Heading into what seems to be shaping up like a very interesting Mr. Olympia contest, Phil Heath has an opportunity to match a very important milestone in the annals of IFBB history. If he is able to make it six consecutive Sandows, “The Gift” will match the same mark originally set by Arnold Schwarzenegger and later matched by Dorian Yates
Of course, Schwarzenegger came back after a five-year retirement to win his seventh Olympia and both Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman share the record with eight consecutive victories on bodybuilding’s most prestigious stage.
But six will put Heath in the conversation of the elite in the sport and that is not something that should be taken lightly. But we’re putting the cart before the horse. This year’s line-up will be quite the formidable one, even without perennial bridesmaid Kai Greene.
At 36, Heath has plenty of gas left in the tank and certainly can go on to set the new mark. He has been able to stay relatively injury-free in a pro career that began a decade ago and has the type of body style that can carry a good amount of size but yet keep the appearance of a pleasing looking one. That, in essence, is the winning formula in today’s IFBB.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt Heath’s chances that he is the face of FLEX magazine and AMI (their parent company) promotes the Olympia. In a sport that relies on the opinion of a judging panel rather than runs, goals, baskets, touchdowns, etc., there is always that element of potential favoritism and its omnipresence.
Heath has deserved each and every one of the five Sandows he has amassed so far and has not needed any help from anyone. One can make an argument that Greene could have been given the nod at least once in the three straight shows he placed second, but as the old saying goes, you ‘have to knock out the champ’ to take his title. And Greene – while looking capable of being a champion – did not come in head and shoulders better than his adversary.
For Heath to once again stand in the winner’s circle, he will have to navigate a minefield of muscle. But he is and should be the heavy favorite going in to Las Vegas.
The 2008 winner and last year’s runner-up is always in top condition and a threat to win any show he enters. But sooner or later, Father Time will catch up to the 46-year-old and his lack of mass works against him when the behemoths of the IFBB are to his left and right.
“Flexatron” took third place for the second straight year in 2015 but his physique has seemed to change for the worse over that time period. Always lauded for his pleasing physique, Rhoden showed up in Las Vegas last September with a very noticeable larger midsection. That is a direct indictment of trying to add too much size.
“Big Ramy” has made strides in every Olympia he has competed in (eighth, seventh, fifth) and should be ready to make the pose down this time around. But top six doesn’t mean he will beat Heath. Ramy’s massiveness is unique but he lacks a few important aspects that are necessary to be crowned Mr. Olympia, such as aesthetics and proportion.
Wolf, 37, may have had his best window of opportunity close on him. In 2013, he placed third and could have easily taken second from Greene. The following year, Wolf won the Arnold Classic in Ohio but dropped to fourth at The Orleans Arena. He did so again in 2015, but was a far cry from cracking the top three. Now he has had a mystery illness/injury to deal with during contest prep.
After 13 years of retirement, “The Maryland Muscle Machine” will be making an unprecedented comeback and it is anyone’s guess how he will fare. Levrone has always been one of the top names on the circuit, but at 52 and coming off the long layoff from not only competition but bodybuilding itself, it would seem unlikely that he could truly be a factor here. Even a top-10 placing will be celebrated.