This was my second Olympia, and it felt totally different from my first. Last year, nobody cared about me. I was unknown, so I could just enjoy it. This time there was pressure. Some people were rooting for me to do well; others wanted to see me fail.
I had done a guest spot in Northern Ireland a few weeks earlier, and a few people told me I wasn’t in shape and was too far behind. I also put pressure on myself to do better.
When I arrived in Las Vegas, I was pleased with my progress. I had made the gains I wanted in my quads, hams, and back. People noticed them. Coming into the show, I was dry—but I wanted to bring that full look because it was the Olympia, where size counts.
When I got the second callout during pre-judging, I knew I could have been anywhere from fourth to 10th. I was nervous at first, but as they moved us around during the comparisons, I saw others fade while I got stronger. I always seem to get stronger during contests. At the finals on Saturday, I relaxed and took things in stride.
To finish seventh at the Olympia is amazing. A lot of people told me I should have gotten top five, but I proved I could hang with the best, and I’m moving in the right direction. Every time you see me, I’ve improved. Last year I was 12th. All I have to do to get into the top four or five is to bring 10% more. Last year I think I improved by 30%, so I don’t see why I can’t bring another 10%. Everything is balanced now. Maybe I need a little more back thickness. If I can do that, I’ll be in the top five.
There was some talk about whether Phil Heath should have won. As far as I’m concerned, Phil is a worthy champion. It was lights-out. Nobody could stand near him.
A week after the Olympia I came in fifth at the Arnold Classic Europe. It was my first Arnold, and I was sharp. I believe I should have been third. Shawn Rhoden’s chest and back weren’t there, and my front lat spread and front double biceps took him out. I also felt I beat Roelly Winklaar on condition. Still, fifth in the Arnold is good, so I’m happy.
Prague the week after was the best package I have brought in my life. The cuts in my legs were so deep, you could put your fingers in them. After three shows in three weeks, a few guys were fading. Not me. I’m young and fresh. Some guys are there for the paycheck, but I’m still excited about it all, and I think you could see that onstage.
The plan now is to qualify early for the 2018 Olympia. Once you break the top 10 at the Olympia, you owe it to the fans to be seen. If you’re not accessible, you’re worthless. So I’ll probably spend three months in Texas, Florida, and Vegas. My long-term goal is to be a U.S. citizen. (De Asha lives in his native Liverpool, England.)