The defining moment of the 2002 Mr. Olympia contest, held for the fourth year in a row at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, came during the exciting final posedown. Ronnie Coleman, the returning four-time champ, has developed a reputation as the King of the Posedown in recent years. In his latest victory, Coleman intended to continue with that tradition.
During the last three years of his reign, Coleman has literally pushed away any challengers to his crown during the final posedown. In 1999, Shawn Ray was the unlucky victim as Ronnie shoved the 210 pound challenger away when Shawn attempted to wedge himself between Coleman and Flex Wheeler. In 2000, Nasser El Sonbaty was easily pushed to the side when he tried to move in on Coleman's territory. And, in last year's come from behind victory, an aggressive Ronnie Coleman nearly toppled both Orville Burke and Chris Cormier when Orville tried to position his huge frame next to the reigning champ and Cormier.
This year, crowd favorite and human Man Mountain, Gunter Schlierkamp, pursued the current Mr. Olympia by moving right next to him at the beginning of the posedown. As Coleman attempted to push the German Giant out of the way with his massive 23 inch arms, he was met with the proverbial brick wall. Gunter didn't even budge! Could this be symbolic of the future for Ronnie Coleman's reign as Mr. Olympia? With bodybuilders like Gunter vying for the title, Coleman will no longer be able to push aside the competition anymore.
Earlier in the evening, Gunter had captured the hearts and minds of the Mr. Olympia audience and now he seemed on the verge of capturing the title itself as the champ himself appeared very vulnerable against a much bigger and harder competitor. Gunter had never looked better and he seemed to have unlocked the secret to finally realizing his incredible potential. Rarely has a competitor received so much love from an audience as Gunter did the evening of October 19th, 2002. He even received an unprecedented standing ovation from an incredibly appreciative audience after being awarded his placing.
Here are the final placings as well as my thoughts on each athlete in the 2002 Mr. Olympia contest:
1st Place - Ronnie Coleman Ronnie won his fifth Mr. Olympia this year and was received with a thunderous round of boos from the audience as he was awarded the title. This was the worst condition that Ronnie has looked in winning the Mr. O since 1998. This was a real surprise to me because I know Coleman was very upset by the close call from Jay Cutler last year and he had trained incredibly hard in preparation for this contest. He had even postponed all guest posings for the last 13 weeks leading up the Olympia to insure that he would be at his all-time best.
So, what went wrong? According to Matt Nill of MuscleTime.com, Ronnie was in his all-time best shape three weeks out from the show when Mitsuru Okabe filmed him for his "Battle for the Olympia" video. Matt believes that Coleman lost as much as 20 pounds in the final three weeks and, judging by the footage that Mitsuru filmed, it was 20 pounds that he didn't need to lose.
Onstage, Ronnie was noticably flat compared to his previous four wins. My guess is that after all the criticism last year regarding his bloated stomach, Coleman went all out to get as lean as possible. However, despite the significant weight loss (15 pounds lighter than last year), his gut was still somewhat bloated. He looked to be much flatter all over, especially in the pecs. His arms and back were still impressive and his thighs were gargantuan (although still lacking in separation) but this was not the Ronnie Coleman that we were expecting.
2nd Place - Kevin Levrone Kevin looked fantastic in his 11th consecutive Mr. Olympia contest. Fully healed from his hernia operation earlier in the year, Kevin showed up almost 20 pounds heavier than last year and it showed. Impressively thick and muscular, Kevin was at his best in years. I thought he looked better this year than the fantastic condition he displayed in 2000 when he placed a close second to Ronnie. Kevin showed everyone that he is one of the best professional bodybuilders in the world today by performing another beautiful posing routine at the evening finals. Kevin is one of the best performers in the sport and he had the audience eating out of his hand as he posed magnificently to music from the rock band Creed. I was not surprised to learn later that Kevin won the posing round and the posedown.
Ronnie had Kevin beat in the back, especially in the relaxed round, but I thought Kevin was more impressive from the front with better abs and a much fuller look than Ronnie displayed. I think Kevin and Ronnie were nearly the same weight but Ronnie looked flat while Kevin looked full. Kevin also brought up his legs from the last couple of years and you can tell he put in some hard and heavy training in preparation for this event. It could have went either way for first or second with Ronnie and Kevin and, judging by the final audience reaction, the fans at the Mandalay Bay Theater were going for Kevin.
