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Jay Cutler Turns 50!

by Christian Duque

Legendary bodybuilder Jay Cutler has turned 50 years of age and the world of bodybuilding couldn’t be happier for the champ! When you stop to think about his many contributions to the sport, you’re almost at a loss for words. It’s not just what he accomplished on the stage, but it’s very much what he’s done as a motivational speaker, an advocate for health and well-being, and his staying power on the scene. So many guys before him have come and gone. Some rose to the top as overnight sensations while other took ages before anyone knew who they were.

Jay picked up the sport as a teenager competing against other old school cats like Branch Warren. They competed at a time when they didn’t know what they were doing but they learned through trial and error. His road to pro wasn’t a glamours one like that of Nick Walker or Hunter Labrada. Cutler came from a New England construction background and much like Ronnie Coleman who he spent most of his career trying to beat, he took great benefit from a blue-collar upbringing.

Jay’s family worked in farms and if you know anything about that life, you know that it’s hard work from sun-up to sundown. This work ethic would provide Cutler with the ability to workout, eat clean, and stay the course of his fitness career – even when money was tight and the carrot dangling ahead seemed ever elusive.

Some guys just discover the sport and before they know it they’re pro’s making big money. In Jay’s case he did plenty of competing as a teenager, earned his pro card, and then moved up the pro rankings slowly but surely. Although he didn’t have the most beautiful look, he was blessed with tremendous quads, and what he lacked for in genetics he made up for with hard work in the gym.

It didn’t take long before Jay Cutler got noticed by the magazines and landed some good contracts. He came up in the 90’s and at that time bodybuilders who had contracts and were featured in the magazines could make a pretty decent living. That still being the case, if you wanted to get noticed by the powers that be, you couldn’t do the sport from New England. Back then you had to be in Venice Beach. This was probably that scene’s last hoorah before guys started moving out to Vegas, Tampa Bay, and even back east towards New York City and Boston.

For the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Muscle Beach was still the place to be. Jay and his then-wife Kerry literally packed their bags and went out west. They could have failed, but fear has never stopped Jay. That’s not to say he didn’t have his doubts and it certainly doesn’t mean he didn’t have to work his ass off, but he wanted this. And when you really want something and you’re young, it’s one of those now or never type situations. If you procrastinate you’ll never achiveve anything of promise.

Once out west, things really started to materialize. Jay did his first Olympia where he placed outside the Top 10, but rather than sit and sulk, he made a learning opportunity out of it. While some guys do their first O and place Top 10 or Top 6, even, they may just as well disappear afterwards.

I have always believed that cutting your teeth is the way to go. Your colleagues respect you more if you started from the back of the pack and climbed the ladder. Taking tough placings also thickens your skin and sharpens your resolve. Eating a 13th, 14th, or worse at the O really shows you what you’re made of. Plus, there are no losers at the Olympia, especially in the days Jay competed. This is because they didn’t reward people with a spot through points. You didn’t have a bunch of guys who took three or four 5th places that had accumulated enough points to stand on the biggest stage in the sport. Every guy up there had a won a pro show. Whether that contest was the Night of Champions, The Iron Man, they Keystone Classic or the Arnold Classic, you knew that every man on that stage was a champion. You also knew that every man on that stage was vying to be crowned the best in the world. So even if you placed dead last, you were still an Olympian and still a champion. That being said, Jay‘s New England work ethic would never allow him to content himself with being anything but #1!

It’s a process. Good things take time and Jay was all about earning his keep. His career changed in 2001 when he pushed then 3x Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman to the limit. Jay had defeated The Big Nasty in the prejudging and everyone at the Mandalay Bay was ready to crown a new champion! Everyone knew it was Jay’s time – except for Jay.

A great many people celebrate Jay’s three Arnold Classic wins and they of course celebrate his four Olympia wins. They look to the battles against Dexter Jackson when Jay made history as being the only Mr. Olympia to successfully regain his title. They look at the nailbiter showdown with Victor Martinez in 2007. Others may look at 2010 when Jay held off Phil.

But to most Jay inspired the most people when he was taking 2nd to Ronnie in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2005. I’d say the years where Cutler shined the most would have been ’03, ’04, and ’05. In ’01 he should have won and even though he didn’t, that could have been luck (to some). Some people might have dismissed it or written it off as simply a good year. But it was the years after that which really defined Jay as a role model and the face of never quitting.

So many people would have cried politics, attacked the judges in interviews, and/or maybe even had sour grapes with the guy who kept getting the W’s over him, but not Jay. He was always gracious to take 2nd. That doesn’t mean he was ecstatic and it certainly doesn’t mean he was even happy. What it does mean is that he was always a consummate professional. It wasn’t Ronnie’s fault that Ronnie was winning. I mean it was his “fault” he was the best, but that’s hardly doing something wrong. And Jay would be the first to tell you that NO ONE was beating Coleman in 2003. That year would have been enough to disillusion just about any competitor. That year made it seem like Coleman was superhuman. And even though jaws dropped everywhere, Jay’s was one of the first to close, and he was gunning all that much more for the guy who everyone thought invincible.

It was that New England work ethic and that never giving up on yourself attitude that won Jay so many fans. Even when Coleman named Martinez his obvious successor, that stung, but Jay stayed the course. Even when Ronnie was asked by Triple H about Jay’s comments that he was beatable, with Ronnie saying Jay was “smoking crack”; Jay pressed on! Even though everyone was very much laughing at him – as opposed to with him – Cutler was unphased. At the end of the day those were just words. And even though Jay was taking 2nd after 2nd after 2nd, he was pushing the G.O.A.T. every single year. Ronnie couldn’t let up because he knew Jay on his heels looking for any way to win.

These now legendary battles made bodybuilding fun. The fans couldn’t get enough and the press couldn’t stop writing about them. And no matter how hard these guys pushed each other, they never exhibited poor sportsmanship. They didn’t elbow each other on stage, they don’t make fun of each other, and they never embarrassed the sport in front of the mainstream media. These showdowns were so epic, in fact, that once Ronnie retired in 2007, bodybuilding was never as much fun for Jay. Even though he was now “the man,” and even though he was the best of the best, I believe he was heartbroken and bored without Coleman.

Now at 50 years of age, with his following as big as ever, and having successfully completed an amazing Fit for 50 transformation, Cutler continues to inspire bodybuilders and weightlifting enthusiasts of all ages, worldwide. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful ambassador for health and fitness.

Happy Birthday, Jay!

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