Just to compete on the world’s biggest bodybuilding stage at the annual Olympia showdown provides certain confirmation that an athlete has made it to the very top of their respective division and can therefore be classed among the world’s best. It’s an honor afforded to a select few. Of those who do make it to Mt Olympus, the challenge then becomes one of how to enter the IFBB’s upper Olympia echelons, to become a true title contender.
From September 13-16, from its perennial home of Las Vegas, Nevada, Joe Weider’s Fitness and Performance Weekend will again showcase today’s very best Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure, Physique, Classic Physique, Women’s Physique and Bikini athletes. Each will be aiming to achieve career-best performances. The top contenders will be looking to make history by winning their respective division’s most prestigious title.
One thing all fans of this ever-growing spectacle can be assured of is ultra-stacked line-ups, top quality competition and some of the biggest battles to be seen onstage at any such event, ever.
This is because, on the Olympia stage, there can be no room for error. Each athlete must be at the top of their game and ready to make the kind of statement that’ll secure ultimate success.
On the Olympia stage is where many years of dedicated effort comes down to a few hours’ subjection to the scrutiny of a panel of seasoned judges. It’s where thousands of hours of training, eating and supplementing with the best products money can buy culminates in one onstage moment in which career opportunities, training momentum and future competitive success can be further enhanced or, for some, derailed.
So, who will land where and why at this year’s Olympia? In the following preview, three of the IFBB’s biggest and fastest growing divisions will be previewed with the top six from each predicted.
Sixth Place: Roelly Winklaar
In the pro game for almost a decade, the ever-massive fan-favorite Roelly Winklaar continues to improve, so much so that he’s now considered one of few men to have the attributes needed to challenge for the coveted top three at this year’s Olympia.
While it’s conceivable that the mountainous Winklaar could make it this far, he’ll be up against men as large but with superior overall shape and aesthetics. Still, the 2018 Arnold Classic Australia winner will most certainly make top six should he bring the conditioning and freaky proportions that have made him one of today’s most impressive pro bodybuilding contenders.
Fifth Place: Steve Kuclo
Another top pro who’s been continuing to make big improvements is Team ALLMAX athlete Steve Kuclo. Coming off a career-best fifth-place finish at the 2018 Arnold Classic and a big pro win at the Indy Pro a month later, Kuclo is well-positioned to do some serious damage at this year’s Olympia, his fifth since 2013.
On the eve of one of the most competitive Olympias in the event’s history, Kuclo is aiming for a top-five finish. The best he’s done is 9th (in 2014). With the improvements he’s made (more fullness, drier conditioning) along with the proportion and symmetry that’s made him one of the better larger pros on today’s circuit, the Kingsnake may just slide into a top spot come Olympia day. He’ll certainly be at his very best and ready to push the other contenders all the way.
Fourth Place: Dexter Jackson
Without question the most successful pro bodybuilder ever to have pulled on a pair of trunks and hit a front-double biceps shot (having made the top six more than any other pro over almost two decades at the top), the ageless Dexter Jackson is always in the Olympia mix.
Having won the title in 2008 and having been on the cusp of winning it every year since, the Blade is always in shape and has the perfect combination of aesthetics and size to appeal to all bodybuilding fans and, most important for him, the judges he routinely stands before.
What’s perhaps most impressive about Jackson is the fact that he continues to improve when most of his pro peers have long been retired, many of them forced out of competition due to injury. Yet, the perennial champ (he won an astonishing eight pro titles in the 2015 and 2016 seasons alone) continues to show up and destroy men half his age (he’ll soon be turning 49).
Whatever happens at this year’s Olympia, we can be certain that Jackson will again be front and center, making the big call-outs and challenging for the top three.
Third Place: William Bonac
If anyone can upset the established order at this year’s Olympia, to pull off a shock victory, it’ll be the ultra-thick and supremely shredded William Bonac. Having won his first Arnold Classic Columbus title earlier this year, and having either won or placed top three in almost every other show he’s entered since he turned pro in 2011, The Conqueror has the credentials to go all the way and will be looking to add his first Olympia title to his impressive resume come September 15.
