WHEELER VS. COLEMAN Eleven to one—that was the dominating record of Flex Wheeler over Ronnie Coleman before the 1998 Mr. Olympia. It dated back to the 1991 NPC USA Championships (Wheeler was the second-place heavyweight; Coleman was 14th), and it continued in the IFBB Pro League, over and over and over again all the way up to and including Wheeler’s win at the 1997 Arnold Classic. A rivalry started to form in 1996 when Coleman finally beat Wheeler at the Canada Cup, but their one-two finish that day was followed by one-two finishes with Wheeler on top the following two Saturdays. And it seemed everything was in its natural order again. After Dorian Yates’ retirement, Flex Wheeler was the odds-on favorite to win the ’98 Olympia. That’s when Coleman turned the tables on the man who had beaten him 11 times, taking the Sandow and relegating Wheeler to second. Coleman stayed on top for eight consecutive Olympias. Wheeler was runner-up to Coleman three times in 1999, including the Olympia, and third to him at the 2000 Olympia. After losing to Wheeler 11 out of 12 times over the first seven years, during the final five years, the man who went on to win eight Sandows never lost to him again.
ZANE VS. COLUMBU Call it apple versus orange. Frank Zane, a professorial American, represented the slighter but aesthetic ideal, while Franco Columbu, an earthy Sardinian, was his stocky counterpart. Their duels date back to the 1969 Mr. World, when 5'9" Zane won themedium class and overall while 5'5" Columbu was second in the short class, and those placings were repeated in the next year’s Mr. Universe. In 1972, they filled out the bottom slots of this legendary five-man lineup with Zane ahead of Columbu again. Then in their final three contests, Columbu reversed the tables in the new Mr. Olympia lightweight class, which he won in 1974, 1975, and 1976, beating Zane each time. In 1976, the closely matched competitors finished one-two among five “lights” with Columbu going on to take the Olympia overall. They somehow avoided ever facing each other again, even as Zane won the next three Olympias and Columbu returned in 1981 to (controversially) earn his second Sandow. Still, their feud has simmered and sometimes boiled ever since. In recent years, Zane denigrated Columbu’s physique, while Columbu boasted that he beat Zane “10 or 20 times.” Check the scoreboard, Franco. Fittingly, this one is forever locked up at three-three.
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