The 2003 Mr. O in Las Vegas! I was excited for this one, with all the pre show hype and in the only city besides NY that never sleeps (they sleep less here in fact, or at least I did). I've only been to one Mr. Olympia competition and that was the 1998 show in NY in which Flex Wheeler was the favorite to win. Coming off his destruction of all the competitors at the Arnold Classic earlier that year, he seemed like a shoe-in for the title. Well, that was a special show to watch as the previous year's 9th place finisher (Ronnie Coleman) came out of nowhere to take the title. He destroyed everybody including 2nd place Flex. As they announced Flex second, Ronnie fell straight down face first on the floor crying, it was an emotional moment as I watched on, holding hands with my girlfriend Celina. Nobody who was there would forget that moment or forget Ronnie's mom running out on stage and hearing Ronnie give most of the credit to God for his win as he tried to hold back his tears at the microphone.
Well enter 2003 and five consecutive Mr. Olympia Titles later, and Ronnie Coleman was the underdog once again in many people's eyes. I wasn't even sure if he had what it took for a 6th straight Sandow Trophy. Last year, he lost for the first time since winning the title last year. In 2003 he won, but from many people who were sitting in the audience, the real winner was 4th place Gunter Schliercamp, who was ripped at 300 lbs. Gunter ended up beating Ronnie two weeks later to take the GNC show handing Coleman his first defeat in five years. In the 2002 Mr. O, Jay Cutler had Ronnie on his heels with a 7-point lead going into the night show and the posing round. Ronnie somehow ended up pulling that one out by a mere point, but in most people's eyes Cutler got the short end of the stick. Jay decided to pass up the 2003 Olympia and instead nabbed two consecutive and impressive victories at the Arnold. To many people, he was the favorite going into Saturday's contest. Whatever your opinion was, it was clear that a three-ring circus had developed and it was literally any man's game come Saturday at the Mandaley Bay.
I've been to many bodybuilding shows where I was like "man, why am I even here? This was not one of those shows. This was the type of show that made you feel proud to be a bodybuilder and proud to be involved in the sport. All the competitors were in great condition with classy looking lines, shapes and round muscle bellies. Aesthetically speaking, I'd say this was the best line up I've seen in many years. There were some incredible routines as well (Melvin Anthony and Darrem Charles rocked the house), the show was run very well and there were many inspirational moments and people.
One of those inspirational people was none other than the New Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger! How cool it was to see Arnold take the time out of his busy schedule and come to support the show as well as the sport in between his meetings with world leaders. That right there shows you that he hasn't forgotten his roots! He spoke of bodybuilding being the greatest sport in the world, saying how it develops character and takes hard work and dedication. "I wouldn't have accomplished any of the things I have in my life if it wasn't for bodybuilding, this is the greatest foundation that anyone could have" said the Governor. An award was given out to Lee Haney for being the ultimate bodybuilding role model, an award he clearly deserves. With his wife standing next to him he said, "they say that behind every great man is a woman, but I say beside every great man is a great woman" and the audience applauded loudly. Finally, Franco Columbo was given two awards one of which was "Pioneer Of The Industry" and it was great to see these larger than life icons of the sport there in person in support of the sport still today. Hearing Arnold say, "Being here makes me feel like I am home again" left an impression on me, not only with his words but also the way that he said them. You could tell they came from his heart. I definitely felt as though I was proud to be part of this sport and glad I was there in that moment.
Once the show started, one thing was blatantly clear. Ronnie Coleman is a complete freak of nature! I mean Jay looked great as he usually has as of late and Gunter looked good too, but Ronnie was in a league of his own. Ronnie weighed in at 287 lbs and was ripped! That is about 20 lbs heavier than he has ever been. What?! That's right after five years being the champ he made the gains of a fresh young competitor just starting out. 20 lbs at this stage in his career, is ridiculous. I guess he didn't like all the talk about him being on his way out! Jay Cutler looked very good but was just a bit off from his top form. The tight waisted Massachusetts native and current Vegas resident nabbed a clear and convincing second place anyway. He'll be back; the guy is one of the youngest in the show and has a lot of improvement time in his future. Jay also lives the life of a champion and my prediction is that he will end up having this title before all is said and done in his career.
As far as the rest of the field goes, Dexter Jackson led the charge with 225 lbs. of shredded muscle on his small boned 5'7" frame. Jay and Ronnie are just too big for Dexter now, but if he keeps improving like the way he did this show...look out! To be honest, if I could walk around with any of their builds, I'd pick his. He also had the best conditioning in the whole show. Dennis James took an impressive 4th and looked his all-time best. If he had Dexter's level of condition here he would be 3rd.
Hes a future force to be reckoned with, very slight improvements will make him a threat for the title next year (as long as Ronnie isn't around that is). In fifth place was Gunter. What can I say? He looked very good and the audience loves him but he got beat by great bodybuilders. I agreed with the call. Sixth place was a once great but now fading Kevin Levrone. He was clearly not at his best and I've heard a tricep tear almost sidelined him completely. Maybe he still can turn it around and return as a contender for the thrown, but it appears his best days are behind him, we'll see. Worth mentioning was seventh place Darrem Charles. He has one of the cleanest builds in the sport and poses great! Nice to see the judges give him his props, hopefully he keeps moving up.
It was a great weekend for the sport of Bodybuilding. Even though this article is about the men's show worth mentioning is another icon of the sport Lenda Murray who won the Ms. O yet again, for a world record 8 times! I did a simple favor in buying her a ticket so she didn't have to wait online to get into a nightclub after the show. Inside I told her that I couldn't let the best female bodybuilder of all time stand on the line of a club fresh after winning the Mrs. O (I mean c'mon morally that's just not right) and she gave me such a strong kiss on the cheek that she almost knocked me over along with a sweet and sincere "thank you". I was grinning from ear to ear I think, but the BIG guy she was standing with wasn't feeling my happiness so I shuffled back into the crowd and went back to dancing. I had a lot fun interacting with the fans, other competitors, stars and mega stars over the course of the weekend. Being both a competitor and a fan gives me an interesting look at things.
Ronnie's win was inspiring and amazing! He weighed under 250 lbs last year on the Olympia stage. Upon winning this year (almost 40 lbs heavier) he attributed his success mainly to his faith in God. He pleaded with all the people in the audience to "give God a chance" and "let him into your life. That invoked a mixed reaction from the crowd. One man rolled his eyes as if to say "ok, another Coleman victory and another long speech about God. C'mon let's get out of here, I need to eat. Another woman I was sitting next to said to me "awww, I think it's so cute" referring to his repetitive thanks to Jesus and his obvious emotion inside of him at that moment. I thought, "Hey, you know what, maybe he is onto something because mortal people just don't look like that. Whatever way you see it, you would have to be heartless if you didn't feel happy for the man and his family. You just know that he worked damn hard for it!
So scrambling around after the night-show I snuck backstage to try and get a special picture for this article. There were maybe 30 photographers fighting to get close enough for a good pic of the champ. After nearly being thrown out several times for trying to take pictures and not having an official pass, I waited about 30 minutes for Ronnie to get done. I approached his mom and explained I wanted a pic of the two of them for the article and explained how I was there and wrote an article for that special win in NY. She was very sweet and grabbed Ronnie as he was walking by. I held up my digital camera and said, "smile Ronnie" because he was looking kind of "pictured out" at that point, but he smiled and I pressed the button. So here is the picture and the article I promised you Mrs. Coleman. Thanks...and congratulations to you, Ronnie and your entire family. God Bless!