by Christian Duque
With the Arnold Classic just right around the corner things are heating up in the contest prep world. All of the athletes have done a tremendous job posting content and keeping in touch with the fans. I cannot tell you what an important concept that is. So many athletes today are privy to the fact that we live in a digital age and that people are constantly glued to their cell phones. The sport of bodybuilding is no longer a sport that could be covered in magazines.
People can’t wait more than a day to get their news – much less wait an entire month to see pictures and updates that are by no means hot off the presses by then. This is why people stopped buying print many years ago and have opted entirely for digital formats. But even digital formats, like big websites, cannot keep up with the demand from the fans to see their favorite bodybuilders, and at what stage of their preps they’re in.
The Arnold Classic is what kicks off the bodybuilding season and it’s the second biggest bodybuilding contest in the world. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the most recognizable name in muscle and after almost suffering a train wreck last year, he really upped his game and made sure that his people never let what happened in 2023 repeat itself.
I mean 2023 was a bad look, it was even worse than what the pandemic did. The bottom line is that adding an extra $100k and inviting top talent and keeping that talent engaged has been the magic formula for really creating a world class production. Moreover having a defending champion that made Top 3 at the Olympia coming back to defend his title is huge.
The fact that the 2022 Mr. Olympia Hadi Choopan was not only invited but is committed to bringing his best to Columbus really says a lot about him. He’s coming to the show poised to win. This is the first time The Persian Wolf will be doing a non-Olympia show in the United States. It’s a tribute of sorts to Arnold himself and it shows this great contest an awful lot of love. Love that it really needs considering the pitfalls of 2023. That said, Hadi is also a guy who lost the Olympia in a very controversial manner. Many fans booed the decision and thought the Iranian sensation had Derek on the ropes. And although Hadi fell short of beating Derek, he did place higher than Samson.
The mistake many fans have made and one they may be quietly walking back is that feeling that just because Hadi placed better at the Olympia that that means he’ll place better at the Arnold Classic. That’s not only a bad science to rely on, it’s actually almost silly to say out loud. Could Hadi have more hype because of his prior placings and by virtue of being a former Mr. Olympia? Absolutely, but that by no means is a fact he’ll do better than Samson.
In fact, Samson’s 6wk update sent shockwaves throughout the sport. Commentators from all the big websites and YouTube channels celebrated the defending Arnold champion for his level of separation, condition, and sheer overall size.
The issue with Dauda is that he doesn’t always look as muscularly dense as his weight would suggest but that’s height in bodybuilding for ya!! It’s very much a short man’s game. Always has been and always will be. But maybe not!
Seeing Samson flanked by ankle biters in Derek and Hadi looked almost comical, but both placed better. So I guess the big man wasn’t smiling in the end. Visually it just looked kind of odd. And what also looked odd is that while Samson towered over them, they actually looked bigger than him. Bigger in this context doesn’t speak to height rather to width.
A guy like Shaun Clarida or Jose Raymond aren’t winning any tall man contests anytime soon but you have got to admit that they are so chalked full of muscle that they can make a tall swole bodybuilder look like a basketball player. And I’m not the only one that had this reaction. Plenty of top pundits who I could really blow your minds by listing off argued with Milos [Sarcev] regarding Dauda’s purported weight. They thought he weighed considerably less. And that’s usually not a compliment in bodybuilding.
Don’t forget for as much as we celebrate classic lines and shape we’re very much a sport obsessed with size. And we’re also a sport that prizes freakiness. I don’t think Samson is looking freaky by any stretch. He doesn’t have an ugly look about him. He doesn’t have the freak veins popping everywhere and he also doesn’t have that Dorian’esque grainy skin. What he does have is size and now he actually looks the part.
I can’t put my finger on it and maybe what I’m seeing now will fade once he stands next to an ultra-conditioned, super dense Hadi Choopan in Columbus, OH, but I think not. I think Samson has really done his homework and with roughly 4-5 more weeks to go, he’s only going to get better. Whereas Hadi may think he’ll roll into Columbus for an easy win, he’s very much on Samson’s turf. If Hadi doesn’t take Samson serious enough, it could have catastrophic results.
If Samson loses the title to Hadi, it won’t do him any major disservice. If, however, Hadi loses the show to Samson, his stock will plummet.
Hadi is going to the Arnold for the same reason Ramy went last year. Ramy wanted redemption and what he got was sent several rungs lower on the ladder. I don’t see that happening to The Persian Wolf, but I also don’t see him swooping in for an easy win either. That’s what makes this a premier event. All of us – Arnold included – will probably be at the edge of our seats.
Who do you have emerging victorious? Samson or Hadi? I’m still pretty torn. These updates are making it very hard to say one way or another and they’re all posting! Everyone is taking this contest very seriously and it’s making me want to book a room and make arrangements to be at the contest. This Arnold Classic is definitely going to be one for the record books!