Jay Cutler: Lifetime Achievement Award


by Christian Duque

On a recent edition of @StrengthAddicts on Instagram live I talked about the Arnold Classic and how Jay Cutler received the lifetime achievement award. Now this is an award that has been given to many notable people in the sport of bodybuilding but there was something very special about when it was given to Jay. In addition to being a four-time Mr Olympia and a three-time Arnold Classic Champion there’s so much more to be said about this phenomenal athlete.

And even though the great Arnold Schwarzenegger presented him with the award and stood next to him with all the cameras in the venie going off, Jay was more concerned with making sure that 8x Mr Olympia Ronnie Coleman was in the attendance. Because Ronnie played such an important role in Cutler’s career that it was absolutely imperative that the four-time Mr Olympia make visual eye contact with the eight time legend as he went on to deliver his acceptance speech.

While this may seem like a minor detail to some, it struck a chord with me because of the deep respect, admiration, and love that these two champions share. It inspired me to talk about it on an Instagram Live and it has left me with goosebumps ever since I saw it on the free webcast. Because that’s another thing, the Arnold Classic really up’ed its game in 2024 by offering a state of the art webcast completely free to fans all around the world. And let me tell you something this was one for the record books. To see Jay show this much respect to Ronnie given that he was accepting an award really should be something that bodybuilding fans hold near and dear to their hearts for many generations to come. I hope to tell you why.

I think one of the most important lessons that Jay, Ronnie and guys like Lee Haney have taught us is that good sportsmanship should always be the example for all to follow. No matter how much adversity there may be, no matter how elusive that title may seem, or that goal, or that prize, you never give anything but your best. And in the sport of bodybuilding, it’s a subjective pursuit; you never hold it against the next man if you don’t win. It isn’t up to the athletes who wins and who loses, rather, it is a decision made by a judging panel.

These judges have keen eyes. They see hundreds if not thousands of competitors each and every year. This is why they focus on comparisons so much and why it’s so important to execute the mandatory poses flawlessly. It has often been said that those who pose hard, win. The judges can only see what the athletes show them. This is why it’s so important to take that stage with tremendous self-confidence and the ability to know how and when to hide one’s weaknesses. After all we can’t forget the lessons of past Olympias like that of 2001. Back for that Olympia, Jay had it in the bag but his lack of self confidence to really show the judges what he really brought, resulted in Coleman retaining the Sandow for another year.

When Jay spoke to Ronnie it was as if no one else was in that venue. Even though there were hundreds, if not thousands of fans all around them, it didn’t matter. They were back to being two bodybuilders that shared so much on the road. From 2001 to 2007 those guys and their careers were intertwined. They were sought after all around the world. These two guys had the two biggest contracts in the sport. Their DVDs sold like hotcakes. Fans would line up blocks long to meet them, shake their hand, get an autograph or get a selfie. They were there before the internet and they were there after it. Both of these champions have not skipped a beat since they retired and they have stood the test of time. If you were to poll most bodybuilding fans today, you will find that the fan bases of these two champions have grown exponentially since they retired. No other bodybuilder in the history of the sport can say the same.

When you look at how many people Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman have inspired despite age, despite geographic location, despite languages spoken – it is quite frankly mind-boggling. They both have signature series that sell out like crazy. They both have websites that are frequented by guests all around the world. And for Jay Cutler to say that he would not be anywhere without Ronnie Coleman is a true testament to the good sportsmanship that both of these guys shared during their careers.

Now it’s not to say that Ronnie didn’t throw it at Jay by saying that he had to be smoking crack to think that he could beat him and it’s not to say that Jay honestly thought he was going to have to cut his hair in 2006 because he knew he was going to win, but that’s good sportsmanship. Nobody’s saying that the sport can’t be exciting or that there can’t be a little bit of competitive rivalry, but that does not mean it has to be toxic. These guys never got negative with one another and they never had their fans fight it out on the message boards or much less in person.

We would never have seen what we saw in 2014 between Phil Heath and Kai Greene ever happened between Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman. These guys were cut from a different cloth. These guys had tremendous respect for the sport and for the stage and they would never ever stain it with any kind of pettiness or other kind of bullshit. Jay and Ronnie truly grew the sport and this was the case while they were on top. And on their respective journeys to the top.

That’s right folks because neither one of these guys woke up one day and suddenly started winning everything in sight. Ronnie and Jay were two guys that were cut from a bluecollar cloth and they both had to cut their teeth by placing dead last and rising slowly up the ranks. Neither one of these guys could ever be said was an overnight sensation. As a result, they won the respect of their peers.

To me to see Jay Cutler and where he’s at today and to not forget where he came from speaks volumes about him as a champion. This is why he remains one of the most popular and most respected bodybuilders in the world. It’s not just that people know his name or know his image but they know about his journey. They know about the many years that he had to be runner-up at the Olympia. They respect that.

The fans respect those that have gone through real trials and tribulations and keep coming back. Jay never threw his trophy away, he never stormed off stage, he never cried about politics and he certainly never took anything away from Coleman’s victories. This is why when it was his time to shine nobody gave him a hard time about it. Nobody said that he didn’t deserve it. Nobody said that he cheated his way to the top.

Jay never got to an Olympia because of a special invite or any other handout or handicap. Neither did Ronnie. These guys didn’t come from a special invite environment. They worked hard and they killed it every day of the week. This is why so many fans miss the freaks from the ’90s and 2000s. Guys who today would put to shame most of the top competitors. And that’s not to throw shade at today’s best, it’s just to show you how intense competition used to be back in the day.

So to me it brings great pride to see Jay Cutler show respect to his old school rival. What these guys did for bodybuilding is nothing short of amazing. This is why their fanfare continues to grow today. Ronnie has not competed since 2007. Jay has not competed since 2013. For Jay he hasn’t competed in well over a decade yet stands to be more popular than even the reigning Mr Olympia. How do you like that?

That’s not by happenstance. That’s not by some weird cookie-crumbling effect. That’s what you call developing a loyal fan base and being real. There is no difference in Jay’s personality from Instagram to real life. This is a man that eats, sleeps, breathes, and dreams bodybuilding. If he was anything but authentic he would have been outed long ago. This is a tried and true hardcore bodybuilder. Jay and Ronnie for life!