2020 OLYMPIA PREVIEW: THE OLYMPIA THAT ALMOST WASN'T!
Muscular Development|December 2020
I don’t need to remind any of you how Covid turned the entire world upside down this year. Our industry was business as usual until the Arnold Classic weekend in early March, when all hell broke loose. Just a week later, the Arnold Classic Australia was cancelled, which would be the first of many events to be either postponed by months or not held at all. Jake Wood had just bought the Olympia from AMI and reinstated the Ms. Olympia. Promoter Dan Solomon had brought the Olympia back to the Las Vegas strip at Planet Hollywood. Hopes were high, but uncertainty was rampant. Soon the most prestigious event in our sport was moved from its traditional September date to December. The doubters were out in force all over social media. “There’s no way they are having the Olympia this year,” was a common refrain. But Wood, Solomon, and the rest of the crew were determined that the show would go on, and they forged ahead. Now, as the mega event looms on the horizon, let’s look at the top contenders in this year’s ultimate muscle showdown.
GILES THOMAS AND RON HARRIS

OPEN

Brandon Curry

Even five years ago if you had told me Brandon would become Mr. Olympia, I would have scoffed at the thought. But in large part thanks to his regular pilgrimages to Oxygen Gym in Kuwait that began shortly after the 2016 Olympia, Curry has morphed into a true world champion. He always had beautiful shape and round muscle bellies, but now he has the size, fullness, and cuts to make it all a vicious package to deal with. The knock on Brandon in the past was that his legs didn’t quite match his spectacular upper body, especially his arms, but that disparity has been handled to a large degree. He was hungry to win the title, and now he’s even hungrier to keep it. For anyone who thinks ‘Brandon only won because Phil and Shawn weren’t there,’ he’s ready to prove he’s the best in world no matter who shows up.

Phil Heath

The biggest Olympia news we had, aside from a new owner, was the return of seven-time champ Phil Heath after what will now be more than two years away from the big stage. He lost the title in 2018 owing to abdominal distension due to complications from a hernia surgery. We had hoped he would return in 2019, but Phil sat it out. There was speculation that he would compete in 2020 only at the Athleticon, as he’s managed by its co-promoter, Dany Garcia. When that was postponed until 2021, it wasn’t long before Phil announced he would be returning to the Mr. Olympia in an attempt to tie the record of eight wins held jointly by Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman. The million-dollar question now is how does his midsection look? Is it back to its pre-2018 state? If so, ‘The Gift’ will be a safe bet to win. The man was nearly unbeatable at his best, and even when he was slightly off his best condition once or twice, he was still showing splits and details in his muscle groups that no one else up there was. Phil has a look that’s both unique and dominant, a blend of freakishly round and thick muscle mass with nice shape and insane condition. Let’s see how that midsection looks, as I do believe that will be the make-or-break factor for Phil this time.

William Bonac

‘The Conqueror’ started the season off just as Curry did in 2019, with an Arnold Classic win, which he’d also won in 2018. His upper body was full and round, and his temporarily downsized legs appeared to be nearly back to their former glory. Unlike some of his rivals, his gym time was not impacted by Covid, as he spent several months training at his own new facility in his native Ghana. It’s definitely a more loaded Olympia lineup than what we saw last year, but Bonac has a deadly package of round, hanging muscle and deeply-hewn cuts that can stand next to anyone. My money still has him in the first callout.

Dexter Jackson

This will be the 20th and final Mr. Olympia appearance for 51-year-old Dexter Jackson. It’s very safe to say we shall not see his like again. He beat reigning champ Jay Cutler to win this title in 2008, and ‘The Blade’ has been in the top five here an astonishing 15 times. There has been talk this year that Dexter could win one more Sandow this year before calling it quits for good. I’m not so sure about that, but stranger things have happened. He’s looking massive, bubbly round, and granite hard already at well over two months out as I write this. The biggest knock on Dexter was when his quads seemed to be going away not long ago, but he managed to bring them back up to their former glory. He has dense, detailed muscle with the type of flowing shape only a Marvel Comics artist could produce. He has his hands full trying to win this year’s Olympia, but being two months older than Dexter, I will be rooting for ‘old man muscle’ to trump the younger men.

