Another Olympia weekend in Las Vegas has come and gone. Here is my experience and brief report.
I flew in Thursday night. My arrangements had been made at the last minute, and luckily for me Steve Cantone, former 2-time USA middleweight runner-up and husband of IFBB Pro Figure Andrea Cantone, offered to let me have the adjacent bedroom to his suite at the Polo Towers. Thanks Steve!
On Friday morning, we both headed over to the Orleans Hotel to see my friend Jose Raymond, who was competing in the 212 Showdown. Jose was looking amazing, as I expected. From there, we took the shuttle over to the Las Vegas Convention Center for the expo. Since I had been to it last in 2011, the expo had been moved to a much larger hall and also hosted far more exhibitor booths. I have to say that it's creeping toward the scale of the Arnold Classic Expo every March in Columbus. Since I wasn't working, this time I had plenty of time to wander around, take pictures, and talk to friends and acquaintances in the industry.
Friday night was the finals for the Fitness Olympia and the Ms. Olympia. Adela Garcia won her 8th title in fitness, while Iris Kyle set the all-time record with 9 Ms. Olympia wins, beating the former record of 8 set by the legendary Lenda Murray. Next up was the judging for the Mr. Olympia, which we were all eager to see. There are full reports in print and video up at www.musculardevelopment.com, so I will give you my quick impressions.
Phil Heath looked incredible. Some were saying he looked better in 2010 or last year, but whatever the case he brought his A game. Last year's runner-up Kai Greene came in huge at 5-8 and 270 pounds and was the clear crowd favorite. From the back, his condition was a little off. That alone was enough to knock him out of the running for the win. Jay Cutler was unable to regain his usual size and at 250 pounds just didn't bring the overwhelming mass that would have pushed Phil and Kai. With Jay's large and wide frame, lacking his usual mass meant his waist looked wider and his V-taper was diminished greatly. Mamdough Elsbiay aka Big Ramy was unable to live up to the pre-show hype. Enormous but lacking polish and detail, he was never even close to the top guys like Phil and Kai. In time I have no doubt he will be a threat, but that time wasn't now.
Roelly Winklaar and Lionel Beyeke were at their best ever and were both pleasant surprises, but the real shock of the show and another crowd favorite was Dennis Wolf, who was finally able to keep his fullness with condition. In the past, he had always flattened out from around 275 to 260 in the final week, but not this time. His X-frame was ridiculous, with barn door shoulders and flaring, massive quads. In shots like the front lat spread, he literally dwarfed Heath with his width and size.
Saturday was day two of the expo, as well as the judging for the 212 Showdown. As soon as the men filed out, it was obvious Flex Lewis would win for a second time. He was just that good. Last year's runner-up David Henry was his closest competition, though Jose was damn close to him. Oddly, former 3-time champ when this was the 202 Showdown, Kevin English, was getting compared to Lewis and Henry as if he was close to them. In his prime a few years ago Kevin was a dominant champ who was very tough to beat. Now, he seems to have torn muscles, scar tissue accumulated, and his back thickness and width has all but disappeared. I'll skip right to the results from the finals that night:
1. James 'Flex' Lewis
2. David Henry
3. Kevin English
4. Jose Raymond
5. Eduardo Correa
6. Sami Al Haddad
While Flex and David's places weren't in dispute, the general consensus was that Jose, Eduardo, and Sami all should have been higher than Kevin. Congrats to my fellow Team Gaspari member Flex on a very well-deserved title defense.
The finals for the Mr. O were held Saturday night. The show was dedicated to the man who invented it, the late Joe Weider. Before each of the 20 competitors took the stage, the big screen monitors had them recalling their favorite memory of Joe if they had ever met him, or just kind words if they hadn't. His widow, Betty Weider, was also brought out and received a standing ovation. Not much changed with the men, though Kai tightened up considerably. Here were the top ten:
1. Phil Heath
2. Kai Greene
3. Dennis Wolf
4. Shawn Rhoden
5. Dexter Jackson
6. Jay Cutler
7. Roelly Winklaar
8. Big Ramy
9. Branch Warren (off his best condition)
10. Lionel Beyeke
There were a few after parties going on, but I never made it to any. I was hanging out with the rest of Jose's friends at the Alligator Bar at the Orleans waiting for him to come down after the Gala/banquet with the competitors and VIP ticket holders. Once he joined us, he was content to just hang out there and relax with a couple adult beverages - and who could blame him? He had to be exhausted.
Another thanks to Matt Puglia, who let me crash at his room at the Mandalay Bay Sunday until my flight that night. I really should have picked my seats for the second, longer flight from Phoenix to Boston. I was in the very last row, the seats of which don't recline - bad news for a redeye flight that I had hoped to sleep though. I was also in the middle seat, and on my right was a huge lummox of a young man, about 6-2 and an obese 350 pounds or so that spilled over into the right side of my tiny area. When the person in front of me put their seat back toward me, I felt like I was in a coffin! I got perhaps 40 minutes of sleep on the 5-hour flight.
But even on very little sleep, I was excited to meet up with fellow Team Gaspari athlete, IFBB Pro Hidetada Yamagishi. Hide had also been at the O, then flew directly to Massachusetts where he did two appearance: Steve Cardillo's ANC in Everett, then at Cape Cod Nutrition in Easton close to me. I joined him and Tom Hoops from Gaspari Nutrition for sushi, then took them to my gym where I trained legs with Hide.
Hide is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, but he trains just as hard as anyone. I had really been looking forward to matching him on weights and intensity, but on the second set of leg presses I pulled something up on the upper left side of my left quad. I tried to see if I could keep pressing on, but right away I knew that had to be it for me at this particular workout for quads. He continued on with hacks, heavy leg extensions, and then I was able to do hams with Hide just fine.
It was pretty embarrassing to get hurt like that, but at least it wasn't while trying to do anything reckless or stupid - as my wife assumed I must have! I will take it very easy on quads for a while, doing only high reps and even then only if there is no pain in that area. Luckily for me, as I do try to find the positive in everything, quads are something I can certainly afford to slack on for a while. They've been ahead of almost everything else on me for well over 20 years now!
So that's it. The Olympia is over for 2013, and I am glad I was there to see it.