Chasing Glory: Joe Weider’s 2017 Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend – The Contenders.
With the ever-expanding depth and breadth of top-line talent on display in Las Vegas each September it’s become redundant to suggest that each manifestation of the world’s premier hard-body showcase, Joe Weider’s Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend, will be much improved from the year before.
Let’s just say that fans of physical perfection are annually treated to a series of hotly contested divisions in what has always been a production of immense proportions. This year’s event will be no exception.
First, the sheer and ever-growing number of divisions is bound to attract a multitude of fans of different types of physique. From the softer and more sensuous Bikini and Figure athletes to the freakishly muscled and shredded to perfection standout division of Men’s Bodybuilding, all closely scrutinized athletes will be vying for a legacy of greatness: the title of world’s best in their respective categories.
the title of world’s best in their respective categories.
Second, bearing witness to an Olympia showcase means being part of history. Each year intense and closely-fought rivalries (think Yates versus Ray, Coleman versus Cutler, Heath versus Greene or, further back, Arnold versus Sergio) make the Men’s Bodybuilding division, on its own, a major drawcard for many.
Emerging talent and breakthrough placements across all divisions may also signal a new era in physical supremacy (Yates and Coleman again). Not being there, or tuning in, is to miss a historical event of many potential surprises.
To win Olympia gold (whatever the division) means deserved bragging rights and top dog status for an entire year. This means each competing athlete is sure to be at the top of their respective games.
Thus the Olympia presents a certain quality of athlete that is seldom, if ever, seen on any other IFBB Pro stage. All athletes could rightly be considered the best at what they do and among the top contenders in any other competitive division. Predicting who will place where and why is therefore an immensely difficult task. Nevertheless, here are my top five predictions for several of this year’s standout divisions.
Men’s Bodybuilding: Top Five Predictions
Fifth Place: Mamdouh (Big Ramy) Elssbiay
Few IFBB pros could claim to be better positioned going into this year’s Olympia than the massive Egyptian Mamdouh Elssbiay, otherwise known as Big Ramy. Coming off a big win at the 2016 Kuwait Pro and second place finishes at the 2016 Arnold Classic Europe and 2016 EVLS Prague Pro events, Ramy has finally addressed his minor conditioning problems and is now competing in the shredded shape that many feel will someday secure him the Olympia crown.
At this year’s O he’ll be the largest man onstage in a field of unprecedentedly massive men. With standout quads and one of the best back double biceps poses in the game today, he’ll be tough to beat. However, with balance and rock hard density across all muscle groupings being the order of the day, he’s unlikely to threaten Heath and company for the top spot.
Fourth Place: William Bonac
A good case could be made for William ‘The Conqueror’ Bonac being 2016’s breakthrough pro. Going from second place in 2015’s San Marino Pro to fifth place in his Olympia debut in 2016, Bonac has shown that he’s not to be taken lightly. Then again, the shredded Ghanaian has always been in the mix, having placed no lower than sixth since beginning his pro career in 2012. There’s a reason for his impressive rise to the top: arguably he’s pound-for-pound today’s most impressively-muscled pro.
Stacked with full, round muscle and with more cuts than a barrel of razorblades, he’s now gunning for top three come Olympia time. This year he’ll likely go one better than he did in 2016. If any of the top three, as listed below, come in even slightly off their best he may just get his top three placement at the tender age of 35 (young for a top-tier Olympian).
Third Place: Shawn Rhoden
Rhoden has for several years been a legit frontrunner for Olympia glory. In 2016 he placed second to The Gift with a physique that pushed the incumbent champ harder than any other competitor has done in recent memory. And at age 42 he seems to be growing stronger by the year.
A perfect balance between each of his standout body-parts complete with the best V-Taper in the game today and a mandatory Olympia-caliber waistline will give Flexatron a decided edge over his closest rivals. It’ll be close between him and Dexter Jackson (who placed third in 2016) but it’ll be the veteran Jackson’s experience, super-shredded conditioning and seeming ability to improve despite the ravages of time that’ll likely push The Blade to the fore.
Second Place: Dexter Jackson
An IFBB pro since 1999, Dexter Jackson has been battling the best for the best part of two decades. An amazing accomplishment considering the immense toll competing in pro bodybuilding events can take on the body and mind. With his winning record extending to a staggering 28 with four victories in 2016 alone (the most recent being the Mr. Olympia Europe crown), pro bodybuilding’s most successful athlete has proven that time has not diminished his ability to win big.