In 2017, Bonac signaled his arrival as an Olympia threat by placing third behind Big Ramy and champion Heath. Lacking the size of Ramy and Heath he more than compensates with his God-given shape and zero weaknesses (something that cannot be said about his fellow top contenders). I have him placing third but he could easily land higher.
Second Place: Phil Heath
For the past seven Olympias, Phil Heath has remained unbeaten, though several of his wins have not been without controversy. In 2018 he was pushed hard by ultimate second-place finisher Big Ramy, but in the end, a career-best Heath took the title in what was for many his best performance to date.
If history repeats and Heath brings a less than stellar physique to this year’s event (he’s never been consistently at his best), then the door is open for Ramy, Bonac or any other of his fellow top contenders.
With so much on the line (a victory that’ll put him first equal with Ronnie Coleman and Lee Haney for most Olympia wins), and the competition closing in, he’ll need to bring a physique that blows everyone else off the stage. At his stage in his career and with more genetically gifted athletes in contention, I doubt whether this is possible.
Winner: Big Ramy
What would professional bodybuilding be without controversy and with incumbent champ Heath expected by most to win his eighth Mr. Olympia title, putting him among the lofty company of iron luminaries Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman, one gets the feeling that, with the competition closing in, he’s not going to have as easy a run in 2018 as he has done in previous years.
With his gargantuan size and great proportions (including wider shoulders and superior pecs and quads compared to Heath), Big Ramy came extremely close to dethroning the champ in 2017. In fact, many felt the Gift received a gift in beating the massive Egyptian in one of his closest battles yet.
And while Ramy continues to make steady improvements year after year, Heath appears to be content to bring the same physique to each event, secure in the knowledge that the winning package will be his (he’s yet to be proven wrong).
With Ramy having recently achieved his biggest offseason physique to date, he’ll be the biggest man onstage at this year’s O. If he can replicate the conditioning of 2017 with a little more calf size and definition to balance out his otherwise stellar lower half, the era of overwhelming, proportionate size may well be upon us.
Sixth Place: Michelle Sylvia
A common complaint when it comes to judging the world’s best bikini competitors concerns where to put who when most competitors have all the attributes needed to make the final placements. One such athlete is Michelle Sylvia.
Gifted with tremendous shape, great looks and a captivating stage presence, the 2017 Pittsburg Pro winner is a perennial top six finisher. Jumping from 16th place at the 2016 Olympia to sixth in 2017 has given her a massive amount of momentum going into this year’s event, where she’ll likely make top six.
Fifth Place: Casey Samsel
Casey Samsel is another who could place much higher if not for an established order which tends to be maintained in the absence of breakout performances. Indeed, at the 2017 Olympia she placed fourth, a massive jump from 16th in 2016. Still, several true breakout competitors have emerged to potentially lay waste to her plans for a 2018 Olympia victory.
Fourth Place: Narmin Assria
Blessed with a look that could take her to the top of the Bikini standings within the next year or two, eight-year bikini veteran Narmin Assria has made her intentions for 2018 known loud and clear: she’s coming for the Olympia title that’s currently held by the most competitively successful bikini athlete of recent years, Angelica Teixeira.
Unlucky not to place higher in 2017 (she finished in fifth), Assria will be gunning for the top spot in 2018. Her closest competition will of course have other plans. She’s my pick for fourth based on her recent success and improvements.
Third Place: Romina Basualdo
The first Argentinean IFBB pro, Romina Basualdo is also notable for placing third in only her second Olympia appearance, in 2017 (she finished 9th in 2016). Having achieved multiple top-three finishes and improving from year to year, the tall and symmetrical Basualdo stands out in any lineup and will certainly be in contention for an impressive placement come September 15.
