Spring is here and for the bodybuilding world that can mean only one thing, the Arnold baby! The spring classic is the fi rst contest on the IFBB Pro League’s 2013 calendar, and it’s fi tting for two reasons: 1) it’s the Arnold Classic’s 25th anniversary and, 2) with defending champion Branch Warren and others sitting out, it’s a wide-open race for one of the sport’s most prestigious titles.
Yes, believe it or not, it was way back in 1989 when bodybuilding’s prodigal son, Arnold Schwarzenegger, teamed up with promoter extraordinaire Jim Lorimer to bring his namesake contest to life. The inaugural winner was Rich “the Dragonslayer” Gaspari and through the years, from Flex Wheeler’s stunning 1993 physique, to Ronnie Coleman’s win in 2001 (the first Mr. Olympia to hold the sport’s two biggest titles in the same calendar year), to Jay Cutler’s three-year reign from 2002–04 and the ascension of Kai Greene in 2009, the Arnold Classic has contributed more than its fair share of memorable moments to the annals of the sport. And the Arnold Fitness Expo, jam-packed with vendors, a variety of sports competitions, and an ocean of fans, makes the entire Arnold Sports Festival Weekend one of the industry’s premier events.
This year, a host of challengers will try to join the list of past champions. One of the front-runners, based on his stellar year-ending 2012 performance (fourth place at the Mr. Olympia and a win at the Masters Olympia), is veteran Dexter Jackson. The 43-year-old has defied the laws of physics and turned back the clock with a physique reminiscent of his banner year in 2008, when he won the Arnold Classic (his third) and the Mr. Olympia. A fourth win here will tie Jackson with Flex Wheeler for most Arnold titles. Last year’s New York Pro winner Cedric McMillan (in his AC debut) is generating plenty of pre-contest buzz and, if he comes in shape, could present a host of problems for the lineup. Two other veterans, Toney Freeman and Johnnie Jackson, rejuvenated their careers last year as well and will be looking to carry that momentum into 2013. Canadian giants Ben Pakulski and Fouad Abiad are hungrier than ever, and a major win will catapult them to the next level. Add Ed Nunn, Hidetada Yamagishi, and others and you have a major league opener for 2013.
Team AMI/Weider experts Dennis James, Chad Nicholls, and Fakhri Mubarak give us their take on whom to watch and who might surprise us all before the night is over at the 2013 Arnold Classic.