The 2012 Mr. Olympia contest was a much anticipated contest with many predictions going all around. This was one of the first years in quite some time - maybe ever - where it was almost an open field with many bodybuilders having the possibility of winning the contest. Phil Heath ultimately won to a very good Kai Greene and a surprising Shawn "Flexatron" Rhoden in 3rd place. I now present you with my 2012 Mr. Olympia contest report...
If there was one bodybuilder who was considered most likely to win the Mr. Olympia title, it would have been Phil Heath. Phil is the reigning champion and most would have predicted Phil would win as long as he retained his previous best conditioning and that scenario would only be threatened if Kai Greene was also at his best, but even then, with no guarantee of a win for Kai. As it turned out, both Phil Heath and Kai Greene were at their best or close to it and the judges awarded Phil for it. It has often been said that in order to defeat the champion you have to knock him out and even though some said Kai looked better, it was very close and not enough for the judges to give it to him. I think that Phil was harder than Kai in certain areas such as the upper chest and shoulders and that was visible in the front shots. Phil would raise his shoulders up too high while hitting the front double biceps pose and that highlighted how narrow his frame is, at least in relation to a wider bodybuilder like Kai Greene.
This was a time where Kai Greene definitely had things together for the Mr. Olympia and gave Phil Heath a good run for his money. It was still not enough in the minds of the judges to give it to Kai, but it was pretty close. Kai was in great condition and was probably a little lighter than at other outings, Dave Palumbo had him pegged at 255-lb, and brought the type of package necessary to compare very well with Phil. Kai was not just lighter, but actually lost the weight in the right areas for the most part although some considered his upper body to be a little light as a result of his increased conditioning. Had Phil come in off, it would have gone to Kai, but with both in such great shape, the decision to reward the title of Mr. Olympia to Phil Heath was decided, with Kai in a close 2nd.
I had no expectations at all of Shawn Rhoden placing the top three in this lineup. I would have considered top six to be a great achievement in this lineup and that is a thought shared by Aaron Singerman. Top eight would have been a common prediction for Shawn, with some saying top six, but I had no idea he would be 3rd, despite his wins in Tampa and Finland. He placed 3rd here and no one had any problems with that. What Shawn has going for him is his great shape and symmetry but what surprised myself and others is that he was able to compete size-wise with the best in the world. A great structure will only get you so far in bodybuilding as it still is bodybuilding and mass still matters. Shawn retained his previous great shape and did not lack for size and got a 3rd place finish which was not much in dispute.
Dexter will be turning 43 in November of 2012 so for him to compete at the age of 42 and place 4th is actually quite impressive especially at a time when a lot of people thought he was slowing down. Many considered this to be the best look for Dexter since his 2008 Mr. Olympia contest win and it did redeem Dexter in the way that it made people remember that he was a former top bodybuilder and still is. I think no one would have been particularly surprised if Dexter made the top six, but to place 4th was a great result for Dexter and makes me wonder how much more time he has left in bodybuilding if he is soon to be 43 years old and still looks like this.
Dennis Wolf is a bit of an enigma when it comes to bodybuilding as so many people think that he has the potential to be Mr. Olympia one day or at least top two, yet the best he has been so far has been 4th place in 2008. By all means that was a good result, but I think until a bodybuilder cracks the top three, or perhaps more consistently cracks the top four, could one consider them a future Mr. Olympia. For the time being we know that Dennis is good for top 4-6, but top 1-3 is another story and may require one or more of his competition to come in off to make that happen. In order to win the Mr. Olympia he would have to beat one of  Phil Heath,  Kai Greene,  Shawn Rhoden,  Dexter Jackson, or  Branch Warren and that was just at this contest. There are still some other great bodybuilders to consider such as Toney Freeman and Evan Centopani who have the potential to do quite well, so in general Dennis would have his hands full to be Mr. Olympia. I think for it to happen one or more of his top competition would have to come into the contest out of shape. Dennis looked great at this contest but one thing about Dennis is that he walks a fine line between showing up in outstanding conditioning and losing a bit of fullness. Dennis is six feet tall and has a tendency to display his long shape when he hits the side poses in particular. If he is in great condition, he can look slim in those poses - at least in comparison to people like Phil Heath and Kai Greene. In any case, this was a decent finish for Dennis Wolf and I am sure he can place higher in the future although with the depth of competition today, I wonder what the odds are of him placing in the top three.
Toney Freeman turned 46 on August 30th of 2012 and retained his 7th place finish from last year and I must say, that is an outstanding result for him. It never ceases to amaze me how Toney either keeps getting better or at the very least, does not get any worse. I don't frankly much understand it to be honest. In the Battle for the Olympia 2006 DVD, Toney was 40 and he said that it was his first Mr. Olympia contest but that it would not be his last and this is his 7th Mr. Olympia in a row! He has competed in every Mr. Olympia since turning 40 and has been in the top 10 in all of those contests with the exception of 2007. His best ever placing was 5th in 2008 and he was not far behind with 7th here today. I'm not quite sure how long Toney plans to compete for and I don't think even Toney has a definite plan as he has other things going on in his life such as his X-Pain product, but it seems to me that there is no writing on the wall for him to stop competing now. I think this is the result of intelligent training and being someone quite aware of his body. I would guess that he knows when to back off to prevent an injury and is training for bodybuilding only as opposed to powerlifting or any hybrid of the two. Toney was big and in condition at this contest and presenting his usual excellent package. I can't say anything bad about Toney's physique here and 7th place is a great result in this lineup.