Many long years as a pro have not dulled the blade that continues to cut through swathes of the best bodybuilding athletes the IFBB has ever seen. In 2016 he showed that he can still go toe-to-toe with the best, at slightly below his personal best. This year the 47-year-old will want to pull it all together for a final shot at the title he won in 2008.
First Place: Phil Heath
Commencing his pro career with a first place finish at 2006’s Colorado Pro, bodybuilding’s Gift keeps on giving as he continues to rack up a succession of wins. His first Olympia title came in 2011. Since then he’s not lost an event and has gone on to win a further five O’s. For the most recent generation of bodybuilding fans, Heath is the most dominant athlete to have stridden the pro stage. He’s freaky dense from every angle, a sought-after but seldom realized look that is defined by the newly created term ‘3D muscle’. Barring any last minute prep oversights, he’ll be collecting his seventh Sandow come September 16.
Classic Physique: Top Five Predictions
Fifth Place: Darrem Charles
A pro since 1992, Darrem Charles has been competing at the top longer than any of his present-day Olympia peers – even longer than the ageless Dexter Jackson himself. With a succession of wins to his credit and one of the IFBB’s more balanced physiques, the 48-year-old native of Trinidad still presents the ripped to shreds look he’s spent decades refining. He won four Classic Physique titles in 2016 (the year of the division’s inception) and placed fifth at the Classic Physique Olympia the same year. Certainly a favorite for top-six honors, he’ll have no trouble maintaining his top tier status in 2017.
Fourth Place: Flex Wheeler
Beginning his pro career around the same time as Darrem Charles, Flex Wheeler, aged 52, is unquestionably one of the greatest bodybuilders never to win an Olympia title. Known for his near perfect shape, full muscle bellies and captivating stage presence, Flex last competed as a pro at the Pro Ironman Invitational in 2003 before kidney problems curtailed his ascent and he was forced to carve out a successful career as a bodybuilding journalist.
His last Olympia appearance was in 2000 (he placed third) and in 1998 and 1999 he came within a quad striation of winning the title, which, instead, ultimately went to the legendary eight-time champion Ronnie Coleman. Now he’ll be making his much anticipated return. In recently released pictures he looks amazing – full and ripped. With Flex’s god-giving shape, he’ll likely make top four in his long awaited return to the O stage.
Third Place: Arash Rahbar
The 5’ 11” Iranian/American Arash Rahbar has a phenomenal physique and, should he nail his prep to perfection, could win his first Olympia title in 2017. One of the more shredded men in any Olympia category, Arash has no trouble highlighting every well-placed line on his beautifully-balanced body. He won the New York and Pittsburg Pro events in 2016 and capped off a stellar year with fifth place in his Olympia debut. He’ll be aiming for the top in 2017. He’ll have a tough battle against the division’s most talented lineup to date but should nevertheless make top three.
Second Place: Danny Hester
Another bodybuilding legend, Danny Hester has been showcasing his ultra-aesthetic physique since the early ‘90s. An incredible V-Taper, highly peaked biceps and full quads and hams are among his most celebrated assets. Recent standout performances include a win at the 2016 MuscleContest Pro and a first place finish at the first-ever Classic Physique Olympia later that year. He’ll be looking to retain his hard-fought title in 2017.
First Place: Sadik Hadzovic
A long-time pro Men’s Physique competitor, Sadik Hadzovic’s physique best represents the Classic ideals upon which the IFBB’s newest division was founded: aesthetic, yet extremely muscular and impressive from all angles. Slightly off his best form in 2016 he still managed to take third at the inaugural Classic Physique Olympia, with the best-balanced (Frank Zane-like) body onstage. All reports suggest he is ready to win in 2017. It’ll be tough against such seasoned competition but, with another year to prepare, he’ll be ready to fulfill the expectations his many fans have of him.
Men’s Physique: Top Five Predictions
Fifth Place: George Brown
One of the more dominant and consistently impressive Men’s Physique pros of recent memory is George Brown. Packed with quality muscle, the good-looking brown won two big titles in 2016 (the Pittsburg and New York Pro shows) and placed sixth in his second Olympia outing in as many years (he took seventh in 2015). He has the physique to do some serious damage in one of the more popular and heavily-contested of IFBB pro divisions. With a little more muscle to flesh out his aesthetic physique he may soon be in the top-three mix.
Fourth Place: Brandon Hendrickson
A fourth place finisher at last year’s Men’s Physique Olympia, Brandon Hendrickson is one of today’s more heavily muscled and impressively-proportioned athletes in what is the most competitive IFBB men’s pro division. Superb back and arm development combined with some of the best abdominals in any category has given him an edge over more aesthetic, though less muscular athletes. With a 2016 victory in the other most prestigious of physique spectacles, the Arnold Classic, he’s forged a winning reputation. We’ll see if he can extend his winning record come Olympia day.
