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Alternative Olympia History

Seven dream scenarios for bodybuilding's ultimate contest.

Alternate history asks the question: What would have happened if ______ had occurred? For example, in the movie Inglourious Basterds, the Nazis lose early, while in the novel and TV show The Man in the High Castle, those same villains win and rule America. Unlike those plots, we won’t ponder the fate of humanity. Instead, we’ll hack into the history of bodybuilding’s ultimate contest and make some edits. As we approach the 52nd Mr. Olympia, we present seven alternate scenarios that would dramatically change the Olympia record books.


After his controversial loss to Arnold in ’72, three-time Mr. O (1967–69) Sergio Oliva spent most of his best years off the Olympia stage only to return when he was past his prime. What if the Myth had entered the O from ’73 to ’81 when he was 32 to 40? Arnold beats him again in 1973 and 1974. (Sergio nearly fights Arnold onstage in ’74. Lou Ferrigno intervenes.) We still debate those results. The titans clash for the sixth time on an Olympia stage in 1975. Arnold wins again, but Pumping Iron captures the crowd bellowing its disapproval. The 1977 documentary makes the Myth a superstar as big as Arnold.

In 1976, it’s been seven years since the popular underdog won a contest. With Arnold retired, he beats Franco Columbu that year and Frank Zane the next year. Overconfident, he comes in smooth in ’78 and loses to Zane, but he takes his crown back in ’79. Arnold and Sergio are then tied with a record six O titles, and there are rumors Arnold will jump into the ’80 Olympia. He doesn’t. Sergio wins. And he three-peats in ’81. With nothing left to prove, the Myth retires. Today, Oliva, Haney, and Ronnie Coleman share the record for most O victories (eight). Oliva has two more Olympia titles than Arnold, but he lost to his rival the last six times they dueled. People still debate who was better.


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