pushing it to mainstream and doing a lot inside and outside of the sport to represent bodybuilding."

What's next for you? "Gaspari Nutrition is treating me brilliantly. This year, they've allowed my profile to be pushed higher than ever. And they'll be pushing me even further in 2009, which is great. Next for me, getting my name out there more. I'm going to take some time off and break away from training for Christmas time. Then I'll hit 2009 hard again and train for some later shows."  


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Fouad Abiad


Residence: Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Height: 5'10" Weight: 245 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Europa Super Show

How does it feel to compete at the Olympia Weekend for the first time?

How did you prepare for your first Mr. Olympia contest? "More of the same, because I hit my conditioning and my peak in Dallas at the Europa, so we wanted to match that same look for this show. So I stayed on the cardio and stayed on the same diet and kept my body around the same weight. And I think I'll have a good package on the show night."

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend? "It's very good for the sport. I think they should make it an Olympia event. I don't think there are a lot people in the general public who are going to weigh 250 lbs. onstage, so, adding a 202 Class, really gives a lot of those people a chance to get into the sport and do something after the amateur ranks. A lot of guys get their pro cards and then fall by the wayside, because they don't necessarily want to bulk up to this size or they can't. So it attracts a new dimension. I've seen a lot of guys come back that haven't competed in a long time just to do the 202."

Should competitors in the 202 Showdown be restricted from also competing in the Open Division of the Mr. Olympia? "No, they should do something about that. If you're a 202 competitor, you're a 202. If you're an Open competitor, you're an Open. I don't think you should be in both because you're double dipping.' If you're good enough to be in both, that's great for you, but I think you should make a decision. I think the 202 should be an Olympia event on the main stage, but you shouldn't be able to compete in both."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "As far as some of the other placings go, a little lower than the Top 6, they're obviously gonna have an easier road. They might get a bump they might not normally have gotten. Those three guys [Greene, Martinez, Warren] are Top 6 athletes in my eyes. But Victor would have been the only real threat for the Top 3. I don't think Kai or Branch were a threat to Jay in any way. You can't judge bodybuilding that way. If you're not here, you're not here. I don't think if Jay wins this weekend, there should be an asterisk next to his name, saying Victor wasn't there."

Who will win the 202 Showdown and who will win the Mr. Olympia? "In the 202, I like Dave Henry's physique best in that class. But that's tricky, because when Dave's just a little bit off, people really punish him for it. Lewis and Shabazz I also really like. In the Olympia, I think I'm going to be second, behind Jay Cutler. [Laughs] No, I'm just kidding. Realistically, tenth place would be a victory for me. Top 15 would be honorable. I just hope I'm not last. If I had to put myself somewhere, I'd say anywhere from 10th and 15th. If I don't, hey, it's my first time, and I'll do better next time."

What's next for you? "I've got to go back to the drawing board. Now that I've made it to this level, I want to add another 10-15 pounds and get back at it next year. I'm gonna need some time to do that, so my next show will probably be the Europa in August of next year and hopefully qualify for the Olympia again with a different package at 250-255."


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"Before I got here, it was '�just another show,' believe it or not. I was tired, burnt-out, hungry '" because it's my fourth show this year. But after getting here, getting put in a limo and taken to my hotel room, and then walking into an athletes meeting with 18 of the best athletes in the world, I finally realized where I am. Now, it's no longer '�just another show.' Now I'm anxiety-ridden and overwhelmed by a show of this magnitude. Two years ago I wasn't even a pro yet. After it's over, I'll get to sit down, eat and enjoy the fact that I made it and reflect on my accomplishments for the year. "

David Henry


Residence: Tucson, AZ
Height: 5'5" Weight: 202 lbs.
Qualified for O at: New York Pro and Tampa Bay Pro

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend? "It's a great thing. Every year, they add something different to the Olympia. In '05, I won the Wild Card Showdown when they threw that out there. So the 202 Showdown is definitely a welcomed addition. I think it will draw a lot more fans than they think it will."