There's nothing wrong with being in the top 10 [or more specifically the top 8] in your first Mr. Olympia contest and that is what happened to Evan. I would say that a lot of people had big expectations for Evan and Evan had a big one for himself which was just to beat his previous best. I don't think he did that here and I would say it's safe to say that he looked better at the 2012 Arnold Classic. His legs seemed to be a bit thin compared to his usual standard but overall this was still a good showing for Evan. It's hard to complain about such a good performance especially for his first time on the Olympia stage. I think top six or higher for Evan next year would be quite likely.
Johnnie Jackson will be turning 42 on January 30, 2013, yet he is still at his best. This is true for Johnnie in both bodybuilding and powerlifting. In January of 2012, Johnnie achieved a personal record contest deadlift of 829-lb. Some say that Johnnie's heavy training may be impeding his leg development somewhat as he does not have the legs to match his upper body. One thing about Johnnie that is noteworthy is that while Johnnie is that Johnnie competed in every Mr. Olympia contest from 2003-2012 with the exception of 2009. His best ever placing was 9th in 2007 and that is what he replicated tonight. Johnnie is always around, but also always just outside that top 10. This may be due to his legs being a slight bit smaller than what one would expect given his upper body size or possibly due to being slightly off in conditioning over the years but this performance tonight was great for Johnnie and a lot of things came together. I can't knock his conditioning in any way although I would say his legs are still just a touch too thin to move up and if he added a little more size to his legs, I think he could be around the 6-7 spot. Whether that is a function of Johnnie's powerlifting training or not, I'm not sure, but one thing is for certain and that is that Johnnie is not slowing down at this point so we may be seeing him again in the near future.
I saw Lionel Beyeke in person at the 2011 Toronto Pro where he placed 2nd behind Craig Richardson. This was Lionel's first Mr. Olympia contest and for him to place 10th during his first outing is quite impressive. For the time being, I think Lionel will just have to make subtle changes to improve and eventually make that top six or better at the Olympia. He doesn't appear to be injured in any way so I think that it can be done. Since Lionel only recently turned 31 earlier this month, he definitely has time to make the necessary improvements as there are bodybuilders over 40 still competing and doing well. So there is no reason why Lionel cannot be there himself one year soon.
Ben is a Canadian bodybuilder and astute student of the game. He is quite knowledgeable in training and nutrition and I was happy to see him on the stage. I had heard a lot of talk about how good Ben looked for this contest and was a little surprised to see him only place 11th. After reviewing his pictures to see if reports of his conditioning were accurate, it seemed to me that he was a little flat and perhaps that is what relegated him to #11. He was definitely in condition and that is important, although it looked to me as if he became thin in certain poses such as the front lat spread where his chest looked a little lighter than I had previously seen it and his legs did as well. Ben is an excellent bodybuilder and around 5'10 with the frame to be Mr. Olympia in my opinion. He is only 30 years old and that is young for a bodybuilder, especially a Mr. Olympia competitor. I think it would be fair to give Ben some time and see if more of his potential materializes within the next few years as I am quite confident that Ben can be in the top six or higher.
I saw Roelly Winklaar at the Meet the Olympians event on Thursday before the contest and I felt that he looked a little out of shape being so close to the contest. That was confirmed to me when I saw him at the Olympia expo on Friday but he had improved overnight. He may have improved a little more by the time of the contest on Friday night but he was still out of shape compared to previous best versions of himself. While this was Roelly's best Mr. Olympia finish and better than his lone attempt in 2010 when he placed 14th, I still think he has looked better in the past and could have been in the top 10 had he been at his best. For a bodybuilder who only turned pro in 2009, Roelly has been doing very well and has incredible potential. He is injury-free as far as I can tell and has freaky and round muscles and a frame to carry a lot of size. This wasn't a major disappointment by any means although as said above, I do think that Roelly could have placed in the top 10 had he been in better shape.
Ronny Rockel seemed to be quite confident at the press conference that he would do well at this contest but that did not happen. Ronny has some pretty great finishes at the Mr. Olympia, most notably his 6th place finish at the 2010 Mr. Olympia contest. However, he did not match that placing today and 13th place was pretty good at an extremely competitive contest, but nothing spectacular by any means and probably a disappointment for Ronny.
Essa is a bodybuilder who is talked about a lot but who has not delivered yet - on the Olympia stage at least. He has been somewhat consistent, winning the Chicago Pro this year yet placing 14th here today which is somewhat surprising for a bodybuilder who is just off a recent pro win. I think Essa has the genetic tools necessary to place much higher than 14th at the Olympia and it will simply be a matter of him pulling everything together. Not much more has to be said than that as it is difficult to point to a specific area on Essa that needs improvement. General improvements and consistency with his conditioning will be enough to move him up in the placings substantially.
Hidetada Yamagishi has been a consistent top 10 Mr. Olympia competitor but that did not happen this year. I would think that Hidetada wanted a better result than what we saw here tonight and I am also quite sure that he is capable of getting back into that top 10. I think this was a simple matter of not repeating his previous levels of conditioning and it was enough to drop him down to 15th. He has a physique that can easily be forgotten against heavier bodybuilders who are in shape when he is not in shape. As long as Hidetada shows up in shape, he is more or less a perpetual top 10 finisher and since he was not in shape this year, he placed 15th.
Overall, this was one of the highest quality Mr. Olympia lineups in quite some time. It is one thing to have such great names show up - that is common - but to have so many great names show up and all be in such great shape is another thing entirely and that is what happened this year for the most part. While some bodybuilders were disappointed - Branch Warren in particular - it was still a great contest and lived up to the Mr. Olympia name.