Over the past few years I’ve started to take real interest in bodybuilding. And whilst I’m on the fence as to whether I’ll personally compete in the discipline, it is something that I enjoy watching others compete in.
I certainly wouldn’t class myself as an expert rather, an ambassador. I would however like to put pen to paper on my thoughts on this weekend’s proceedings.
This weekend saw the biggest bodybuilding event of the year hosted in Las Vegas, Nevada; the 2017 Mr Olympia contest.
The first Mr Olympia contest was held in 1965 and has been held every year since. Despite this year being the 52nd year of running, only 13 men have ever won the Sandow trophy.
The 70s were dominated by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the 80s by Lee Haney, the 90s by Dorian Yates and the 00s by Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler.
Recently though, it has been Phil Heath who has dominated bodybuilding, winning the last 6 Mr Olympia contests.
This year he was in search of number 7, putting him equal with the Austrian Oak, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
With the absence of Kai Greene, the previous two contests have been anything but close with Phil dwarfing his opponents in almost all poses.
Despite the subdued build up to this year’s competition, many anticipated it could be Heath’s toughest competition to date.
The main threat to his title being Mamdouh Elssbiay or Big Ramy as he’s more popularly known. Of course, the evergreen Dexter Jackson and Shawn “Flexatron” Rhoden would also be there to keep Phil company in first callouts.
Friday night saw the competitors go head-to-head in pre-judging.
Each competitor completed their individual routines and were then called-out in groups for the comparison rounds.
There were no real surprises as Phil Heath was joined by Shawn Rhoden, Big Ramy, Dexter Jackson, William Bonac and Brandon Curry.
Those who make 4th callout are usually in contention for the 4th, 5th and 6th places. This year it was Shawn Rhoden, Roelly Winklaar, Dexter Jackson, Brandon Curry and Nathan De Asha who were fighting for top 6.
Finally, the judges brought out Heath, Ramy and William Bonac for the 5th callout. These were to be the top 3.
Each of the three competitors spent time at centre stage. Big Ramy was the most imposing, weighing in at over 300lbs.
Bonac was arguably the most conditioned. His physique flowed superbly from all angles.
Heath once again showed why he has been so dominant over the last few years. Each body part ‘popped’, especially from the back. His back double bicep once again proved extremely tough to beat.
One area that Heath has been criticised for in the past is his stomach. The distended gut is something that has plagued bodybuilding since the late 90s. Heath himself has struggled to control his mid-section over the past few years and this year proved no different.
The mid-sections of Big Ramy and William Bonac looked tight, as did those over Roelly Winklaar, Brandon Curry and Nathan De Asha in 4th Callout.
Arnold Schwazenneger himself has criticized bodybuilders of today, comparing their physiques to a ‘bottle’. He has encouraged judges to favour the more aesthetic and narrow-waisted bodybuilders.
Many had speculated that the judges would mark-down competitors displaying the ‘bubble gut bonanza’ as Lui Marco has described it!
Nonetheless, we went into Saturday’s finals, knowing that Phil Heath was well-placed to win his 7th Olympia title.
On Saturday night, the top 10 competitors were brought back onto the stage, for some final comparisons and the ever popular posedown.
Following their individual routines, the competitors were lined up side-by-side to confirm the placings.
The top 3 from pre-judging were joined by Dexter Jackson and Shawn Rhoden to form the top 5.
I, amongst others was surprised not to see either Brandon curry or Nathan De Asha reach the top 5.
The centre stage was largely occupied by Phil and Big Ramy as it was quickly turning into a two horse race for the Sandow.
Following the posedown, the top 5 results were announced.
Shawn Rhoden was handed the 5th place cheque, Dexter Jackson was given 4th and William Bonac was given 3rd.
Presenter Bob Cicherillo then brought out Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to present the 2017 Sandow trophy and the cheque for $400,000 to Mr Olympia 2017.
After a lengthy build up, The Rock announced Phil Heath as the winner, giving Big Ramy the second-place cheque for $150,000.
The major talking point this year is without a doubt the distended gut and it’s place in bodybuilding today.
Whilst last year Phil Heath seemed to have more control over his midsection (following some criticism from 2015), this year was a different story.
It looked very clear from most of the poses that Heath (amongst others) were displaying a distended gut.
For me, this does negatively affect the flow and aesthetics of a physique. I for one would certainly favour those with a tighter mid-section.
This then begs the question, how should athletes with a distended gut be penalised?
Should they simply be dropped out of the top 6 altogether? Should they simply be marked down on symmetry or aesthetics?
It poses an interesting talking point because minus the mid-section, Phil heath was once again superior in several areas including conditioning.
Nonetheless, as an ambassador of bodybuilding I believe the IFBB had an opportunity to make a real statement by handing the 1st place to Big Ramy, who was undoubtedly a worthy winner on the day.
I also think it’s worth mentioning Brandon Curry who had made the most significant improvements of any of the competitors onstage. He placed 8th on the day which I feel was at least 3 places too low.
There were no surprises in the 212 category as Flex Lewis won his 6th title.
The Classic Physique competition is quickly becoming my favourite division. It was Breon Ansley who deservedly took first place.
The physiques on display were hugely impressive, especially those of 2nd place Chris Bumstead, 4th place Arash rahbar and 6th place Terrence Ruffin.
The Men’s Physique competition was once again won by Jeremy Buendia. Very few could argue this as Buendia is quickly becoming the blueprint of men’s physique.
Brit Ryan Terry was unfortunately unable to repeat last year’s performance. This may be a reflection of the state of men’s physique competitions these days as the athletes seem to be getting bigger and bigger.
All-in-all it was an enjoyable competition to watch. I certainly think we’ll see the IFBB make some changes over the next 12 months in a hope to breathe life back into the discipline of bodybuilding.
What did you think of the 2017 Mr Olympia contest? Do you agree with my thoughts? Let me know in the comments section below.
Image credit: By IFBB, via Wikimedia Commons