2021 Olympia Preview
Muscular Development|October 2021
It has been quite a whirlwind for the Mr. Olympia contest in recent years.
By Ron Harris

After seven consecutive years of Phil Heath dominating, we have now seen the title change hands every year since 2018. We also saw the event move from what we all thought was its “forever home,” as they say with rescue dogs, in Las Vegas to Orlando in 2020 due to the constraints of the covid-19 pandemic and how it affected contest dates and locations. We are also in a unique situation in 2021 as the Olympia is having its quickest turnaround since it began in 1965: less than 10 months rather than the usual full year; the 2020 iteration having taken place in late december with this year’s event going down in early october. The fact that the 2021 Arnold Classic is being held just two weeks prior rather than the customary six months further complicates matters, since many of the Olympia men will also be on stage in Columbus. Yet despite all these changes, one thing remains the same. The Mr. Olympia is still the ultimate title in our sport, our super bowl, and the show we all live and breathe for all season long. Here’s who is heading into Orlando this year seeking to be crowned the world’s top bodybuilder.

LET THE GAMES BEGIN....

OPEN

Big Ramy

Mr. Olympia Record

2013 Eighth Place

2014 Seventh Place

2015 Fifth Place

2016 Fourth Place

2017 Second Place

2018 Sixth Place

2020 Winner

For almost eight years, the big question surrounding the massive Mamdouh Elssbiay, aptly nicknamed “Big Ramy,” was, can he ever win the Mr. Olympia? He had all the mass a bodybuilder could ever want or need, with a wide structure and a small waist for a man of his dimensions. After he finally earned the title in 2020, the next question was, can he hold on to the tile? After years of being under the umbrella of The Camel Crew in Kuwait, he teamed up in 2020 with the “dream team” of Chad Nicholls for his nutrition and Dennis James for training and posing. James hosted him for several weeks out in Arizona leading up to the win, giving him the 24/7 hands-on coaching he needed to finally show up at his best. That being said, there is no guarantee that Ramy will be as good or better than he was last time. And to be “that guy,” I have to say that as impressive as he was in his win, he could still stand to have far more detail and separation. If Ramy had the level of intricate muscle detail where every fiber stood out in bold relief as Phil Heath is known for, I’d have no qualms saying he could keep the Mr. Olympia title for years to come. As it stands, he was the fourth Mr. O champ in four years. Big Ramy could repeat, or we could see yet another changing of the guard.

Brandon Curry

Mr. Olympia Record

2011 Eighth Place

2013 Did not Place

2015 Did not Place

2016 Did not place

2017 Eighth Place

2018 Fifth Place

2019 Winner

2020 Second Place

I can only imagine how it feels to show up looking better than you did when you first won the Olympia the year before, yet ultimately concede defeat anyway. That’s what happened with Brandon last year. Critics (including me, to be fair) had pointed out that Curry’s condition in winning the Sandow in 2019 wasn’t as crisp as it had been earlier in the season when he won the Arnold Classic. Curry took that to heart and brought a tighter, more streamlined look to Orlando only to go up against a best-ever Big Ramy at a reported 290 pounds. There is no question that Brandon has superior shape and balance, though his legs appear lacking, as most would, next to Ramy’s monster thighs. What does Curry need to do to get his title back? Unless Ramy is off in his condition, it’s going to be an uphill battle for this family man from Tennessee.

Hadi Choopan

Mr. Olympia Record

2019 Third Place

2020 Fourth Place

Hadi Choopan fans are rabidly loyal to this Persian powerhouse. After placing a strong third in 2019 and then fourth last year, a pattern seems to be emerging. Choopan has more muscle per square inch than almost anyone up there and has all the gnarly splits and striations you want to see, but he has been the victim of travel issues. Getting Hadi from Iran to the USA for the Mr. Olympia has been a monumental task involving travel visas and mandatory quarantines. He arrives in American at the 11 th hour after untold hours in the air on planes and sitting in airports, resulting in him retaining something like 15-20 pounds of water. His coach Hany Rambod then scrambles to flush that out, and we’ve now seen Hadi look markedly sharper for the Saturday finals than he did the night before for judging. Can Hadi win the Mr. Olympia? If so, he needs to get here much sooner!

William Bonac

Mr. Olympia Record

2015 Eighth Place

2016 Fifth Place

2017 Third Place

2018 Fourth Place

2019 Second Place

2020 Fifth Place

After taking second place at the 2019 Mr. Olympia and then going on to beat both Dexter Jackson and Big Ramy to win his second Arnold Classic title, many felt The Conqueror was in a great position to knock Brandon Curry off his throne and get the biggest title in our sport. On paper, the fact that he dropped to fifth place might make it seem as if Bonac had regressed when in fact he looked nearly as good as ever, if perhaps a tad flat. He was merely beaten by four incredible bodybuilders, three of whom are now Mr. Olympia champions. William is packed with dense, shapely muscle with a level of detail shared by men like Dexter and Phil. He just needs to bring that same package that won him two Arnold titles and almost nabbed him a Sandow: full and round and looking to burst.

Akim Williams

Mr. Olympia Record

2016 Fifteenth Place

2019 Ninth Place

2020 Sixth Place

I love seeing stories like Akim’s, because it reminds me to never write anyone off. Just a few years ago, I considered The Brooklyn Beast a genetic marvel who would never put it together 100%. He would win a couple of smaller shows, but Williams would always be on the sidelines at the Arnold and the Olympia, watching the A-list men battle it out. Over the last three seasons, Akim has finally figured out how to carve up all that astonishing mass with gifted shape and structure, and in 2020 he vaulted all the way to the top six at the O. With some of the best arms, legs, and chest in the game, the knock on Akim has always been his back development and detail, or relative lack thereof. Now working with a new coach, he has already shown improvements in those areas in his Puerto Rico Pro win at the start of the summer where he requalified. With more of that, cracking the top five is well within his grasp.

Phil Heath

Mr. Olympia Record

2008 Third Place

2009 Fifth Place

2010 Second Place

2011-2017 Winner

2018 Second Place

2020 Third Place

I have Phil here even though as of this writing the Olympia promoters have no knowledge of Phil entering. However, Heath has been very active on his social media this summer showing how hard he’s training and how lean he’s getting. Is Phil actually going to compete again, or is he now following the Kai Greene script of dropping vague hints that ultimately never come to fruition for his fans? Perhaps by the time this issue is in your hands, Phil will have made a definitive announcement. He has shown us that his midsection appears flatter than it has since his initial hernia issues began a few years ago, so I personally hope he pushes for an eighth title to tie Lee Haney and Ronnie.

Nick Walker

Mr. Olympia Record

Debut

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