Bodybuilding requires faith, and here we take a giant leap of faith to speculate on the destination of the 2017 Sandow.
Ah, September and Las Vegas. That time of year when Sin City is dominated by exotically enhanced creatures sporting every kind of physical extreme as they, adorned by body and face paint but not a lot of clothing, present their weird and esoteric talents of varying levels in front of a beguiled audience. But forget about Cirque du Soleil—we’re here to check out the 53rd rendition of Joe Weider’s Olympia Weekend being staged in Las Vegas from Sept. 14 to 17.
OK, the brief was to do an Olympic preview. Well, the formal tale-of-the-tape treatment can be boring and doesn’t really hit the spot. OK, he’s 250 pounds, but 250 pounds of what? There’s the alternative of collating prediction quotes from the Mr. Olympia class of 2017.
Yeah, yawn…get ready for this repetitive quote: “This is my best prep ever, and I will be in the best shape of my life. #If I do well it’s down to me. #If I don’t it’s down to my guru.”
Time to get out my crystal ball (a consequence of an overly ambitious leap over a bicycle crossbar), and, as in keeping with the current vogue of treating everything as a reality show (especially things that aren’t real), here’s that leap of faith offering a fictional account of the climax of this year’s Mr. Olympia.
THE GATHERING STORM
On Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, the Mr. Olympia contenders assembled in the Ballroom at Orleans Hotel, Las Vegas, for the press conference. All summer, the possibility of Kai Greene entering the show had ricocheted around like the marbles in Kim Jong-un’s head. Greene, a three-time Mr. Olympia runner-up, hadn’t competed since his appearance at the 2014 Olympia, where that infamous in-your-face confrontation with champion Phil Heath took place. Would Greene show? All 22 competitors were introduced to the audience, the final one being Phil Heath. Emcee Bob Cicherillo, who could give lessons in suspense to Alfred Hitchcock, boomed into the microphone, “And now, ladies and gentlemen, our final competitor…special invitee Kai Greene!”
The audience went nuts. I’ve never heard such hullabaloo since the Firehouse in Venice said it had run out of chicken breasts. A seated Phil Heath shot a rueful smile toward Dexter Jackson, who just rolled his eyes.
As the dust settled, Bob’s first question was to Phil: “So your reaction to Kai competing?”
The response: “The more the merrier—isn’t going to affect the outcome.”
Bob to Kai: “Where you been, bro?”
With a sphinxlike smile Kai replied: “I’ve been busy, real busy.”
Bob asked the question of Kai everyone wanted to ask: “So are you going to win this show?”
In laconic fashion Kai drawled, “You’ll have to wait until Friday night [pre-judging] to begin.”
In fact, after numerous questions back and forth between Kai and Phil, they both took the same view: Wait until pre-judging. The usually verbose and meandering Kai was as talkative as a Trappist monk. Compared with the pyrotechnics at the 2014 press conference, this had all the combustion of a senior-citizen knitting circle, and certainly less needle.
After the Kai/Phil interaction, Shawn Rhoden, last year’s runner-up, cracked the same joke he had a few years ago: “It’s a great opportunity to take part in the Phil-and-Kai show.”
Dexter Jackson guaranteed that he would once again be flying the flag for symmetry and condition and was confident that, at his heaviest body weight ever [242 pounds], he could prevail among the valley of the giants.
No longer constrained to speaking through an interpreter, Big Ramy, in a cheerful mood, stated that he would be at his sharpest ever. Which, if true, could be pretty ominous, as at the 2016 Olympia he was slightly off at the pre-judging, but at the Saturday finals he sharpened up so much that if he had replicated that on the Friday, his ultimate placing might have been second rather than fourth.
The resurgent Brandon Curry was asked about the proverbial anabolic chicken reared by the Oxygen Gym in Kuwait, where he did most of his prep. Mischievously, he answered, “The chicken isn’t the secret…it’s their eggs.” Which puts a whole new spin on what comes first, the chicken or the egg, as in Curried eggs.
So after an exhibition of hot air that would rival a balloon convention, all that really mattered was what transpired at the pre-judging, which would take place at 9 p.m. the following night.
For the sake of brevity, this narrative of Friday night’s pre-judging will include only references to those who stood out.
William Bonac was even gnarlier than he had been in finishing fifth last year. His cuts were deeper than a Chilean miner.
Nathan De Asha from the U.K. was improved from last year, rounder and denser and as dry as a Prohibition-era taproom.
Brandon Curry walked out, and the collective gasp from the audience was so huge oxygen masks fell from the roof. He was 250 pounds of striated full and conditioned muscle.
Last year Shawn Rhoden was cut and full. This year, he seemed a few pounds heavier but just as sharp, and thicker in the chest and back where he needed to be. Obviously he had enjoyed a very productive 12 months and continues to improve.
Kai Greene walked out, and the place went as nuts as some think the man himself is. He displayed a sleek waist, while his back, chest, arms, and legs fought for space on his frame, and he was fuller and harder than a hanging judge’s heart. This was his best ever look.
What to say about Big Ramy? He’s like a Hummer competing against Volkswagens. He replicated or exceeded his Saturday night form of a year ago. He was dry and deeply separated and looked a bit more balanced, if maybe a little lighter. He was another who produced his best.
Victor Martinez was in his best shape for several years. His quads were full and cut, and his overall condition was excellent.
Cedric McMillan came out and was more conditioned (without a loss of fullness) than he’s ever been. At 290 pounds, he rivaled Ramy for size and hit his old- school shots with impact and vengeance. No man has ever won the Olympia at his third attempt. Tonight was Cedric’s third attempt?
You can give Dexter Jackson no higher compliment than saying Dexter Jackson looked like Dexter Jackson, only bigger than 2016. He was sliced, diced, full from head to toe, and ready for war.
Roelly Winklaar, whose smile makes the Cheshire cat look like a miserable bastard, waltzed on carrying more muscle than a tug-of-war team. His midsection was under control, and he was full and “on.”
And then it happened. Phil Heath walked out and was at least the equal of his phenomenal 2011 first Olympia win. He was sharp and dry, which enhanced his 3-D muscularity (he has detailed muscle in places some people don’t have places) even more. Looking back over his shoulder, he gave a “Yeah, baby” nod as he hit the back double biceps, and like the closing of Kim Kardashian’s writing school, that is all she wrote…I think.
The aforementioned 11 were (unlike the paucity of such things in previous years) all in contest condition. (A statement you can get away with in a reality/ fantasy report, but a girl can dream, can’t she?) OK, readers, I’ve taken you up to the starting line, and, sorry, but like an inept trapeze partner, I’m now going to leave you hanging.