by Christian Duque
Phil Clahar shocked the bodybuilding world this past weekend in Orlando, FL, where he won the Orlando Pro in top form. What’s remarkable about this win is that this is the same city that will host the 2023 Mr. Olympia and this was an open contest with some of the best athletes in the sport of bodybuilding. And did I mention Phil is fifty years young? Did I also mention that he’s headed to the 2023 Masters Mr. Olympia in Romania?
This placing not only increases the hype going into this blockbuster contest but it’s proof positive that age is just a number in physique-based sports. I could have told you that, but there’s just something so powerful about seeing what some of these older cats can do against guys 10, 15, even 20 years their junior.
I’ve seen it firsthand at Masters Nationals and I can tell you that any young turk that sleeps on the O.G.’s stands to learn the hard way. Let’s not forget that while younger guys can grow faster, that muscle maturity still accounts for a great deal when it comes to scoring a bodybuilding show. The judges are also looking for attention to detail. Guys who have been at it as long as Phil has know a thing or two about posing. Look at other old school cats like Vinny Galanti (who’s also doing the Masters O). They know exactly how to show off their strengths while strategically hiding their weaknesses. And every single competitor has strong points and less than stellar ones.
While perfection may be the goal everyone’s chasing, no one is actually ever flawless. Moreover guys who seem perfect are actually the best posers. Clahar showed everyone that he knew what time it was.
I was fortunate enough to watch a series of phone clips that gave me a pretty good idea of the depth of the lineup, how the guys posed, and how much the judges kept them on stage. It was a very well run show, but for a packed Pro/Am I would have thought that the promoter(s) would have had a live feed. It’s 2023 and the cost to have a live feed is minimal. At the very least they could have set an iphone on a tripod next to the judges and given the fans all around the world the best possible view with even limited resources. In any event, we had to settle for phone photos and videos from at least five rows back. The picture quality wasn’t great but it still told the story.
Not even 24 hours after Phil’s big win, there were a number of outlets that were reporting that a robbery took place in Orlando. While I will always defend the media’s right to be objective I do think that these type of popcorn headlines tend to rub me the wrong way. If you want to rag on the judges I guess that’s your prerogative but to take cheap shots at a 50 year old pro earning his first pro win, I think that’s dirty. Some outlets – which I won’t name – went a little too far.
Some influencers were allegedly ‘furious’ that Phil won, but let me present you with this question. How fair is it to have journalists covering a contest who also work as coaches and who have athletes in the show? Isn’t that a conflict of interests on some level?
I mean if you’re butthurt as a coach that your client didn’t win, I get it, but to not be totally transparent about your bias(es) as a commentator, I think that’s a little disingenuous. Everyone who I spoke to thought Phil had a very strong showing. Could a case have been made for Hassan Mostafa winning? Of course, but that’s the case with any strong 2nd place finisher. Just because Mostafa looked very good doesn’t mean that he was robbed.
Close calls are what make bodybuilding fun. And I’m sorry if it angers you that your guy didn’t win, but such is life. If you stop to think about how many shows Phil has done and this was his first win, then it really should sink in how committed he is. Plus, he’s already in prep for the biggest title in masters bodybuilding.
Why did he do this? And further to that, why is he doing open shows? Some might think that’s a little crazy, but I think it makes perfect sense. This win in Orlando does a tremendous deal for the Masters O. It means that guys competing on that stage in Romania are every bit as dangerous as open guys.
Now imagine the possibilities if Clahar wins in Romania. He has the Orlando win, then he wins the Masters Olympia, and then he goes back to Orlando and does the 2023 (open) Mr. Olympia. Imagine if you’re the reigning Masters Mr. O and crack the open Olympia Top 10. Tell me that wouldn’t have PR bonanza written all over it!!
I have always said that Masters competitors should be courted by the fitness industry. Unlike college-aged lifters who are notoriously broke, masters aged enthusiasts are all career professionals, own homes, and have plenty of money to buy supplements, gym memberships, and gym attire. It would make more sense for companies to sign and work with older competitors than youngsters. If older people are the ones spending more money don’t you think they’d rather see a Phil Clahar on the ads than a guy young enough to be their child? From a marketing standpoint it’s a no brainer.
I think that Phil’s win in Orlando will give him, as well as his fellow competitors, a tremendous amount of momentum going into the Masters O. A lot of people are of the mindset that Masters competitions are less competitive. This is a monumental error in judgment. All it means is that the average age of the competitors is higher, but the competitiveness among them should not be underestimated.
There’s a reason Jake Wood revived the event after a decade. If it wasn’t cutting edge and it wasn’t exciting to watch he wouldn’t have made the investment. Wood is very much a pragmatist and he only puts his money behind events that turn a huge profit. Just look at what he’s been able to do with Women’s Bodybuilding. The fact of the matter is that Jake knows how to promote divisions. He surrounds himself with very capable people who eat, live, and breathe bodybuilding. You can rest assured that the Masters O will be a world class production. Phil’s win further cements this point, but it goes further in my opinion. It’s going to light a fire under the other guys who will be competing with him. Many of them have been very active with posing clinics, video journeys to the Masters O stage, and tons of interviews and IG Lives. Now Phil comes out of nowhere and lands a huge win. These other guys can’t stand to be upstaged so expect them to come out with some killer prep content and/or maybe another guy might try to win an open show. And as far as the fans are concerned, we’re in for a tremendous treat.
One last note about the Orlando Pro. This win makes Phil a favorite to win the Masters Olympia, but the key will be that all the hoopla won’t cloud Clahar’s judgment or work ethic. Kudos on the win in Orlando, but now it’s like he’s a marked man. Guys like Vinny Galanti, Mike Ely, and others are CLEARLY aware of Phil now. No one that’s going to Romania is going there just for fun. They want to win and they want to be the best.
Things are about to get VERY interesting in the masters community! I just wish I could be in the front row in Romania.
In bodybuilding, AGE IS JUST A NUMBER. And don’t you forget it!