• Dr Ferraro

50 years of Mr Olympia

Updated: Feb 10, 2019

To understand this phenomenon that has been part of the sporting world for 50 years, it is necessary to step back in time until 1867, the year of Eugen Sandow's birth.

This name may be new to you, but it is the father of bodybuilding.

Sandow was an athlete of Prussian origin born in Königsberg. Since youth he was an admirer of the Greek statues, to the point that he wanted and he made himself look alike one of them, through repeated and constant exercises with weights, and a manic diet (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Eugen Sandow posing like a Greek statue

Initially, he participated in circus tours in which he showed off his skills as a weightlifter and at the same time his statued muscles. It did not take long for Sandow to realise that people went to see his body more than his lifting abilities and he taught a way to made the most out of this situation. So he started publishing several books, the most significant of which were: Sandow's system of physical training, Strength and how to obtain it and Strength and health. In addition, Sandow invented specific training systems and equipment that could have been used by everyone at a low price at home (he was definitely ahead of his time!). The culmination of success came on September 14th, 1901, when he organised the first bodybuilding contest, called the Great Competition.



More than 40 years later in 1946 the brothers Ben and Joe Weider founded the International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness (IFBB) and after about twenty years there was the first competition of Mr Olympia, September 18th 1965, at the Academy of Music in Brooklyn, in which only three athletes participate: Larry Scott, Harold Poole and Earl Maynard. Larry Scott won the competition effortlessly, and he won it again the year after and before retiring. He remained close to the Weider brothers and the world of bodybuilding.


The 1967 saw the emergence of bodybuilding as we know it today, with athletes such as Sergio Oliva, 1.78 tall with a weight that reached 113kg and with a circumference of 56cm arms. A combination of definition and mass. Sergio Oliva won for three consecutive times, the last beating Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oliva probably would have also won in 1970 and 1971 if he had not made the mistake of participating in Mr Universo NABBA in 1971 in contravention of the rules of the IFBB.


So from 1970 since 1975 Arnold's supremacy grew more and more, increasing the fame of this competition and favouring the rise of Arnold in the entertainment world, starting with the film Pumping Iron. There was nothing to suggest that Schwarzenegger would retire, leaving Mr Olympia's stage to Franco Columbu, who until then had participated without winning. However, Schwarzenegger's farewell left the scene of another excellent bodybuilder: Frank Zane, who from 1977 to 1979 won by showing a perfect body in shapes and proportions.


The Mr Olympia of1980 will be remembered as one the most controversial edition, 16 athletes participated and the favourites were Zane and Mentzer, but unexpectedly Arnold, won his seventh title in front of Chris Dickerson, even if at that time he was out of shape compare with his standards. This competition and that of 1981 significantly reduced the notoriety of the event. Many bodybuilders decided to boycott Mr Olympia, and the winner was Franco Columbu, among the whistles of the audience. The subsequent winners were Chris Dickerson in 1982 and Samir Bannout in the 1983 edition.


In 1984, a new era of bodybuilders began, on the stage of Mr Olympia Lee Haney appeared. From 1984 to 1991 he will remain the undisputed champion, showing not only harmonious and defined but a hypertrophic body never seen before. His back muscles remained to date among the biggest in the competition of Mr Olympia.


In 1991 Haney decided with the 8th victory of retreat aware that the Sandow would end up in the hands of Dorian Yates, the largest British bodybuilders who managed to reach a peak shape with 117kg of body weight, for the time it was unbelievable. Yates won six consecutive times until 1997 when he decided to retire due to a leg injury.


In the meantime, since 1992 the Texan giant Ronnie Coleman had participated without never excelling. But in 1998, he stepped on stage with 122 kg of defined and sculpted muscles, there was no history, and he kept on winning for eight consecutive times until 2005.

In 2006 due to injuries and with the natural drop of shape he passed the title to Jay Cutler, who managed to get his hands on the title also for the following edition in 2006 and 2007.

In 2008 another historic rival of Coleman managed to win the statuette: Dexter Jackson. But Cutler will win again in 2009 and 2010. In 2011 it was the advent of Phil Heath, a rising star of bodybuilding with perfect forms. He has done nothing but win in front of its main rival Kai Greene.

This year the edition arrives at its 50th birthday, it will be held at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, the seven favourites are Mamdouh Elssbiay, Roelly Winklaar, Dexter Jackson, Dennis Wolf, Shawn Rhoden and of course the two great favourites Kai Greene and Phil Heath. Who will be next Mr Olympia 2014?.

Who will bring home the golden statuette with the appearance of Eugen Sandow?


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