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The Item: IFBB Pro League Contest Preview, Andrew Oye's IFBB Pro Athletes Roundup

The 2009 Joe Weider's Olympia Fitness and Performance Weekend is quickly approaching. Driving this torpedo of competitive pro-bodybuilding is a strange excitement. Strange, because, for the first time in a long time, many fans and pundits are hinting that the Big "O" could stand for more than just could stand for "Open-Door Opportunity."

Traditionally, when predictions for the "Super Bowl of Bodybuilding" -- Where Legends Are Made -- begin to pepper conversations, the incumbent champ's name automatically tops every prognosticator's similar rundown of the final Top 6 competitors.  

In other words, in most people's minds, the dude who won last year will win again the following year. And, for the most part, the same dudes who placed in 2nd and 3rd place will finish close to those spots again. And so on, and so forth. The Olympia edition of "Andrew Oye's Pro-Muscle Report" Pro Athletes Roundup explores this mentality.  

The sort of "deja vu" pre-game analysis is largely due to the extended reigns of yesteryear's Mr. Olympia titleholders. The winning streak phenomenon kicked off with 7-time Mr. Olympia IFBB Pro Arnold Schwarzenegger (1970-75 & 1980) and resumed with the reigns of 8-time Mr. Olympia IFBB Pro Lee Haney (1984-1991), 6-time Mr. Olympia IFBB Pro Dorian Yates (1992-1997), and 8-time Mr. Olympia IFBB Pro Ronnie Coleman (1998-2005).

However, this year, the same automatic respect or pass (depending on how you look at it) is not being given to 2008 Mr. Olympia Dexter Jackson. Jackson's victory was widely celebrated by fans and industry watchers, supposedly ushering in a new (or old) era - a return to an era where the Aesthetic Athlete trumps the Mass Monster. Ironically, as the one to break the back-to-back winning pattern that 2-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler seemingly would continue, Jackson may have set a new trend that doesn't allow him to "benefit" from the previous one.

Also, where was the sport-shifting change that was supposed to accompany a brand new champ's reign? The worldwide acceptance of bodybuilding? The non-bodybuilding-related endorsements? The sit-down interviews on daytime and late-night talk shows? Or were those just our lofty wishes for the sport's highest-ranking spokesman? (Wishes that, in actuality, spring up with each new Mr. Olympia induction.)

From what "Andrew Oye's Pro-Muscle Report" can glean, at least for now, the crowning of a repeat champion no longer seems inevitable. So the dude who won last year is entering the Big "O" with folks shuffling the Top 6 placings like a deck of cards and "giving away" his spot to other dudes like a bus seat. (Not that any of the IFBB Pro League athletes regularly featured in Andrew Oye's IFBB Pro Athletes Roundup are less-than-worthy but, again, precedent colors predictions.)   

The names being tossed no particular order...or, rather, in every possible order...include IFBB Pro Dexter Jackson, IFBB Pro K. Greene, IFBB Pro Victor Martinez, IFBB Pro Phil Heath, IFBB Pro Jay Cutler, IFBB Pro Toney Freeman and IFBB Pro Dennis Wolf. Predictions from various sources use the aforementioned names interchangeably, suggesting that the title is up for grabs based on a number of "If...Then..." scenarios.

If Jackson can wow the judges with a notable improvement on a consistent physique, then he might hold on to his crown. If the Arnold Sports Festival's 2009 Arnold Classic winner Greene shows up in similar condition, then he'll be tough to beat in his Olympia debut. If Martinez trades a little size for more packed density, as sources say he intends to do, then perhaps he can regain his footing near the top of the pack. If Heath doesn't allow his giant arms to overpower his torso, then he might snag a title for the young generation. If Cutler can magically recreate his best condition, circa 2001, then he may be able to redeem himself and shut-up naysayers. If Freeman or Wolf can show a tall filled-out X-frame that resembles a bodybuilding trophy, then maybe they'll get one...namely, the coveted Sandow.

Essentially, the Top-Tier lineup could be a tossup that is also impacted by question-mark factors, such as Jackson's thorough off-season to improve, Greene's avant-garde persona versus the traditional Mr. Olympia image, Martinez's quad issues and post-family-tragedy mind state, Heath's readiness, Cutler's shape and ability to rebound, Freeman's repaired pec tear, and Wolf's need for more back and leg muscle.

The other forecasted Top 10-15 contenders - confident IFBB Pro Melvin Anthony, big IFBB Pro Branch Warren, shapely IFBB Pro Silvio Samuel, improved IFBB Pro Moe El Moussawi, aesthetic IFBB Pro Troy Alves, persistent IFBB Pro Ronny Rockel, menacing IFBB Pro Dennis James, and gigantic IFBB Pro Markus Ruhl - should keep one eye aimed at some of the other eager eagles who have also qualified and might show up primed for the Big Show - IFBB Pro Martin Kjellstrom, IFBB Pro Hidetada Yamagishi, IFBB Pro Fouad Abiad, IFBB Pro Ben Pakulski, IFBB Pro Joel Stubbs, IFBB Pro Bill Wilmore and IFBB Pro Evan Centopani.


Does the full-fledged incorporation of the separate Under 202 Division mean shape and symmetry are non-issues in the Open Division? A bastion for mass monsters irrespective of aesthetics?

If so, the more compact contenders in the Olympia 202 Showdown are grateful for their even playing field. For the first time, the 202 Showdown has been added to the main stage at Orleans Arena (along with the Open Division), an upgrade from its previous location at the Las Vegas Convention Center during the 2008 Olympia Expo.

The reigning 202 Mr. Olympia IFBB Pro David Henry is favored, but he can expect a good fight from top contenders like IFBB Pro Kevin English with his tiny waist and unfettered self-assurance. Tried-and-true IFBB Pro Tricky Jackson with his stage presence and new size is one to watch, as is rookie IFBB Pro Daryl Gee with his shape and current momentum for being an out-of-nowhere rising star.

Returning to the Olympia 202 Showdown, IFBB Pro Jason Arntz (with 6-time Mr. Olympia IFBB Pro Dorian Yates' prep advice), and IFBB Pro Charles Dixon, with his super-thick mass, will be battling for placings, alongside first-timer IFBB Pro Eduardo Correa with his newly added mass, nice-guy IFBB Pro Mark Dugdale and back-on-the-scene IFBB Pro Stan McQuay.

In 2009, many expect Joe Weider's Olympia Weekend to be an exciting show - with the anticipation surrounding the "Open-Door Opportunity" in the Open Division, and the opportunity to see the quality physiques populating the 202 Division.

Every competitor is bringing something different to the stage. Some have history, hope or help on their sides. They have a past win, a prayer or a pro trainer. But anything can happen. When the dust settles, we'll see who takes advantage of the opportunity and walks out the door with a Sandow trophy -- a prize claimed by the likes of IFBB Pro Larry Scott, IFBB Pro Sergio Oliva, IFBB Pro Arnold Schwarzenegger, IFBB Pro Frank Zane, IFBB Pro Samir Bannout, IFBB Pro Franco Columbu, IFBB Pro Lee Haney, IFBB Pro Ronnie Coleman and IFBB Pro Dorian Yates. Who will be the next IFBB Pro card-carrying legend? Stay tuned to "Andrew Oye's Pro-Muscle Report," for his journey will be chronicled here.

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