by Christian Duque
One of the questions being circulated the most amongst bodybuilding fans all around the world is what will the judges be looking for at the 2024 Arnold Classic held in Columbus Ohio? This being the second biggest competition in the sport and having such a star-studded lineup will surely play a decisive role in the tone and tenor of the contest season to come.
Many fans are expecting the freakiest bodybuilders to emerge victorious however we also know that this is a competition named after one of the greatest bodybuilders that ever lived. His name is Arnold Schwarzenegger and he is one of the last purists that continue to call for aesthetics over size, symmetry over freakiness. That being said, Arnold is not a judge. Arnold has never been a judge. And Arnold’s opinion does not factor into the scorecards one bit. There have been years where the Arnold Classic Champion is somebody that Arnold cannot stand to look at. We have in fact seen him leave the competition early just not to join the festivities with a champion whose physique does not embody what he considers to be a winning look.
While his opinion does not matter on the scorecards it certainly does have an impact in the sport. Even though Arnold has a tendency to make comments that tend to ostracize him from large swaths of the fan base, his opinion still matters for a tremendous amount. And it would be very interesting if this year, out of every other year, his opinion weighed more than any other year in the past. We know the physiques that he likes and we know the physiques that he rejects.
Most bodybuilding fans will be looking at Hadi Choopan to see if he can redeem himself from his unexpected loss at the 2023 Mr Olympia. He is going to Columbus Ohio for the first time in his career. This will be the very first time that The Persian Wolf competes at a bodybuilding show in the United States that is not the Mr Olympia. It has very serious implications because this is a man who never in a million years thought he would have lost the title that he had been fighting so hard for his entire career. The fact of the matter is he really never got to enjoy life on top of the sport. Whereas most Mr. Olympia’s are able to set the tone and tenor of the sport, Hadi had to constantly remind the fan base that he was in fact the number one bodybuilder in the world
We have talked about this incessantly. This is nothing new for me or for Iron Magazine. We have made numerous articles where we have drawn points such as this. Last year’s champion was a hermit. He never went out on guest posing tours, he was rarely seen at expos, and with the exception of some minor social media activity, he might as well have lived in a cave.
You just can’t be Mr Olympia like that. You look at reigning Mr Olympia Derek Lunsford who has only held the title for about 2 months and you just leave yourself wondering how could we ever go back to Hadi or Big Famy?
The answer is we probably will never go back to them because of the fact that the sport did not grow in the three years that they won the title. and this sport needs to grow in order to get more prize money for the athletes, better reach for the vendors, and to just grow across the boards.
There are very few people that want this sport to remain a niche. Very few people want the sport that makes them go to the gym out of sheer passion to be a very well-kept secret. Why on Earth would we want a sport that completes us to be so unknown that its biggest title doesn’t even make it to the sports section of the local newspaper or to ESPN or Fox sports? I mean this is the Super Bowl of Bodybuilding and it gets virtually no mainstream media attention. No real bodybuilding fan wants to keep bodybuilding underground.
Now of course the purists will say that we don’t need to be a mainstream sport and that we don’t need to be liked by everyone but that’s small picture thinking. The reality of the matter is if we had a bodybuilder like Bob Paris, Lee Labrada, or Frank Zane we would be able to be a household name in so many different markets. Bodybuilding would have international appeal and vendors would have a tremendous opportunity to reach so many more potential consumers than they currently do.
You simply cannot reach the same number of people that you can with a symmetrical, aesthetic bodybuilder as you can with a gnarly looking freak that quite frankly looks disgusting to most members of the mainstream public. The reality is bodybuilding does have to go back to its roots but that does not mean that it has to go back so underground that nobody knows what the heck it is.
The bottom line is that we have a lot of disagreements with regards to who should be the number one bodybuilder in the world and what that physique should entail. At the end of the day the Arnold Classic judging panel will have a tremendous say in shaping the direction that 2024 season goes in.
If they crown an aesthetic champion like Samson Dauda or even more importantly like Andrew Jacked, that will send a very strong message down the pike throughout the pro circuit. If someone like Andrew Jacked with a truly complete physique was able to beat the likes of Hadi Choopan, Samson Dauda, and the guy that has a neck bigger than anything I have ever seen, that will send a resounding message to everyone in the pro ranks that shape, symmetry, and aesthetics are once again the look that the judges are looking for. We must remember a very important factor when discussing the Arnold Classic, the Olympia, or any of the big pro shows. And that factor alone is that the judges at the big shows tend to be the same all throughout. If a judging panel at a show like the Arnold Classic rewards aesthetics over freakiness you can rest assured that the writing is on the wall for that year’s Mr Olympia.
Only time will tell where the sport goes. but I will tell you as a writer that’s been covering bodybuilding for well over a decade that there is an enormous amount of interest in the upcoming Arnold Classic. Not only is this lineup one of the best in the last 10 or 15 years, but the judges may score physiques in an old school manner and that alone would be revolutionary for a variety of reasons. Only time will tell what the judges want, but there is uncertainty in the air, and we all can feel it.
Who do you think will win the 2023 Arnold Classic and why?