Is this year's Olympia the greatest ever?
September 9, 2009
We've been saying it all year long and with the loaded lineup at the 2009 Mr. Olympia on September 25-26, can you blame us? Take a peek at this year's headliners: Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath, Jay Cutler, Dennis Wolf, Kai Greene, Victor Martinez, Branch Warren, Toney Freeman, Melvin Anthony, Silvio Samuel, Dennis James - all pro show winners. Talk about deep!
If everybody hits their mark, there can be little argument that this will go down as the greatest ever. Of course every generation says that so we've compiled a list of what we think are the best Olympia lineups of all-time based on depth and quality of the competitors, star power and overall significance of the show. Check it out and then ask yourself this question: Where does this year's lineup fit in?
#4 ... 1985
(Haney reigns supreme and Gaspari sets the tone)
It was a changing of the guard as veterans stood shoulder to shoulder with the new generation. For his first title defense, eventual eight-time Mr. O Lee Haney emerged with a significantly bigger physique but maybe more memorable was the Olympia debut of Rich Gaspari, who finished third and changed the game with striated glutes and a level of conditioning as yet unseen. Also, making their first Olympia splash were Mike Christian (5th) and Berry DeMey (6th). Add veterans Albert Beckles (2nd), Mohammed Makkawy (4th), Tom Platz (7th) and Sergio Oliva (8th) for a star-studded lineup.
#3 ... 1972
(Schwarzenegger and Oliva wage war)
There were only six men in the show but four of them would finish their careers as multiple Mr. O's: Arnold Schwarzenegger with seven, Sergio Oliva and Frank Zane with three a piece and Franco Columbu with two. But the true headline of this show was the epic battle between defending champ and then two-time Mr. O Schwarzenegger and former three-timer Oliva, in the shape of his life. To this day, many agree that Schwarzenegger barely squeaked by with the win. Third through fifth went to Nubret, Zane and Columbu.
#2 ... 1993
(Yates and Wheeler, a study in contrast)
257 pounds of grainy, granite muscle. That's what Dorian Yates brought to the table to win his second Sandow and usher in the era of the mass monsters. At the opposite end of the spectrum with perhaps the sport's most aesthetic physique was Flex Wheeler, capping off a sensational rookie year with runner-up in his inaugural O. Shawn Ray (who would end his career with 13 consecutive top five Olympia finishes), Lee Labrada (who would place no lower than fourth in all seven of his Olympia appearances), Kevin Levrone (eventually tied with Jay Cutler for most Olympia runner-up finishes with four), Paul Dillett and Charles Clairmonte rounded out spots three through seven.
#1 ... 1998
(1998 signaled the beginning of a dynasty for Coleman)
With six-time Mr. Olympia Yates retired, it was a wide open race to fill the vacated throne and although there were plenty of names being thrown around as possible successors, Ronnie Coleman was not one of them. The full-time police officer from Arlington, Texas, was scarcely an afterthought in the wake of such names as Wheeler, Levrone, Ray, Nasser El Sonbaty and Chris Cormier. But Coleman showed up big, dry and hard, shocking the bodybuilding world with a come-from-behind upset win over runner-up Wheeler to start his eight year reign as the greatest bodybuilder in the world. El Sonbaty, Levrone, Ray and Cormier finished third through sixth, respectively.