I am very clear that you, or anyone else, can find many opinions across the internet about the outcome of the Mr. Olympia this year. However, mine is special. I am QUALIFIED to give an opinion. Why? I workout. I have also watched a few bodybuilding shows and I read the magazines. I even follow a few pros on IG. This one time, I had a pro like a post I made after I hash-tagged him. Seems pretty clear that I am qualified.
Let me first point out that I am one of the few who respects the judges’ decisions. Though I have been around for a while, I have never bought into the “political” argument that placings are bought or influenced. I know, I am SO naïve. I even think that 9/11 wasn’t a conspiracy and that terrorists flew planes into the Twin Towers. There is little hope for me.
I have been accused of being a Phil Heath nut-hugger for years. Why? I like nuts – just not Phil’s. Hope that clears up any confusion. Being from Denver, I have trained alongside Phil for years and competed against him twice - in 2003 and 2004. It was close, but he did beat me. I, and many others in Colorado at the time, knew he was destined for the top. No one could predict, however, that he would dominate the sport for as long as he did (and still might). So, if that qualifies me as hugging Phil’s nuts, I guess I like Phil’s nuts more than I thought I did. Still, I accept that he didn’t win. At the risk of sounding like I am cheating on Phil’s nuts, here is my take on Phil and a few of the other competitors this year:
Shawn Rhoden, aka 2018 Mr. Olympia, aka The DreamKiller Killer, aka Eeyore
Shawn killed it; he had to, to beat a reigning Mr. Olympia. I personally thought it was close and could have gone either way. I wasn’t disappointed that Shawn won and I wouldn’t have been disappointed had Phil won. Why? I don’t care; I don’t lose sleep over who wins the O. Shawn most certainly had the most pleasing – dare I say “pretty” – physique in the lineup. If I had to hug nuts it would probably be Shawn’s because to me, I prefer his look above anyone else in the lineup.
Does that mean Shawn should have won and the judges made the correct decision? No, not at all. My favorite, or anyone else’s favorite for that matter, doesn’t mean they are the best physique on stage. Qualified judges make those calls and as qualified as I think I am, I am not calling the shots and neither are you. I might think an umpire made a bad call, but I also respect that he is the pro and he is standing on top of the play, making a call that he feels is correct. He also wants to keep his job, so he is doing the very best that he can. Unlike most people, I try hard to keep my biases out of judging or umpiring. Whether I like the Rockies or the Marlins shouldn’t factor into whether I think the umpire sucks because that was, “clearly a strike.” Most people think their favorite should win, whether that is a bodybuilder, baseball or football team.
Shawn pulled off what most didn’t think he could pull off, including the guy interviewing Shawn post-show. If I were Shawn, I might have walked away from the interview when he told Shawn that he never thought “in a million years” that Shawn could win. GREAT way to start an interview. It became clear right away that Shawn isn’t anywhere near the asshole that I am because he stood there and did the interview, seemingly unaffected by the incredibly rude comment thrown at him.
I like Shawn’s physique and I like that he seems laid back. I also like that the message that seems to have been sent by the IFBB is that they might just start cracking down on the distended-gut issue in the open bodybuilding class.
Phil Heath, aka The Gift, aka 7-time Mr. Olympia
Though these are allegedly my favorite nuts, I had no issues with him being called in second place. I was surprised, yes, because I didn’t think that Shawn overpowered Phil, making it obvious that he beat him. Still, I was fine with it.
I do believe that Phil is thicker than Shawn and his condition was great – like it always is. That being said, Phil’s midsection pretty much single-handedly lost the show for him, relegating Phil to second place. Was this because of the hernia operation? Was his midsection an issue because there was a tear during the last week before the show in his abdomen? Does Phil simply struggle to control his midsection? It doesn’t matter much because judges don’t give a shit and they shouldn’t. The question is whether Phil can fix this problem.
