by Christian Duque
First and foremost huge congratulations to The Persian Wolf Hadi Choopan on his huge win at Joe Weider’s Mr. Olympia. The 2022 champ stunned the world when he hit the stage with far more size while keeping his signature crispness and condition. He battled hard against fellow coachmate Derek Lunsford who would go on to earn the coveted runner-up position at his first open Olympia.
Both athletes are coached by Hany Rambod and dominated the 212 Division before moving up. Unlike Lunsford, however, Choopan never won the 212 Olympia. He battled it out with the great 7x 212 GOAT James “Flex” Lewis before moving onto open. As a fixture of the Top 6, Hadi was always in the money, but never seemed to get higher than third. Well that all changed at the 2022 Olympia weekend because from the moment he hit the stage the fans knew that the Iranian sensation was all fire, all gas and no brakes. And it couldn’t have rung truer since my article for Iron Magazine, just a month ago, when I said this contest was really make or break for Choopan. It almost seemed as if bodybuilding fandom was mesmerized by new talent, younger stars, and other possibilities.
Let’s not forget that Hadi has been the talk of the town before. Just a couple years ago he was crowned the People’s Champion. The same year that Ramy won his title, the fans were screaming for Hadi. That was the year the bodybuilding world thought would be his. He ended up getting the fan choice award and a strong 3rd place that many thought would be his springboard for winning the 2021 Olympia.
The fact is 2021 was a trying year for Choopan and 2022 seemed to be even moreso. In fact, it was in 2022 that The Persian Wolf had a very public and contentious break with his longtime manager all over social media. This break was more than symbolic because the manager served as the bodybuilder’s assistant, business manager, and confidant. He also seemed like the champ’s main guy in terms of logistics. As it turns out, however, there were contingencies in place and although the move may certainly have caused some headaches, Hadi’s camp didn’t skip a beat.
Then of course there’s the ever-present issue of visas. One cannot forget where Choopan hails from and where he resides. Unlike other international bodybuilders who eventually make their way for the United States or at least Europe he has remained in Iran.
U.S.-Iranian relations are always tense to say the least. There’s times when the two countries have zero communication. This makes travel cumbersome and quite frankly might even complicate Hadi’s ability to defend his title in 2023. Some say that his old business manager was able to work magic with the visas. Now I suppose someone either at the O or maybe in Hany’s camp can do it. The fact is there is no magic at play. If anything it’s been luck and thankfully it’s paid off. I think now that Hadi is the #1 bodybuilder in the world this helps even more in the terms of getting him access to the world.
I also think that Hadi’s win may help with relations between our two countries. Many might laugh at such a supposition but there is precedent with Basketball Diplomacy. I’ll write more about this in future articles as I believe it may present a very real way to create good will between two countries that have had a very bitter history since 1979 till today. Additionally I think Hadi’s win will also bring more respect to The 212 and Jason live here’s why.
There has always been a growing concern that among the bodybuilding press that the 212 is somehow not “real bodybuilding.” In fact during the Olympia Weekend on Olympia TV no less Chris “The Real Deal” Cormier asked Derek Lunsford if he felt like a “real bodybuilder” now that he was doing open bodybuilding. While that’s a pretty ridiculous question and comment to make, it does touch upon the pulse of what a lot of bodybuilders and bodybuilding fans say under their breath. It’s asinine but it’s a sentiment that’s growing due to the fact that one division has a weight cap and another does not. It also just so happens that the lighter guys are also considerably shorter.
That said bodybuilding isn’t a height sport and it’s not determined by who weighs more, that’s what makes the perspective a pretty intellectually devoid one. Nonetheless it’s a kick in the pants when two former 212 guys are at the top of the pack in open bodybuilding and Shaun Clarida could have done both but was forced to choose. Who knows where Shaun would have placed in this line up?
The reality of the matter is that Shaun Clarida even at under 200lbs ripped to shreds and posing his heart off could have conceivably been a force to be reckoned with in the Open Top 6. I’m sure he’s gotta be thinking about this. Nonetheless, he has a lot to be proud of after regaining his title and doing battle with some huge names.
With regards to the future I hope that Hadi will be able to travel the world and see more of it than Big Ramy did. I don’t want to take any digs at the outgoing champion but he was not a good ambassador for the sport and the fact is Hadi is.
Choopan is known for doing a number of IG LIVE’s, he talks with the fans, but unfortunately he doesn’t do much traveling either. I hope that this changes and I’m confident that with him being Mr. Olympia that not only will his country be more amenable to him traveling, but hopefully even more supportive. They have the best bodybuilder on the planet, in the sport made famous by Arnold. I hope they capitalize on this.
Huge congratulations to Hadi, Hany, and their whole camp!