What are your thoughts regarding the 202 Showdown being held at the Expo, separate from the Main Mr. Olympia Show at the arena? "There are some issues with that. So I guess you could choose one or the other, but there's enough time in between them. That's why I'm able to compete in both. I can do prejudging Friday night for the Olympia. Do the 202 on Saturday morning. Win that. Then go into the Top Ten at the Olympia Saturday night."

Some say competing in both Divisions is "double dipping." Should competitors in the 202 Showdown be restricted from also competing in the Open Division of the Mr. Olympia? "It's funny. The only guys saying that are the guys who aren't doing so well. For those of us who can [compete in both Divisions], I say more power to us. Until they make a stand on choosing one or the other, I'll keep competing as much as I can. This is a business for me, and that's what we're here to do."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "It's hard to say. We are in a land of giants. This is the Olympia in an era of guys who are always 270+. There's only a few of those mass monsters left '" Gustavo, Cutler, Martinez. Once that goes away, it's going to open the door for guys such as Phil Heath and myself. Then our types of physiques can move up in the ranks. We're all still young. We've got plenty of years left. I foresee us being the top tier."

Who will win the 202 Showdown? You're favored, so who's chasing you? Who will win the Mr. Olympia? "In the 202, me! After today's shenanigans, with what was said on the [press conference] stage, I'm definitely going for me all the way and backing that up. I'm not coming to disappoint, by any means. Definitely, Kevin English and Flex Lewis are chasing me. I take my hat off to Flex, because he kept his mouth shut about it. He has downplayed things more like I have about this. Confidence is one thing. Back it up! Just because someone beats you one time doesn't mean they'll beat you again. I think Jay Cutler is going to win the Olympia. Dex second.  Phil Heath third. Dennis Wolf fourth. Everyone after that, who knows?"

What's next for you? "After the Olympia, I'm taking eight months off, and I won't compete again until May of next year at the New York Pro. I'm going to let my body heal and get my long-delayed honeymoon on. I'm entertaining the idea of doing a pro training program, where people fly in from all over the world to train with me. I have a lot of stuff on my plate."

Who are you voting for in the upcoming election? "I haven't voted, I've never voted. But if I had to vote, based on what I know, it would be Barack Obama. My wife feels the same way. She votes, so she'll probably have to drag me to the polls. I want to see Obama pull it out. I want to see some change."


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Charles Dixon


Residence: Greenville, SC
Trains at: Powerhouse Gym
Height: 5'5" Weight: 202 lbs.
Qualified for O at: New York Pro

How does it feel to compete at the Olympia Weekend for the first time?

How did you prepare for your first Mr. Olympia contest? "We changed up a few things from the New York Pro, where we had tried a few things that didn't actually work. I was sick, but I still qualified for the Olympia 202 Showdown. My nutritionist Chad Schaive gave me a new diet and I switched up my training regime a bit. So far, it has worked great. Hopefully, all this hard work will pay off."

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend? "It's a great addition to this sport. A lot of guys turn pro in the Light-Heavyweight Class and Middleweight Class. Now, some Light-Heavyweights can compete with the bigger guys, but it gives us smaller guys a stage of our own where we can compete amongst each other instead of going against Jay Cutler, Dennis Wolf and Dennis James, guys who outweigh us by 30 or 40 lbs. We could probably compete against them conditioning-wise and symmetry-wise, but those are mass monsters. In the 202 Division, we have even playing field for us to compete and collect a little money at the same time."

