by Geoff Roberts
The most anticipated day in all of bodybuilding is upon as once again. The 2018 Mr. Olympia is right around the corner and is shaping up to be one of the most influential of its kind. Phil Heath is going for a record tying eight victories, the old guard is attempting to hold their spots amongst the elite of the elite, and a brand new pack of young lions continue to climb the ranks of mount Olympia. It’s been said many times before, but this could be the year we see a true changing of the guard at the Mr. Olympia. With Kai Greene and Dennis Wolf seemingly out of the show for good, it is now up to Shawn Rhoden, Dexter Jackson, and Roelly Winklaar to hold down the fort for the veterans of our sport. Their task will prove to be a difficult one with the likes of Big Ramy, William Bonac, Nathan De Asha, Brandon Curry, and Sergio Oliva Jr. nipping at their heels.
Underrated and hated. These are the two words which best describe Phil Heath’s career. Despite winning seven Mr. Olympia titles with all but one combined second place vote, fans and pundits alike continuously refer to Phil as vulnerable and/or not overly dominate. There is no shortage of reasons as to why these notions are entirely untrue. Phil has been the greatest bodybuilder on the planet for the better part of a decade with very little serious opposition, whether or not emotional fans and/or pundits want to believe it. The Gift has become bodybuildings own Floyd “Money” Mayweather with his cocky attitude and lavish lifestyle, which he is not shy about displaying on social media. Also like Mayweather, many people tune into the Mr. Olympia simply in hopes of seeing Phil dethroned. Unfortunately for these viewers, Phil’s chance of placing lower than first place at this years Olympia is just about zero.
Phil has unparalleled muscle quality. His muscle shape, fullness, tie ins, and skin quality combine to form muscles which simply put, do not look human. Rather, Phil looks far more like an action figure one would find at the late, great Toys R Us than he does an actual human being. Not only does Phil possess this God given muscular quality, but he is also the perfect height for bodybuilding as well as a former collegiate athlete, which has served him well in dealing with the dedication required in a top professional bodybuilder. This extensive athletic background has also seemed to assist The Gift with the extensive mental and physical stress which comes along with this sport. These qualities are obvious when it comes to Phil’s ability to show up in shape every single time he competes. For all intents and purposes, Phil has never come into a show with sub par condition in any way shape or form. He has shown up a bit flat and depleted at a few shows for various reasons, but The Gift has never failed at the game of inhumanly low body fat levels, which is a necessity if one wishes to have any chance of winning the Mr. Olympia. Phil Heath is a perfect storm of bodybuilding royalty. Plain and simple.
This is not to say Phil has no legitimate contenders with a reasonable chance of dethroning him. Our sport has seen a recent influx of hungry young thoroughbreds who are not only supremely talented threats to the king, but also bursting at the seams with personality, which is simply invaluable to the popularity of bodybuilding. In regards to dynamite personalities, Nathan De Asha and Sergio Oliva Jr. stand alone. These two men are not afraid to talk trash and throw plenty of mostly harmless shade at any opponent who stands in their way. This is something that has been missing from bodybuilding for far too long. Nearly every hyper popular mainstream sport has its fair share of vocal athletes who keep things interesting for the fans and give the media something to discuss week after week. We can only hope that Sergio and Nathan spark a new era of young professionals who are not afraid to tell their version of the cold hard truth and publicly state whatever happens to be on their mind. While either of these guys winning the title this year is a long shot to say the least, it is a distinct possibility they will be battling for the title in the near future and nothing could be better for the sport.
Big Ramy, William Bonac, and Brandon Curry make up the less outspoken group of young lions quickly climbing the ranks. Ramy may very well be a creature from another planet. He is arguably the most muscular man to ever walk the earth. At 5’10” 310 lbs. in contest shape, this guy is a serious threat in any show he enters, as well as to any scale which may be brave enough to face him. Big Ramy has about as good a chance to take home the Sandow as anyone else in the show. Some may make a case that Ramy’s physique has actually gotten a bit worse over the last few years, due to an increase in the width of his midsection. These points are valid, but are more than likely overshadowed by the new mass Ramy has packed onto his already colossal physique in those same years.
