SHAWN RAY HALL OF FAME BODYBUILDER AND ACTIVE INDUSTRY ICON
Muscular Development|November 2021
Though I was aware of bodybuilding and had both seen "Pumping Iron" and flipped through a couple magazines here and there, I can tell you the exact day I decided to become a bodybuilder.
RON HARRIS

THE FIRST TIME I SAW SHAWN

It was early September of 1987 and a magazine arrived in the mail, a free copy of FLEX I got because I sent in an offer that came with a jug of Weider Dynamic Muscle Builder powder I had purchased months before. Inside were the top stars of that era like Lee Haney, Rich Gaspari, Lee Labrada, Mike Christian, Berry de Mey, and Gary Strydom. What also caught my eye was a 10-page pictorial of one of the greatest physiques I had ever laid eyes on, a 21-year-old sensation from California named Shawn Ray who was still an amateur at the time. Just a couple months later in Atlantic City, Shawn would win the light-heavyweight and overall titles at the NPC Nationals. In the meantime, I was in awe of the combination of mass, shape, symmetry, and proportion he displayed. Along with the aforementioned greats in that first bodybuilding magazine I ever owned, Shawn Ray was one of the reasons I made up my mind that very day that I would look like those guys no matter how long it took or how hard I had to work. At the time I never could have predicted that I would see Shawn compete many times, and I certainly never would have believed I would become his friend and colleague many years later.

ONE OF THE BEST TO NEVER WIN THE MR. OLYMPIA

Shawn's Mr. Olympia debut in 1988 at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles the day after he turned 23 was not exactly auspicious, as he made the rookie mistake of sacrificing condition for size and fullness and finished an unmemorable 13th as Lee Haney racked up his fifth consecutive title. But for the next 12 years, Shawn would become a mainstay, the only man to place top five at the Mr. Olympia every year for over a decade. Had you told me in those years that Ray would never hold a Sandow of his own, I would have scoffed at your ignorance. Of course he would win at least one Mr. Olympia! Yet it never came to pass, despite two runner-up finishes in 1994 and 1996 to Dorian Yates, who by then already had a torn right biceps. Shawn believed in the ideals of shape and symmetry and refused to play the size game that so many others did in the '90s as they hoped to unseat Dorian from his Olympia throne. He kept his midsection small and tight as others allowed theirs to swell.

Shawn was no stranger to controversy, starting with his infamous Arnold Classic win in 1990, the only year the IFBB decided to test for steroids. Stripped of the title and forced to refund the prize money when his results came back positive and he was disqualified along with four others, Shawn didn't sulk or complain. Instead, he returned to Columbus exactly one year later and won again. Ironically, this would be the second and final win of his pro career, since he rarely competed outside of the Mr. Olympia after this. Shawn was never afraid to voice his opinions and stand up for what he felt was right. He was vocal on several occasions about the need to rotate judges at the Mr. Olympia contest and called out unfair judging when he saw it. None of this earned him any popularity points with the judges and officials, but Ray never let that deter him from doing what he felt was right.

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