3rd Place - Chris Cormier Chris was expected to be one of the front runners coming into the contest. He looked better than last year but still not as tight as he was earlier in the year when he won the Pro Ironman show or took second to Jay Cutler at the Arnold Classic. If he would have shown up in that condition, he may have provided an upset since Ronnie was off. Chris has a lot of muscle for his frame but he still displays outstanding symmetry and shape which is why he placed so high in the relaxed round of this competition (2nd to Ronnie Coleman). However, Chris seemed somewhat subdued during the course of the event and lacked the fire that Levrone exhibited. He certainly didn't look ready to take on the champ and potentially knock him out. I personally would have placed Chris below Dexter Jackson and Gunter Schlierkamp. I think his advance publicity and his winnings earlier in the year helped him in the initial call-outs which automatically guaranteed his top three placing. If he would have shown up in his customary rock-hard condition and winning attitude, he could have really challenged Ronnie for the Sandow trophy this year.
4th Place - Dexter Jackson Dexter was in great condition on his fourth attempt at the Mr. Olympia title. Blessed with small joints and full muscle bellies, Dexter has gradually added size to his physique and was awarded with his progress by placing in the coveted top five at the biggest show in bodybuilding.
Dexter always shows up in top condition and ripped to the bone everytime he steps onstage. That conditioning combined with his outstanding shape always presents a threat to his competition. Often compared to Flex Wheeler because of his aesthetic shape and symmetry, Dexter was actually able to outshine the legendary Mr. Wheeler on this day due to Flex's new smaller look. Dexter was also much more confident onstage at the Olympia this year. He has paid his dues and, after placing in the top three at this year's Arnold Classic, he knew that this was his best chance to make the top five at the Big O. Congratulations to Dexter and I look forward to seeing him capture some first place victories soon on the pro circuit. (Note: Dexter did win his first professional competition shortly after the Mr. Olympia by placing first at the British Grand Prix on October 26th).
5th Place - Gunter Schlierkamp Gunter was the big surprise of the Mr. Olympia competition this year. When I say big, I mean BIG! Gunter stepped onstage at a ripped 300 pounds exuding confidence and completely won over the crowd at the Mandalay Bay. He received an outstanding reception from the appreciative audience who recognized a winner when they saw one. By the end of the night, the fans were hungry to see a new champion crowned as Mr. Olympia and Gunter filled that role bigger and better than anyone else onstage. If there was a bodybuilder that exemplified the Mr. Olympia title that night during the posedown, it was definitely Gunter Schlierkamp! Gunter trained this year with Charles Glass and received nutritional advice from guru Chad Nichols. The help he got from these two gentlemen made all the difference in the world as he was finally able to present his physique in all it's glorious realized potential. Always a big man, Gunter added ten quality pounds to his frame in the just the right places. It looked like he added size to his delts, pecs and back which shifted attention away from his wide waist and made him look much more streamlined at a heavier bodyweight.
I think Gunter actually reached his peak during the finals on Saturday night. According to the score sheet, he seemed to be grossly overlooked during the first round but significantly improved his placings during the mandatory comparisons. I think the judges were not expecting this German Giant to be in such outstanding condition and instead directed their attention to bodybuilders such as Coleman, Levrone, Cormier and Wheeler for comparisons during the relaxed round of judging.
Several hours later, however, Gunter had reached the physical peak of his lifetime and stepped onstage for his posing routine full, hard, vascular and ripped. He got both fuller and harder for the evening finals and completely stole the show away from the bodybuilders who got so much attention earlier in the day. The same thing actually happened to reigning champ Ronnie Coleman the first year he won the Olympia. Ronnie was not expected to finish in the top three that year but, by the time the evening show came around, Ronnie was so full and hard that he looked like he was going to burst. He caught the crowd's attention and everyone was chanting his name as the contest neared it's end. The same thing happened to Gunter in 2002.
There were two winners at this year's Mr. Olympia contest. Ronnie Coleman took home his fifth Sandow trophy but Gunter Schlierkamp was the true champion and the audience verified this with an incredible standing ovation and raucous applause. Gunter made the other five bodybuilders in the posedown look like little boys as he towered over everyone in the line-up. The highlight was when he posed down right next to Ronnie Coleman and outshined the champ by looking both bigger and harder. What a memorable night for a fantastic bodybuilder!!