Second Place: Angelica Teixeira
A pro since 2015, current IFBB bikini queen Angelica Teixeira has made fast progress and wasted no time in asserting her dominance in this most hotly-contested division. While her 2015 Olympia debut was unsuccessful (she placed 16th) she’s since leaped to second in 2016, before winning the title on only her third attempt.
While her 2017 win was hard fought (it was extremely close between her and eventual runner-up Jennifer Ronzitti), no one can deny she had all the attributes to steal the show. Lacking the hard, stringy look that plagues many other female competitors, Teixeira, like Ronzitti, combines femininity with just the right degree of muscle and firmness to get the job done. Fit, healthy-looking and perfectly proportioned, she’ll be tough to beat in 2018. But there’s one lady that can do it…
Winner: Jennifer Ronzitti
A pro since 2015, the highly-ranked Jennifer Ronzitti has never been out of an Olympia top-six, a trend she plans to continue in 2018, but with one difference: she expects to win this year’s event.
With the recent improvements she has made (more glute fullness and a rounder, more athletic look overall) and her narrow Olympia loss in 2017 (many felt she should have won), it’ll be her time to shine come September 15.
Sixth Place: George Brown
Coming off a fifth-place finish at this year’s Arnold Classic, displaying career-best form and signaling that he’ll likely be among the top contenders at this year’s Olympia, recent City Limits Pro runner-up George Brown is ready to challenge for a top six spot. Gifted with some of the best abs in the game, replete with an ultra-narrow waistline, wide lats, all capped off with perfectly rounded delts, Brown is not only a fan favorite but also one to watch come September 15.
Fifth Place: Jeremy Potvin
A pro since 2016, the compact and ultra-wide Jeremy Potvin has had his share of high-level success with third and fifth place finishes at the 2016 and 2017 Olympias respectively. Add in a fifth place finish at this year’s Arnold Classic and the determination to regain, or better, his 2016 Olympia placement and the battle for his fellow top tier contenders is made that much more difficult.
By coming slightly below his best in 2017, Potvin dropped down the Olympia rankings. He’ll be more determined than ever to secure a top three finish in 2018. I have him in fifth but, as in any other Olympia division, anything can happen come contest day.
Fourth Place: Raymont Edwards
From sixth place at the 2017 Arnold Classic to second in 2018, Raymont Edwards has made some significant progress is a short period to become a top contender going into this year’s Olympia.
The 2017 Pittsburg Pro champ and fourth-place finisher at the 2017 Olympia, his record is as impressive as his shredded physique. Known for being one of the best-conditioned men in any division, Edwards also brings the mass, with detailed size from head to toe. However, against such tough competition, he’s likely to repeat his 2017 placing.
Third Place: Brandon Hendrikson
A recent war of words between up and coming Men’s Physique Olympia frontrunner Brandon Hendrikson and both current champion Jeremy Buendia and favorite for many, Andre Ferguson, has ignited controversy in the division and added more excitement to this year’s event.
While it appears that Hendrikson is using the age-old approach of trying to psyche out the opposition to gain an edge going into this year’s O, he’ll need to let his body, not his mouth, do the talking come game day. Fortunately for him, his physique, ultra-symmetrical and as well-proportioned as any in his division, is as impressive as his penchant for smack talk and he’ll be right in the mix, closely challenging both Buendia and Brown pose for pose.
Second Place: Jeremy Buendia
At just 27 years old, Men’s Physique king Jeremy Buendia, an IFBB pro since 2013, has won the Men’s Physique Olympia a record four times. In his last outing he was pushed hard by the ultra-talented Andre Ferguson and the outcome could have gone either way. Buendia won and is now on the hunt for title number five.
