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THE OLYMPIA 202 SHOWDOWN: 9/27/08 10:30 am


At the Las Vegas Convention Center, during the Olympia Weekend Expo, there was a battle of epic proportions '" proportions being the operative word. Bodybuilders who are smaller in stature but not heart or muscle warred like giants for the title of champion of the Olympia's inaugural 202 Showdown.

The competitors, who weigh 202 pounds or less, pre-qualified at 202 Division contests at the various pro shows throughout the year. They included:

Top 3 Finishers:
David Henry, 5'5", 202 lbs., was crowned the 1st place champion. He's a crossover competitor who also faced off with the big boys at the main Mr. Olympia contest (where he would finish 15th).  Henry overwhelmed his competitors in the 202 Showdown with his mountainous Most Muscular pose and top-notch conditioning that resulted in striated glutes that feathered all the way up through his hips. Though there was a technical difficulty with his posing music, the routing was salvaged by the fact that he nearly did a full split on stage.

Kevin English, 5'4", 202 lbs., 2nd place, is another crossover competitor in the Mr. Olympia contest (where he would place 16th) Flexing at the previous night's prejudging for the Mr O. must have helped, because definition was deeply cut into all the muscles on his body. "Beef and nails" with an invisible waist on an ABC (Aesthetic Bodybuilders Club) member. He also does a nice Victory pose a la Sergio Oliva.

James "Flex" Lewis, 5'5", 198 lbs., 3rd place, has big delts in his Most Muscular pose. Flex possesses great leg development and incredible calves. He made it a point to show off his striated glutes several times during his routine.

The remaining Top 6 Placers (in alphabetical order):
Jason Arntz, 5'5", 202 lbs., rolled in the joint on thick wheels. He has an impressive V-taper and etched abs on a tight midsection. He could use glute striations, but the guy knows how to hit the perfect smile on each pose, making it appear he's having fun.

George Farah, 5'6", 200 lbs., has been competing as a pro for eight years. He appeared lean, but a tad more thickness in the back and shape in the shoulders might have made him more memorable.

Rashid "Roc" Shabazz, 5'5", 202, wisely utilized his connections to have 8-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman, in a surprise appearance, escort him to the stage "Rocky-Balboa-style." When he removed his boxer's robe, he revealed a super-dense physique.

In a major slight, one of my new favorite bodybuilders personality-wise, for the way he handled my interview at the Meet the Olympians event, Charles Ray Arde was not part of the first Call Out or the Top 6. This, despite appearing massive, with tremendous calves and glute-hamstring tie-ins. Other honorable mentions include: Tricky Jackson (great quads; incredible, exciting posing) and Jaroslav Horvath (good V-taper; nice, classic posing).

All in all, the so-called "little men" put on a big show, setting the stage for a likely return of this new event at future Olympia Weekends.

MR. OLYMPIA FINALS: 9/27/08 7:00 pm

By Andrew Oye

September 27, 2008 marks the 10th consecutive year that the Olympia has been held in Las Vegas, and the first contest in 14 years where 8-time champ Ronnie Coleman was not a competitor in the Mr. Olympia contest.

The show opened with usual pomp and circumstance. Host Bob Cicherillo launched into speeches about champions and valor and whatnot. After all, the theme for the 2008 Olympia Weekend was "Where Legends Are Made." Indeed a legendary, and according to some '" long-overdue, moment was made when Dexter Jackson was crowned Mr. Olympia.

A contest that had come to be known as a Giant's Territory or a Mass Monster's Domain had, finally, recognized a member of the ABC (Aesthetic Bodybuilders Club) again. With certain faces (and bodies) missing from the lineup, the event seemed poised to bring about change. With the lingering vapor of change in the air, given the constant reference to the concept in the upcoming presidential election, it seems both the nation at large and the bodybuilding nation are ready for change.

The arena's big screens featured cool, hardcore, music-video-style clips that displayed the personalities of the competitors and introduced each athlete as he took to the stage.