6th Place - Lee Priest Lee again reached peak condition for the Mr. Olympia contest. He has some of the thickest arms and legs in the sport and was ripped and ready to make the top six tonight. Lee's only weakness is that his torso does not match up to those incredible limbs. His back looked great while posing it but it lacks width and thickness when he is standing relaxed. Someone with Lee's structure will always have a problem beating men with bigger structures like Ronnie or Levrone but he did manage to beat Chris Cormier earlier in the year at the San Francisco Grand Prix. He deserves credit for building one of the best physiques in the sport at a height of only 5'4". Lee is also one of the best posers in the sport, always giving a well-choreographed routine filled with artistic poses.
7th Place - Flex Wheeler I thought Flex would be challenging for one of the top three spots at this year's Mr. Olympia contest since he made the decision to compete at a lighter bodyweight. When Flex made his pro debut in 1993, he was recognized as one of the best professional bodybuilders in the history of the sport due to his incredible shape combined with impressive thickness and mass. After trying to beat Ronnie from 1998-2000 by competing in the 240 pound range, Flex decided to go back to a lighter bodyweight to regain his winning ways.
The rumor is that Flex competed at this year's Olympia without using any anabolic steroids or other drugs. I don't know if I quite believe that statement but Flex was much, much lighter than I have ever seen him. He didn't look like he weighed more than 215 pounds onstage. Although his arms and delts were still very large (possibly due to his past admitted use of synthol in those bodyparts?) and his legs had incredible shape and separation, his lats and pecs were very small compared to the previous version of Flex Wheeler. His lat spread poses were very underwhelming due to his lack of size in his torso.
Flex was placed high in the symmetry round of the pre-judging but his scores dropped during the muscularity round. He gave an entertaining posing routine and his overall general attitude seemed to be that he was just happy to be onstage again. The pressure and bad attitude that he displayed in the past was now replaced with a more calm demeanor and he happily congratulated the six bodybuilders who placed ahead of him when he was announced seventh place. I personally thought Flex was very lucky to place in the top ten due to his greatly reduced muscle mass.
8th Place - Markus Ruhl Big Markus Ruhl from Germany regained a top ten placing in this year's Olympia after placing a very disappointing 14th place last year. Markus is one of the largest bodybuilders alive although he is not the most pleasing physique to look at. He has slabs and slabs of beef piled onto his frame and the judges have previously marked him down for his lack of shape and symmetry. Tonight, he was not as ripped and hard as he was for his Night of the Champions win in May but the judges awarded him with eighth place for possessing such gargantuan mass and size. I would have liked to have seen Markus compete as hard as he was for the NOC. I felt he was a little too soft for this show and his belly was protruding more than it should have been. He definitely has some impressive mass and is always a crowd favorite. He even added a little butt shaking to his posing routine although he did not dare to attempt a full split position as Ronnie Coleman did in his performance.
9th Place - Orville Burke After last year's very successful year, including a surprising sixth place finish in the 2001 Mr. Olympia, Orville Burke laid low this year and saved it all for the Big O. Orville added some serious mass to his physique and was one of the largest competitors onstage. I thought the additional size looked great on Orville and he deserved to be in the top 10. However, the extreme definition that Orville displayed last year (striated glutes, reduced waistline, etc) were missing this year and the judges took him to task for it. His back looked incredible and his lat spread poses (both front and back) are a sight to see due to his extremely developed high lats. If Orville comes back next year with more definition and manages to hold onto his newly acquired size, he should definitely make a big impact.
10th Place - Dennis James Dennis barely made the top ten in this very competitive competition thereby beating out 15 other bodybuilders. I feel that Dennis definitely has the genetic potential to easily place in the top three of the Mr. Olympia if and when he really peaks. If you don't believe me, check out his video "Dennis James - This Is How I Do It". He is incredibly thick and freaky in the off-season but always seems to lose it when he steps onstage. I thought Dennis was lucky to make the top ten this year because he was not in peak condition. I don't know if he was holding water or if he came in a little flat but his muscles did not jump out when he hit his poses despite his substantial muscle mass. I've seen Dennis compete in top shape at other shows but he seems to have a hard time getting it right for the Big O.
