Over the past few months, Jay has really stepped things up and I, for one, wasn’t totally convinced he was really going to compete. Jay and I had gotten together early in the year, but what I had envisioned for his off-season and what he was able to commit to were at opposite ends, so we decided it would be best if Jay went his own way this time around. Jay was only really able to commit to the program in June, but once he started eating and bulking, I don’t think he’s ever stopped. I’m impressed with the size he’s put on since that time. He’s now thrown back into this battle, bringing up the Phil vs. Jay scenario everyone loves to see. We also have Branch Warren returning to the lineup with a full year of rest, recuperation, and training under his belt. He could show up in some of his best shape to date. Last year’s third place finisher, Shawn Rhoden, returns as well, trying to solidify his claim on one of the top spots.
Even with all of these top veteran Olympia contenders coming to the show with something to prove, we have not talked about the X-factor that could tear the lineup apart. I’m speaking of Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay, coming of his 2013 New York Pro win. Though many were impressed, no one is touting him as a threat to the top spots and definitely not looking at him to win. Again, this is where I draw parallels to 1998. Although Ronnie and Ramy are two completely different physiques, they both have freakish muscle. And just as Ronnie went into the 1998 Mr. Olympia under the radar, so is Big Ramy. Even though Ramy has to really put things together and come in incredible shape to shake things up and knock Phil from his throne, he’s just now tapping into his potential the same as Ronnie in 1998.
Another similarity is that the majority of experts feel Big Ramy is unproven against seasoned, top veterans in the Olympia, as was the case with Ronnie. They feel there is no way he can just pop into the Olympia and push the likes of Phil, Kai, Jay, Branch, etc. In 1998, the experts felt there was no way Ronnie could go from 9th place in the 1997 Mr. Olympia to breaking the top spots in 1998, let alone win the entire show.
“The one you least expect is the one you need to worry about the most.” We’ve all heard this expression, and in 1998 I used it many times. When I told athletes and experts that Ronnie was the one who was going to surprise everyone, it didn’t seem to matter or sink in.
After receiving pics from him, I knew Flex wasn’t behind in his prep when I checked in with him approximately six weeks out. Flex was very comfortable with where he was in his prep and he knew he was on track to repeat the Arnold conditioning and felt this would be enough to win the Mr. Olympia. This is where I see the similarity with the situation Big Ramy faces going into the Olympia. When you look at the battle for 2013, you have Kai, who, is definitely focused on Phil, and both Kai and George Farah feel that Kai should’ve won last year, and that by Kai making improvements during the past year it will be enough to beat Phil.
Phil, I believe, is focusing the same way. Kai is the person that pushed him last year, so he’s the one to focus on this year and that as long as he brings in the conditioning he brought to the stage in 2011, no one will be able to beat him. From there we have Jay: He’s basically chasing the champ. He’s looking at the Jay/Phil rematch and he has to beat Phil to walk away with the Sandow once again. But as a veteran, I feel Jay is open to the possibility that someone like Big Ramy could come with crazy conditioning and his freaky size and dominate. Jay knows as Ronnie did this in 1998 and Jay did it before, nearly beating Ronnie in 2001.
So, by discounting Big Ramy, no one is taking into consideration his incredible size and thickness. And the NY Pro was his first pro show, so he’s not even close to his potential. This kid is young, hungry, and ready to do what he has to do to make it to the top of the sport. Size is his wow factor, and if he’s improved his conditioning, this combination could throw him into the mix. History repeats time and time again so it’ll be interesting to see if 2013 is the year for this to happen. - FLEX