Red seemed to be the color of the night. The stage was set with backlighting that illuminated big letters that spelled OLYMPIA with a fiery glow. About half of the competitors wore posing trunks in various shades of red, perhaps representing the blood shed to make it to the Big Show; meanwhile, sweat and tears rolled off their bodies under the heat of the stage lights and the press toward victory.

The blood, sweat and tears were all poured into the routines that were performed that night. Highlights included: Darrem Charles dazzled with his usual grace during his classy routine. Marvelous Melvin Anthony put on a pulse-pounding routine that included his signature "Matrix-style" backbend. Big Sergey Shelestov did a full split in his posing routine. Phil Heath did numerous fist pumps to rile up the crowd. Navy vet Leo Ingram ended his routine with a salute. Kevin English, Ronny Rockel and Dennis Wolf all opened their routines with sweeping, heroic, film-soundtrack style music. With a smile, Jay Cutler ended his routine with a clip of the song "Three is a Magic Number" '" a hint about a possible "three-peat" performance?

Following the crowning of Jennifer Gates as Ms. Figure Olympia, the fans got the answer to the burning question. Was change possible? Could there be a shift back to rewarding the ABC physique?

After nearly a decade of pounding at Joe Weider's door, opportunity finally answered and she had a Sandow with Dexter's name on it in her hands. At 5'6", 235 lbs., Dexter "The Blade" Jackson was crowned 2008 Mr. Olympia. Jackson defeated a field of 18 other competitors '" only three of which (English, Henry, Rockel) were shorter and weighed less than him (note: Samuel weighs less but is slightly taller). The land of slain giants included 5'9", 270-pound, two-time champ and incumbent title-holder Jay Cutler, who placed  2nd in the big show. Crowd favorite Phil "The Gift" Heath finished 3rd at his Olympia debut.

The remaining Top 6 roster included Germany's Dennis Wolf in 4th place, USA's Toney Freeman in 5th place and USA's Melvin Anthony in 6th place. 

Prior to the show, many forecasters and fans had predicted that Cutler would take the crown for a third consecutive time, for no other reason than the formulaic, ritualistic pattern of "re-crowning" incumbents regardless of other competitors' physical reflection of, or resemblance to, the ideal male bodybuilder physique. Following a dominance of diehard mass that lasted 16 years, (through the reigns of Yates, Coleman and Cutler), Jackson represents the first Mr. Olympia in 23 years to weigh less than 250 pounds since Lee Haney.

In his acceptance speech, Jackson thanked his parents who had never been to the event before and for giving him the genetics that made him a champion.

Here's my final analysis.

Jay Cutler displayed better conditioning than he did last year, yet something about his physique reads as hulking and cumbersome. For my taste, Toney Freeman and Dennis Wolf possess ABC physiques with a flow that reads as imposing yet refined. It's a distinct structure with action-figure proportions: broad, round-capped shoulders; full, delineated pecs; narrow waists decorated with rippled abs. In profile, their upper and middle back thickness protrude, forming a sway in the lower back that is further enhanced by bulbous glutes, strong haunches with flaring quads.

These are the athletes one wants to see in tights and a cape with an S (or, in Toney's case, an X) on their chests. These are superheroes. The prototypes for the action-hero toys you grew up with. The model for the Sandow trophy that is the ultimate prize of their sport.

Indeed, the height of Freeman and Wolf adds to this combo of svelte frame with swollen muscle in just the right places. Yet, Phil Heath, Dexter Jackson and Silvio Samuel represent a somewhat similar ideal bodybuilder physique in more compact packages.

That is why these men rank high among bodybuilding's best. They are the now and the next, the future of the Muscle Stage. One shouldn't begrudge any champion his title. For that night, he earned it.  But on a new night, in a new time, when a new man emerges with the new standard, gladly step aside and allow him to take his victory throne'