11th Place - Craig Titus Craig had a good day this year by placing just out of the top ten in his second Mr. Olympia contest. He overdieted last year in an attempt to bring down his waistline and ended up flattening out his physique. This year, he ate more calories and came in fuller and heavier. I thought he was much improved from last year with huge, vascular thighs, a thick back and impressive arms. However, his somewhat flat pecs and expanding waistline throw off the shape of his physique and I feel he was placed ahead of some other bodybuilders who could have beaten him (Art Atwood and Ahmad Haider in particular). To his credit, Craig did place way ahead of his hated nemesis, King Kamali, who missed his peak by mile.
12th Place - Art Atwood Art was making his Olympia debut after winning his first pro show in May and beating the newly crowned NOC champion, Markus Ruhl. I predicted that Art could possibly surprise everyone and make the top five but he was, instead, unfairly placed out of the top ten. Art has potential plus with an incredible amount of muscle mass on a big frame. His thick pecs and lats were more impressive than almost any other bodybuilder on stage. Art was in good condition with a Christmas tree lower back and striated glutes but could have been a little harder from the front. If he would have shown up in the same condition that he did in Toronto, maybe the judges would have awarded him a higher placing. As it was, I still felt that Art deserved at least seventh place, ahead of Flex, Markus, Orville, Dennis and Titus. If you don't believe me, check out the photos of Art in the mandatory poses during the comparisons. He makes some of the pros who placed ahead of them look like little boys! Keep your head up, Art. You have some of the best physical potential of any pro bodybuilder currently competing today!
13th Place - Ahmad Haider Ahmad was this year's surprise bodybuilder placing fourth in the Pro IRONMAN show and sixth at the Arnold Classic. He probably has the best set of abs in professional bodybuilding and a very pleasing, symmetrical physique. I think Ahmad needs to bring up his lats so he looks as impressive from the rear as he does from the front. Also, Ahmad was slightly harder for the earlier spring shows than he was for the Olympia. Due to his somewhat smaller stature and lighter bodyweight, Ahmad needs to be extremely ripped and hard to beat out some of the bigger bodybuilders. However, he was able to beat one of the biggest (6'4" Quincy Taylor) at the IRONMAN and Arnold Classic so it's definitely possible. I think Ahmad has a good career ahead of him.
14th Place - Ernie Taylor Ernie Taylor from England earned 14th spot in this very tough contest. I don't have anything against Ernie personally but I feel that he should be placed down by the judges due to his obvious use of synthol. His triceps are notorious in the bodybuilding world as being "oil-enhanced" and I don't think anyone really believes that he earned those triceps from just doing skull-crushers and pushdowns. This year, Ernie looked like he added some more synthol to his physique in his legs. His vastus medialis (the teardrop muscle in the thighs) had a very funky shape that I've never seen before. As for the rest of his physique, Ernie looked to be a little flat during the comparisons. His arms are freaky huge, of course, but his torso looked too depleted. And then, there were those oddly shaped thighs...
15th Place - Nasser El Sonbaty Nasser returned to his "Big" look for the Olympia after trying to compete at a lighter bodyweight at the Arnold Classic earlier in the year. I thought he looked much better but it was still not good enough to place in the top ten. This was Nasser's first time out of the top ten in the Mr. Olympia since 1994 and it looks like he may never regain that winning combination of size and hardness that allowed him to take second to Dorian Yates in 1997 and place in the top three in '95, '96 and '98. The synthol injections in his arms and delts are very distracting and Nasser just doesn't seem to be able to regain those sharp lines in his abs that he showed off so well in the '90's.
16th Place - Darrem Charles Darrem was a true champion competing in this year's Mr. Olympia competition despite the fact that his mother was killed only 2 weeks earlier. What incredible heart he has to persevere under such tragic conditions. Darrem performed a beautiful posing routine that was dedicated to his late mother and I'm sure there weren't many dry eyes in the house after he finished. As for his physique, I thought it was a much improved version of Darrem Charles. He definitely increased his size and it may have dulled his normally razor sharp condition a little but I could have seen him placing several positions higher due to his outstanding symmetry and shape.
17th Place - King Kamali What a surprise this was! After last year's outstanding debut as a pro, I thought Kamali would move up several places from his impressive tenth place finish last year at the Olympia. Instead, he dropped way out of the coveted top ten all the way down to 17th place. King was very flat this year compared to his full, hard condition last year. He still gave a great posing routine that was somewhat similar to last year's outstanding performance. I'm sure Kamali simply miscalculated his diet toward the end and will be back next year in great shape.
