by Christian Duque
As many other pundits have proclaimed we here at Iron Magazine concur in the thought that third time might be the charm. This is because IFBB Pro Hassan Mostafa has been knocking on the door of a pro win for the last three contests in 2023. He took two controversial runner-up placings in Toronto and Chicago and now he finally emerged victorious from the Vancouver Pro. His last two placings were incredibly controversial and many fans were up in arms on the various message boards, Facebook groups, sub-Reddits and more.
As a professional bodybuilder having to take 2nd place finishes can sting but when there’s the kind of backlash we saw after Toronto and Chicago that lights a very real fire under a competitor. It’s the people’s way of showing an uncrowned champ real validation and the athlete knows that the real reason he got screwed has probably more to do with politics than anything else.
If the vast majority of fans are screaming bloody murder after a contest then you know the judging was suspect. That’s not to say something nefarious necessarily went down, but when public opinion is that sweeping it softens the blow of not winning for a runner-up. But Hassan just kept knocking on the door louder and louder. So much so that when he took the stage in Vancouver – it was his time. We couldn’t be happier for the champ. And I think every man on that stage was happy for him too. There’s something both old school and just plain hardcore about not taking no for an answer. Instead of going on all the podcasts and crying about the cards you were dealt, it shows real character to keep coming back better and better. That’s exactly what Hassan did!
Mostafa’s run in the IFBB Pro League has been a short but fruitful one. He got his start in 2019 and cut his teeth from the jump. He wasn’t given anything. Instead, he had to take bad placings and gradually move up the rankings. 2020 was better than 2019. 2021 was better than 2020. But it was 2022 that saw Hassan get major recognition and notice. He won two huge contests in the Puerto Rico Pro and the Orlando Pro. These titles put him in a category all his own.
It’s one thing to win one pro show, but to win two in one calendar year speaks volumes about a bodybuilder’s potential in bigger contests like the NY Pro, the Arnold Classic, and the Mr. Olympia. Once you start getting mentioned in these conversations now you can really say you’ve hit the big leagues. What also happens is that when the fans and the media feel that a champion on this level gets wronged – absolutely everyone will hear about it!
While the Vancouver Pro wasn’t the deepest lineup, we can look to Toronto and Chicago just to see how competitive Mostafa was. And at around 31 years of age he has plenty of time to move up to that next tier of contests. With a clear-cut path to the 2023 Mr. Olympia I would strongly recommend that the Vancouver champ take the rest of the year to prep for the O. He won’t have much downtime but I do think a week or two is plausible. From there he’s going to have to hunker down and really put the finishing touches on what could be a Top 10 finish in Orlando, FL. Who knows maybe he can place closer to the Top 6. Could he break into the Top 6? That I leave for you – our readers – to decide. As far as I’m concerned I think that might be a little too big too soon, but you never know.
The Olympia of 2023 is not the same contest of yesteryear.
Ever since they did away with the points system the most coveted title in physique-based sports has gone back to what it always stood for. It’s a contest where every man on that stage has won a pro show. There’s a small pool of former Mr. Olympias and the occasional bum who might get a special invite, but gone are the days of guys racking up enough points taking places 2nd-5th at pro shows. That factor alone caused many years to have watered down lineups that made the overall production rather lackluster and boring to watch in person and even more painful to watch on pay per view. In today’s Mr. Olympia the bar is set high and every single competitor is a real contender for the title. This undoubtedly makes the show more entertaining and so much more high-stakes.
I could see a guy like Hassan whose really had to pay his dues and who is absolutely relentless in the pursuit of his dreams putting up a ferocious fight. A big part of placing well is knowing you’re at your all-time best. You don’t just wake up and get that level of confidence. That comes with being challenged and having to compartmentalize shitty placings, questionable judging scores, and seeing guys who aren’t as good as you getting the accolades while you’re sent back to the drawing boards. It develops with coming back and never giving up. It’s a mindset that some guys who have only tasted success quite frankly don’t know and can’t tap into. I think guys like Hassan Mostafa are incredibly dangerous because they know all too well what getting overlooked and being underestimated feels like.
I’d say Hassan has done very well for himself since taking 9th at the Arnold Classic and 13th at the Mr. Olympia, both in 2021. I have always believed that cutting your teeth is very important and it’s better to start from a crappy placing than vice versa.
Countless guys who took stellar placings with minimal effort immediately saw their world ending as soon as they started to drop down the rankings. Many couldn’t process it and even fewer could do what was necessary to reverse the slump. And what’s more is that 9th at the ASC and 13th at the O aren’t terrible placings by any means; they’re certainly the kind of finishes that will humble rookies to really upping their game, though. Something tells me that the humility that 2021 provided for Hassan coupled with the huge successes he’s earned in 2023 will make very dangerous to just about anyone at the big dance.
Where do you see the 2023 Vancouver Pro champion finishing at the 2023 Mr. Olympia? Like I said, I can see him breaking into the Top 10 and maybe placing even closer to the Top 6 than many of us care to admit publicly. In closing, I’d like to send Hassan a huge congratulatory pat on the back from all of us here at Iron Magazine on a job well done! Here’s to never giving up, brother!