Third Place: Andre Ferguson
A breakthrough athlete of sorts, Andre Ferguson radically transformed his physique following his 2015 Olympia misfire (where he placed 12th) to take fifth in 2016. If he can make similar improvements this time around, most notably in muscle density, he’s likely to improve upon his most recent O placement. As with all top Olympians, Andre has won his share of events. Most recently he took the highly competitive New York Pro title in convincing fashion. Not one of the larger men on today’s physique circuit, he prefers to let his revered aesthetics do the talking onstage. His remarkable physique should make top three in 2017.
Second Place: Ryan Terry
In demand for his modeling services as much as he is for his workout advice, the British Men’s Physique sensation Ryan Terry is also a popular pick for 2017 Olympia top honors. With some of the best abs and shoulders in the division coupled with the grainy, chiseled appearance of one who never eats dessert, the 195lb standout should have no trouble repeating his 2016 second place Olympia finish.
First Place: Jeremy Buendia
A Men’s Physique Pro since 2013, Jeremy Buendia has wasted no time in securing his spot as the man to beat in the division he has made his own. Having won the last three Men’s Physique Olympias, he’s set to continue his reign in 2017 with a physique that has shown no signs of slowing down. A natural athlete, Buendia excelled in football until neck and lower back injuries forced him out of the game and into the gym. Following his first show at age 17, he’s continued to add quality muscle. Now 26, he’s built one of the world’s most celebrated physiques. Can he win Olympia number four? Tune in on September 15 to find out.
Bikini: Top Five Predictions
Fifth Place: Iveth Carreon
With three Bikini wins in 2016 and 11th at last year’s Olympia, master’s bikini standout Iveth Carreon will be fighting for top six in 2017. With several big names out of the running the emerging threat and native of Mexico will, this year, be hunting for Olympia gold. She’s likely to land in the top six based on the improvements she has continued to make.
Fourth Place: Romina Basualdo
A bikini competitor since 2014, Argentinean Romina Basualdo made last year’s Olympia top ten with a sensuous yet muscular physique with just the right amount of balanced size to show she’s more than just a bundle of well-placed curves. The ex-gymnast is also known for hitting it hard in the gym. She has all the promise in the world. With her steady improvements she’ll certainly make top ten in 2017 and will likely place as high as top six.
Third Place: Janet Layug
One of today’s more beautiful bikini standouts, Janet Layug, a model as well as a hard training athlete, will be looking to better her respectable sixth-place 2016 Olympia finish at this year’s event. With a succession of firsts fleshing out her impressive pro resume, Layug is currently on the top of her competitive game, as her fourth place Arnold Classic finish earlier this year would suggest. Look for her to challenge for the top spots come Olympia day.
Second Place: Jennifer Ronzitti
Placing fifth in her Olympia debut in 2016 and third at this year’s Arnold Classic has positioned Jennifer Ronzitti, a two-time IFBB Pro winner (2016 Toronto Pro Supershow and Baltimore Grand Prix), as a sure pick for Olympia top honors in 2017. An ALLMAX Nutrition athlete, Jennifer has been extra diligent in her 2017 prep with the singular aim of winning big in her second Olympia outing. A week out from hitting the Olympia 2017 stage, Jennifer has taken 1st place at the Wings of Strength Arizona Pro Show.
First Place: Angelica Teixeira
As of this writing, the 2017 Olympia competitor list (upon which this review is based), released by the IFBB Professional League, shows no indication that reining Olympia bikini champion Courtney King will be defending her title this year. This leaves the door open for 2016 runner-up Angelica Teixeira, who recently won her first major bikini title at most recent Arnold Classic.
Upon turning pro in 2015, Angelica placed 15th in her Olympia debut that same year. The following year a mere curve or two cost her against reigning champ King. As her recent outings show, she has made vast improvements since 2016: an extra degree of hardness, greater glutes and rounder delts topping the list. She should win in 2017, but will have a fight on her hands in the stellar form of Ronzitti.
A fine line often separates the top placed Olympia athletes from those who come close but falter at the final hurdle. Each Olympia competitor is by definition the best of the best. With an IFBB mandated points system in place, only consistent performers make the grade. This year, fans will be treated to yet another formidable lineup of top ranked contenders. With such competitive lineups to choose from and the ever-looming possibility that certain top contenders will miss their mark come game day, precisely determining the top standings is an impossible task. One thing is for certain however: for each vying athlete, the Olympia will continue to be the most sought after title on offer.