The USAs Greatest Hits

The fireworks are about to explode with the summer blockbuster of the year: promoter Jon Lindsay’s 2013 NPC USA Bodybuilding, Figure, Bikini, and Men’s and Women’s Physique Championships.

#1 Phil Heath: 2005 Heavyweight and Overall

In 2003, Jay Cutler, the second-best bodybuilder in the world and featured guest poser at the NPC Northern Colorado Championships, met a 190-pound basketball player - turned-bodybuilder named Phil Heath. Impressed with the 23-year-old’s potential, Cutler kept in touch, and two years later, as Heath was winning the heavyweight and overall titles at the 2005 NPC Junior Nationals and stirring up a buzz, Cutler e-mailed photos of Heath to then FLEX editor-in-chief Peter McGough.The buzz grew and grew, and soon Heath, the most talked about amateur since Flex Wheeler in the early ’90s, was given a prestigious Weider Publications contract — despite the fact that he hadn’t hit a single pose at a national-level pro qualifier. At the 2005 USA, with all eyes on the Gift, it was a landslide victory for Heath as he delivered on the hype and then some, coming in hard and dry with the confidence of a seasoned veteran. Three years after starting serious bodybuilding training, the heavyweight and overall trophies and the pro card were his. The rookie pro didn’t waste any time, winning his debut at the 2006 Colorado Pro and, a week later, the New York Pro, and qualifying for the Olympia. He skipped it that year, and in 2007, he finished fifth at the Arnold Classic.Taking time off to add the needed torso and leg mass, Heath was once again the talk of the bodybuilding world after a dominating win at the 2008 Ironman Pro in late February. Only a best-ever Dexter Jackson was able to stop him two weeks later at the Arnold Classic. Later that September, Heath placed third in his Olympia debut. After a disappointing fifth place at the 2009 Olympia, he came roaring back in 2010 and placed a controversial second at both the Arnold Classic and the Olympia. The following year, Heath focused solely on the Olympia, and on the night of Sept. 17, his yearlong commitment resulted in the sport’s highest achievement: the Sandow trophy.On the night of his USA victory, Heath may not have been as complete as Wheeler and Cormier, nor did he sport the brute thickness of James or exhibit the flair and showmanship of Anthony. But in the six years since turning pro, Heath has transformed his physique like no one before him. Following last year’s Olympia prejudging, Cormier proclaimed him the new Mr. Olympia, and Wheeler, stunned into momentary speechlessness, said, “This is something new and far beyond what anyone has done before.” Heath is the only USA champion—and only the 13th man in the Olympia’s 46-year history—to distinguish himself as Mr. Olympia.

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