In 1983 a young Lee Haney entered bodybuilding’s biggest show, Joe Weider’s Mr. Olympia, with the wind at his (ample) back. He had placed first at the previous year’s NPC Junior Nationals, NPC Nationals, and the World Amateur Championships. Then he added pro wins at the IFBB Night of Champions and Las Vegas Grand Prix, leaving people eager to find out how the surging rookie would perform at the O. But instead of being relegated to the ranks of first-time failures, Haney’s muscularity and stage presence helped him outperform some of the sport’s most revered competitors, giving him a surprising third-place finish in his Olympia debut.
But Haney wasn’t as impressed as everyone else. He set out to remedy the mistakes of his first Olympia prep season and roared to the first of his record eight straight titles the following year. He managed to log improvements each year during that run, redefining the judging criteria and putting the Sandow further out of reach for the rest of the field.
It probably goes without saying that he knows a bit about what it takes to flex your way to the top spot. Here’s a hint: It’s not just about full pecs and hanging lats.
“You have to have confidence,” Haney says. “You’ve got to be willing to work hard and to make sure that no one is doing more than you in the gym or being more disciplined than you out of the gym. You have to determine in your heart that you’re going to be a good ambassador with the success that you achieve. Then you’ve got to be smart and use the science that’s available. Some of these up-and-coming guys call on some guru who’s never won anything and listen to that guy.”
We tasked the most decorated Mr. O with evaluating this year’s qualified field and levying his predictions on how the top six will shake out.
“The stage is set for an awesome Olympia this year,” he says. “Plenty of tapering waists, no big bellies on stage. It’s gonna be great.”
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