Roelly Winklaar

‘The Dutch Beast’ struggled for several years to crack the coveted top five at the O, and now he’s been as high as third in 2018. 2020 marks the first time he has ever taken a full year off from competing from one Olympia to the next, and in this case due to the date change, it will be 15 months since we’ve seen him. The big question is, will all the extra time help or hurt his chances? His pattern of competing in both spring and fall shows seems to have worked well for the entire ten seasons of his pro career thus far. Competitions seem to keep him focused and on a strict diet. Lord knows he didn’t need time to build more mass, as he’s one of the thickest men alive as it is. Condition is always the deciding factor with Roelly. When he’s 100% on, he’s deadly. Some felt he should have beaten both Rhoden and Heath at the 2018 Olympia where he was full and crisp. If he brings that look again this time, watch him push every last man up there.

Hadi Choopan

Rarely has there been an Olympia debut that stirred such an electric reaction as Hadi in 2019. The Iranian is built like a proverbial brick shithouse--packed with dense, gnarly muscle from head to toe. He’s almost as wide as he is tall, and those shoulders and quads are so extremely developed they almost look photo-shopped. You want condition? Choopan has more cuts than a NYC deli. He’s a throwback to the days before we had a 212 division, because he proves that height and weight mean little when you’re stacked with as much striated muscle mass as this man. Hadi showed that in his first pro season in 2016, taking second place to Roelly at the Sheru Classic, then again last year handily defeating Nathan De asha in Vancouver on the way to taking third place at his Mr. Olympia debut behind Curry and Bonac. His coach, Hany Rambod, showed me a few progress pics in October that displayed his new mass-–yes, you heard that right, he’s even bigger now. The only obstacle in his way now is obtaining permission to travel to the USA for this contest from Iran. If he gets here, I expect him to once again give all the other men trouble.

Nathan De asha

‘The Prophecy’ had an excellent 2019 season, aside from having to miss the Mr. Olympia due to a court date to clear up a legal matter. He took second to Cedric in Hungary, second to Hadi in Vancouver, second to Roelly in Italy the week after the Olympia, then earned his spot at this year’s O by winning the Monsterzym Pro show in Korea. Now he’s had a full year to work on his back and hamstrings, the two areas that needed to improve to match his phenomenal shoulders, chest, arms, and quads—and he’s got his own gym in Liverpool to make those gains! With so much time since his last contest, I’m sure some of the fans have forgotten just how good Nathan is. I’m sure he will remind us once he hits that stage inside Planet Hollywood.

Juan Morel

‘Diesel’ had one hell of a 2019 season. First, he won the Arnold Classic South America in Brazil, making it five pro career wins. Just a couple weeks later he made it six by winning the New York Pro for the second time (the first having been in 2015). At the Olympia he didn’t do so well in fourteenth, but his post-Olympia season was commendable--second places at both the Romania Muscle Fest and the Monsterzm Pro in Korea before wrapping up with pro win number seven at the Japan Pro. If you know Juan, you know he is one of the few pros who is consistently shredded and dry–condition is never an issue. He’s also one of the widest men around, with shoulders and a back that force him to walk through doors sideways. The only knock I ever really have on Morel is his lack of outer quad sweep, which is almost entirely genetic. His hams are excellent and make his legs look lethal in side poses, and his quads have improved due to diligent and targeted training. He made the top 10 in his first OIympia back in 2014, and Juan is fully capable of getting back there again. Though it doesn’t relate to his physique or the O, I would like to add that I have been thoroughly enjoying the cookies he and his wife Karen sell with their My Cookie Dealer business!

Cedric McMillian

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