SERGIO OLIVA JR.: 2021 WILL BE MY YEAR
Muscular Development|January 2021
This son of three-time Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva never holds back. Best of all, he can dish it out and take it too, which is why many other pros avoid engaging with him at all. Sergio only competed once in 2020 with a resonating fifth place at his first Arnold Classic, the first time we’d seen him on stage since the 2018 Mr. Olympia. I hadn’t spoken with him since shortly after the Arnold, the weekend when the COVID-19 pandemic began turning our world upside down. Since that feels like 20 years ago, it was high time to catch up with this genuine, passionate, and often hilarious bodybuilding star.
RON HARRIS

Of course I had questions prepared, but this interview was delayed due to some injury that had you in the ER. You sent me a pic of you with an IV drip and said it was your shoulder, so please explain what the hell happened.

This is a perfect example of my life. I’ve been training over 16 years, took my bodyweight from 145 pounds to a high of 315, and I never had one injury in the gym. I fucking sleep wrong and mess my shoulder up. A year ago something similar happened where I got a dead shoulder, but after a couple of days of rest it was fine. This time I knew it was different because it was hitting a nerve and shocking my whole body with pain. I hate going to a regular primary care doctor, because with any type of injury they either just tell you to stop working out or blame it on steroids. I finally saw a specialist today and found out it’s bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa sac in my shoulder, and it’s rubbing on a nerve. Even not moving, the pain is a 10 out of 10. I’ve been living on Vicodin for a few days now and I hate it. I can’t work out on painkillers. I was going to take the Antoine approach when he tore his biceps and do legs four times a week. I told him when I saw him in Las Vegas that even though it must have sucked dealing with that arm injury, he now has some of the best legs in the sport. But I can’t even wipe my ass right now. Luckily I won’t need any surgery, so that’s a relief. I had a cortisone shot today and I get an MRI next week. The doctor thinks there are calcium deposits in there that can be removed without cutting me open.

The last time we spoke, you were in Sydney, Australia right after the Arnold Australia you went to compete in had been canceled at the last minute. How long did you end up being in Australia?

I was there for three months. My first stop was Melbourne, and by the time I landed I knew it was almost certain the show was not going to happen. But I had already planned on going to Queensland after that for a vacation. It’s like the Las Vegas or Miami Beach of Australia, with cool secluded beaches. Right up my alley. I just went there a little earlier than I had planned on. The next day, they locked Melbourne down. You couldn’t leave your house, couldn’t leave your zip code. The gyms shut down and didn’t open up again until November. A buddy of mine in Melbourne couldn’t even drive 30 minutes to see his newborn niece, because they were doing door-to-door checks and arresting people who violated the stay-at-home order. The only real downside to hanging out on the beach for three months was that if I’d got home a little sooner, I could have gotten ready for the New York or Chicago Pro shows. It’s fine, because I would have looked the same as I did at the Arnold, and that’s not what I’m about. I want to show improvements every time you see me. But I did have to watch shows I knew I would have won. The way I looked taking fifth at the Arnold would have won in Tampa, New York or Chicago, and I would have qualified for the Olympia. I do have to give a special thanks to Aaron Polites and Sam Pearce, two IFBB pros, for taking care of me while I was in Australia. They both made sure I had everything I needed.

I really hoped you would do the Chicago Pro, because it’s your hometown and you came within a hair of winning it in 2018. Did the fact that it got moved all the way to Atlanta play a part in why you skipped it?

That’s the main reason I wasn’t gung-ho about doing it. It would have been so weird for me, a guy born and raised in Chicago, to lose the show in 2018 with a hometown crowd, and then win it two years later with none of my Chicago people there to see it because it’s in Atlanta. That was a sign for me to pack it up for 2020. What I really wanted was to get points for the Arnold Australia show. I was there and ready to compete. Looking back, the show could have happened the way they did the Cali Pro, with masks and no audience. But this was back in March when we had no idea what was going on yet or how to handle it. It would have been me and Ramy in the top two. The only other guys who beat me at the Arnold were Bonac, Dexter and Kuclo, and they didn’t go. Just the opportunity to stand next to Ramy and go pose-for-pose would have been an honor. Taking second to him, which is probably what would have happened, would still have given me enough points to get to the Olympia.

There was a lot of speculation about who might get the special invitation to compete in this year’s Mr. Olympia. The three names that kept coming up as possibilities were yours, Steve Kuclo and Big Ramy. Were you upset that Ramy got it?

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