What are your thoughts regarding the 202 Showdown being held at the Expo, separate from the Main Mr. Olympia Show at the arena? "I have my pros and cons about it. Of course, it would be nice to be on a big stage at the Orleans Arena with the bigger guys, because that's the main spotlight of the weekend. But, on the same token, there will be a lot of people at the Expo who will say, '�Let's stop and watch the 202.' Plus all the hype that has come to the 202 as far as Kevin English, David Henry, Flex Lewis and myself '" we've got some pretty big names in the 202."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "Yeah, in my opinion. I'm a big fan of Dexter, and we've turned out to be pretty good friends, so, of course, I'm rooting for Dexter.  But I hate that Victor, Kai and Branch are out. They are great competitors. Of those competing '" Jay Dexter, Phil, Dennis '" whoever wins will represent the sport well. It would have been interesting to see those other big names in there."

Who will win the 202 Showdown and who will win the Mr. Olympia?  "Olympia, my prediction? He and I have already discussed it. Olympia '" Dexter. 202, of course, is me."

What's next for you? "After the Olympia, I'll take a little break and get ready for the Arnold Classic. Hopefully, I'll get an invite to the Arnold. If not, I'm definitely going back to the New York Pro to redeem myself. I'll be working on my sports training and personal training business as well."


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"I'm on top of the world. When I started competing, I used to see the Olympians in the magazines, and I thought, '�Man, it would be nice to be on that stage one day.' Just to be in this atmosphere, I'm like a kid in a candy store. I'm honored. I thank God for giving me the ability and blessing me with this. So, I'm going to go out there and give it all I've got."

Eric Castagnet


Residence: Paris, France
Trains at: His own facility, Gold's Gym
Height: 5'8" Weight: 202 lbs.
Qualified for O at: Houston Pro

What's your impression of the new addition of the 202 Showdown to the Olympia Weekend? "I think it's a good opportunity to open up bodybuilding with more classes and categories. I hope it's the future, if it's possible to develop the category even more. All the people can imagine the possibility to grow. If you have physiques that are too big, to most people, it's '�a miracle.' But with the 202, [the bodybuilder physique] appears possible."

Should competitors in the 202 Showdown be restricted from also competing in the Open Division of the Mr. Olympia? "It's a business. Some people need money. I think David Henry has a good physique for the 202 Division but a small physique for the Open Division. In the future, I think he might just have to choose one category."

What are your thoughts regarding the 202 Showdown being held at the Expo, separate from the Main Mr. Olympia Show at the arena? "It's the first time for the 202 Showdown. It's the first step. It's a good opportunity for the moment, but I hope I can compete in it again."

Do you hope to eventually crossover into the Open Division of the Mr. Olympia? "It's a dream for me to step on the big stage. For my business in Europe, I need a picture on the big stage. The small stage for the Olympia 202 Showdown is okay. But, one day in the future, if it's possible to jump on the real stage, that's fantastic."

Because many top-tier contenders are missing from the Mr. Olympia lineup, will this weekend's champ be a true reflection of the sport's best physique? "It's not good for the show that they're not here. It's best if they are on the stage, for sure, because the result is different. But all professional athletes can have problems or injuries. But for the business, for the show, for the public, it's better if all the best athletes are on the stage."

Who will win the 202 Showdown and who will win the Mr. Olympia?   "I saw all the Mr. Olympia competitors. I think it's Jay. Jay has a big contract. He's a big guy. But my preference is for symmetry, for Dexter or Phil. Johnny is in good condition. I like these physiques. But the business is business, and my opinion is different. I think, for the future, Dexter is the best. In the 202, it's a business, too, so I think David Henry. Or Flex Lewis though I don't care for his physique. Or Kevin English depending on his condition. But it's impossible to touch David Henry."

What's next for you? "Next year, it depends on business, my condition, my time to work out. In my country, you can't win money for bodybuilding. You must work with your company, and I need time. I work 15 hours per day. It's difficult. For now, my limit is 202. I know I need pump and size, so I work with Gustavo Baddell. He's my friend. He came to my country and helped me. I speak with him about the future, but I need to stay at 202. To add 10kg for me is difficult, because I'm 40 and business is more important. So I want to help bodybuilding in my country, help the IFBB. It's my dream. I want to continue for 10 more years and maybe I can compete in Master's Division."





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