With size and shape that’s seldom seen in the pro Physique ranks he’s had a lock on the Olympia title for almost half a decade. He has age on his side, not to mention a physique that many men would kill to have. In the IFBB’s fastest growing men’s division, he’ll be in for the biggest battle of his life. I have him narrowly losing to…
Winner: Andre Ferguson
A massive win at this year’s Arnold Classic (his first at this prestigious event), defeating 28 elite-level pros and displaying a physique that has all the hallmarks of an Olympia champion, has placed Andre Ferguson at the top of the Olympia table going into 2018’s rendition.
Having narrowly lost the title to perennial champ Jeremy Buendia in 2017, Brown will be gunning for the number one spot come September 15. With the roundest muscle bellies in the division and 3D size that gives him added thickness from all angles, Brown also has one of the tightest waists around (making his massive physique appear larger still). Can he beat seasoned champ Buendia? It’ll be close but I think he has the edge in both size and shape.
Sixth Place: Nicole Wilkins
A three-time Olympia figure champion, having won the title in 2011, 2013, and 2014, Nicole Wilkins is always in the mix and challenging for the top spot. In her early 30s she still has time (and the physical attributes) to make another run at the title.
She’s currently preparing to better her (still spectacular) fifth place 2018 finish. Leaner than her fellow top-contenders with less shapely muscle, she will struggle to make the top three this year but should again challenge for her perennial spot in the top six.
Fifth Place: Heather Dees
A pro since 2012, 2017 Hawaii Pro winner Heather Dees has, after a rough 2014-2015 run, which had her placing outside the top six on several occasions, reclaimed her top contender status and is now routinely challenging for the top spots.
Placing fourth at the 2012, 2013 and 2017 Olympias has placed her on the cusp of winning the sport’s biggest prize. She’s now gunning for first. However, she will be up against women with much superior shape and muscle density. I believe she’ll be lucky to take fourth in 2018 and will more than likely land in fifth.
Fourth Place: Louise Rogers
From the United Kingdom, ALLMAX Nutrition athlete Louise Rogers has all the attributes needed to make it to the top of the Figure Division. With only seven women having won the Figure Olympia since its inception in 2003, the door is wide open at this year’s event for an eighth to join this illustrious list. Could Rogers surprise everyone to take this spot?
Coming off a second place finish at the 2018 Galaxy Pro, and displaying some of the best size and shape ever seen on a Figure stage, Rogers has all the momentum she needs to break the top six in her first Olympia showing. She’s likely to make the top four and, assuming she brings her best package to date, may even land as high as top three.
Third Place: Candice Lewis-Carter
Another who hasn’t placed outside the top three since 2016, Candice-Lewis Carter has finished third in her last four Olympia outings (taking second in 2016). Though she’s yet to win the big one, she’s come extremely close and should again find herself battling it out for the top spot in 2018.
Winner of 12 pro shows since 2012 (including first-place finishes in both the 2018 Arnold Classic Australia and Figure International) Lewis-Carter will have one of the most muscularly impressive physiques on this year’s Olympia stage. Her abs, shoulders, and quads are especially noteworthy. I have her repeating her placing of 2017 but, like all top contenders, she could land even higher.
Second Place: Cydney Gillon
Winner of the closely-contested 2017 Figure Olympia and second-place finisher at this year’s Arnold Classic, the compact (at 5’3 ¾) and densely muscular Cydney Gillon has established herself as one of the premier figure competitors on today’s pro scene.
Having not placed outside the top three in her last 11 pro shows (since placing third in the 2016 Arnold Classic), and coming off a big win at the 2018 Arizona Pro (her most recent event), the ultra-defined Gillon still does not, in my opinion, have superior shape to beat the competitor she bested at last year’s O. Nevertheless, she will most certainly make the top three should she bring the streamlined physique she is renowned for.
Winner: Latorya Watts
Winner of the 2015 and 2016 Olympias and a controversial second-place finisher in 2017, Latorya Watts has near perfect shape and just enough well-placed muscle to again take the title in 2018.
Along with possessing the division’s best V-Taper and thigh sweep, Watts can also lay claim to being the first African American to win the Figure Olympia (in 2015). I have her winning again in 2018.