William Bonac has officially taken the place of Lee Priest as a competitor who has managed to become one of the absolute best in the world, despite clearly being the shortest man onstage. This adds flavor to the lineup and gives hope to all the vertically challenged up and coming bodybuilders out there. William may be short, but make no mistake, this guy can win the Mr. Olympia. Had he been blessed with just a few more inches of height, its safe to say he would already have a couple Sandows on his mantel. Brandon Curry is this years ultimate dark horse. No one is really predicting him to do anything overly substantial, mostly due to the fact that its taken Brandon a half dozen years of competing in the pro ranks to fully get it together. The moment Curry earned professional status we all knew he had the goods to be one of the best in the world with his to-die-for structure and roundness. After struggling for said years in the IFBB, he took a fateful trip out to Kuwait to train at Oxygen Gym, and boy was it successful. He came back looking like the bodybuilder we all hoped he would be and proceeded to win a couple shows amongst tough competition. If Brandon was able to make a few more improvements since his last show, he will be battling it out at the very top. He has the ability to completely shock the bodybuilding world this year.
Dexter Jackson is the eighth wonder of the world. The idea of a 48 year old man vying for the Mr. Olympia crown was a silly one at best before The Blade. Dexter is the most winningest bodybuilder in history, and the simple fact that he possesses the genetics required to be one of the top four bodybuilders in the world at 48 is more than enough clout to consider him a real threat to anyone on that stage. He will certainly be slept on going into the Olympia, as he always is, but as usual, he shouldn’t be. Much like Ramy, Roelly Winklaar may also not be from planet earth, and will surely send any scale running with its tail between its legs as he approaches it. It’s hard to imagine any man who has packed as much muscle onto his frame as Roelly. While he may not be a serious threat to Phil, he certainly has the mass and freak factor to mix up the top three placings.
Shawn Rhoden is the most interesting veteran coming into this show. Shawn always comes in shape, so that’s a non issue. Shawn’s only knocks are his sub par back and a lack of control over his otherwise wasp waist. Early this year it came out that Shawn had been battling severe stomach ulcers for what seems like at least a couple years. These ulcers were probably responsible for Shawn’s inability to control his midsection onstage. That issue now seems to be remedied. What’s more, Shawn’s back training has been taken to what appears to be a whole new level this year. Flexatron has gone back to hardcore, heavy pulling movements on back day, which could very well equal a much improved back come the big dance. Do not be surprised if Shawn Rhoden ends up being the competitor who pushes Phil more than any other.
Classic physique, which should be renamed classic bodybuilding yesterday or sooner, has become exceedingly successful and exciting. As a bodybuilding purest, I never thought I would see the day where I was excited for a “physique” show, but I have to admit, there is a small nugget of excitement within me for this division. These guys have grown into proper bodybuilders with outrageously good physiques, and what’s more, there is no shortage of trash talk amongst the competitors, which as mentioned above, is great for the sport. The classic lineup is so deep that I truly have no idea who will win, which is saying a lot in this sport.
Despite Phil Heath entering the Olympia as an overwhelming favorite, this years Olympia does have a decent amount of buzz and excitement surrounding it. This could be due to the fact that bodybuilding is deep into the process of transforming from a magazine and media outlet driven sport to a mostly social media driven sport. While there are one or two media outlets still contributing to the shows hype, social media has officially caught up, for better or worse. Tweets and Instagram posts have become our main way of keeping track of what the pros are up to, and often more importantly, how they feel about their contemporaries, including what they say back and forth amongst one another. No matter one’s opinion on this inevitable transformation, it is clear to see that it is adding much needed excitement to an otherwise predictable show.
Will this years Mr. Olympia be yet another Phil Heath domination that is over after prejudging, or will it be one for the ages where Phil is prevented from officially taking his place on the Mount Rushmore of bodybuilding? Either way, it feels like our sport is in a good place with fresh new faces emerging as stars, as well as a wider demographic of people becoming interested in the sport. Personally, I feel that this is the year Phil Heath begins to crack the shell of becoming the single greatest bodybuilder to ever live. Tying the all time record for Olympia victories with Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman will undeniably solidify his greatness. After eight may very well come nine and ten, at which time we will have to stop referring to Phil as The Gift, and instead refer to him as The GOAT.