18th Place - Bob Cicherillo Hollywood Bob, as he is now known in bodybuilding circles, also placed very low at the Olympia this year. Bob looked too smooth during the pre-judging but he looked like he hardened up for the night show. Cicherillo placed very well in the competitions he competed in this year (2nd in the Southwest Pro and the NOC) and he is a big guy with great shape so if he comes in really hard, he will place higher again. The front double biceps and lat spread poses are tailor made for his physique.
19th Place - George Farah George is another bodybuilder who has made remarkable strides since turning pro. He has added considerable mass to his physique in the last two years but he still has a hard time in a group such as this due to his short stature and lack of size. The scar on his stomach still detracts from his ab poses but he deserves major props just for making it to the Olympia stage after being shot and being declared clinically dead only a few short years ago. His physique is somewhat reminiscent of Lee Labrada but that was a different era when Lee was winning pro shows so it should be interesting to see how George does next year. He's obviously a guy who doesn't give up easily.
20th Place - Francisco "Paco" Bautista This was the first time I got to see Paco Bautista and he has a very impressive physique. He is packed with an incredible amount of muscle on his frame complete with paper-thin skin. His leg development is beyond freaky and his glutes were the most striated onstage next to Ronnie Coleman. Unfortunately, his overall shape is very blocky and he could use more lat width from the back to enhance his symmetry. I also noticed some use of synthol on his physique (in the side delts) along with some bad gyno. However, there were others who placed higher that also displayed a blatant use of synthol and they were not nearly as hard as Bautista was. If the judges are going to look the other way when judging synthol and other drug abuses, I don't understand why Paco was placed so near the bottom of the pile. If you're looking for a freaky bodybuilder who is both massive and shredded, Paco Bautista is your man!
21st Place - Claude Groulx Claude placed at the bottom of the pack again as he did last year. Claude has an incredible amount of muscle mass packed on his frame (hard to believe he used to compete as a middleweight). However, his waist is just too big due to his large weight gain over the last few years. His delts, back, legs and arms are incredibly thick but his waist matches these bodyparts in girth and this destroys his overall symmetry and shape.
22nd Place - Tommi Thorvildsen Tommi was too smooth for his first Olympia. He is another bodybuilder who doesn't have the best shape so he really needs to come in ripped to place high. His arms are too small for the rest of his physique, his waist is a little too wide and his torn right pec detracts from the overall picture. Tommi has a great attitude, however, and he really enjoys being onstage. He is very young compared to the rest of the Olympia competitors so he has several years left in him to make improvements, especially since he is now living in California.
23rd Place - Jaroslav Horvath Jaroslav has a really impressive physique and I think he was placed much too low in his first Olympia. He has full muscle bellies with nice shape and he came in very hard. He seemed to be punished by the judges for being shorter and lighter (191 pounds) than the rest of the competitors. I hope he keeps competing and gets some more publicity in the magazines as I feel he has some great potential.
24th Place - Gustavo Badell Gustavo has a thick physique but is simply not big enough or aesthetic enough to place high at the Mr. Olympia. I think he was harder earlier in the year when he qualified for this show but he will have a hard time making the top rung in a contest like the Olympia due to his structural shortcomings.
25th Place - Don Youngblood Don was a real disappointment in this contest. He has been a real surprise over the last couple of years, coming out of nowhere to nearly upset Vince Taylor at last year's Masters Olympia contest. This year, he really shocked everyone by doing what was thought impossible, beating Taylor at the Masters Olympia and then getting a special invite to the big show, the Mr. Olympia. At 47 years old, he is still really impressive but he looked like he went off his diet after beating Vince and never went back on it. His stomach was sticking out during his full posing routine and definitely looked bloated. I guess he was just happy to be there.
Overall, it was a very exciting Mr. Olympia competition this year. Ronnie Coleman barely won his fifth title and was booed for the first time in his reign as the top champ. Coleman stated at the press conference that he will be competing for the next two years. What will he look like next year? He will obviously need to be much improved from the deflated version he presented this year to hold off competitors such as Jay Cutler, Gunter Schlierkamp and Kevin Levrone. The crowd may start a riot next year unless the judges take a much closer look at all the contestants for the Big O. Everyone seems to be hungry for a new champion. Will it happen next year or will Coleman come back in his best shape ever to quiet his detractors (of which there are many after this year's controversial victory). Stay Tuned!