Phil’s midsection can be fixed if this is a control problem. The heavier Phil was breathing, the worse his midsection looked. This seems to be related more to it being a control issue and this can be remedied by building better stamina while posing and also staying tight during transitions. He wasn’t distended while in a pose; he was distended in BETWEEN poses.
While in ab poses, yes, you could still see an issue with the abdominal wall – as if there was a mild deformity or, at the very least, a change in the look of his abs from last year. If this is surgery related, it might be harder to fix than simply the distention, itself.
Last year, Phil’s scoring wasn’t impacted by distention and his distention was every bit as much as it was this year, in my opinion. Either the judges scored him down this year because Shawn was knocking on the door or they didn’t like the change in the look of Phil’s abs even while posed. No matter, it seems clear to me that Shawn was the better bodybuilder that weekend whether it was because of Phil’s abs or not. The big question is if Phil can make the necessary changes for next year. An even bigger question is whether he will even compete again.
I don’t have any idea how Phil took this loss on a personal level because I don’t know him well enough, anymore. I haven’t had a conversation with him in years. I can speculate that losing is harder on him than most, simply because he has little experience with losing. He did not lose as an amateur (ok, he lost an overall one time at the state level and even the guy who beat him said he shouldn’t have beaten Phil). He has also lost only a handful of shows as a pro and has not lost a show in eight years, until now. It is an understatement to say that Phil has an ego (and arguably duly earned), so one would have to wonder if he will even risk losing again by coming back next year. He could walk away having won seven Olympia titles and retire. He should have plenty of money to do so. I would like to believe, though, that he will instead make the necessary adjustments and come back to attempt to take back the title. It has been done before and I, along with a lot of fans out there, would love to see this showdown take place next year.
Egberton Rulove Ettiene-Winklaar, aka Roelly Winklaar, aka “The People’s Choice” Winner
I will admit that I was surprised to see Roelly in the top-three. This is not to say his physique is subpar or that he was undeserving. As far as I am concerned, he is one of the biggest and thickest guys to take the stage. However, I was not impressed with his conditioning especially when he came out the first time at the finals. He had slipped considerably from prejudging and seemed to be holding quite a bit of water. He then came back onstage about two hours later and looked completely different. I can’t remember when I have witnessed such a transformation in a physique in such a short amount of time. I don’t know what he did, but whatever he did, it worked incredibly well (ok, I have a pretty good idea, but I am yet to hear “officially” what he did).
The fact that the fans voted him as the “Fans’ Choice” was cool but anticlimactic due to his inability to put thoughts into words as soon as the mic was in his face. It was like nails on a chalkboard because I (and I am sure he did, also) wanted him to say something awesome (even articulate) and yet nothing awesome came out. I could almost feel everyone cringe the longer the mic remained in his face. It was painful. I almost wonder if he heard interviews later, got all “Matt Foley” and yelled, “I SO SHOULD HAVE SAID THAT!”
Mamdouh Mohammed Hassan Elssbiay, aka Big Ramy
I have not ever been a big fan of Ramy’s physique. I respect his hugeness, but I have not felt that he is “put together” well – not terribly aesthetic. I was impressed with his package this year and though I don’t think he should have won, or even been top-three, I would have liked to see him place higher than he did. To be that large and that conditioned, it would be nice to see him rewarded for it. The problem is that the guys at the top right now are hard to beat. When you have guys like Dexter Jackson and Phil getting beaten, this current crop of pros is next generation.
This was the first Mr. Olympia I have watched in years. I watched it only because I thought history was going to be made by someone I had trained alongside for years. History WAS made, though, it just wasn’t the history that Phil’s camp and Phil’s fans expected. Even the Rhoden fans have to admit that they didn’t think he would beat Phil, though they clearly hoped he would. The proof was the entire place erupting when Shawn was called as the winner; everyone in the arena was on their feet. Let’s all hope Phil comes back next year because this is exactly what the sport needs – an injection of excitement and a lack of predictability.