|Jay Cutler Wins the 2006 Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding Contest
There is a lot to be said about the results of this year's Mr. Olympia competition and I will try to organize my thoughts in this article as clearly as I can. All in all I think I will find it difficult not to derail my initial thoughts with other ramblings, but I'll try my best.
First and foremost, this is the first Mr. Olympia contest where a reigning Mr. Olympia champion has lost in competition since Samir Bannout lost to Lee Haney in 1984. At the time, Samir had only one the title once in 1983 and Lee Haney ushered in a new era where size prevails in addition to simply having the best conditioned body with the best proportions. Before 1984 it seemed to me that the judging was based more exclusively on the combination of shape and symmetry, as well as overall conditioning and posing presentation. Overall conditioning could be further broken down in terms of dryness, vascularity, and muscle maturity/density. Where did size rank among this list? Seemingly, it was of little importance when you had people like Chris Dickerson and Samir Bannout winning the title over much larger men who had plenty of other strengths to go with their size. But back in the day, judging simply WAS different - there are no two ways about this and things changed - starting with Haney, and things have stayed that way or even changed further along the same lines since.
Enter Dorian Yates in 1991. Here is a bodybuilder who had already achieved a good deal of success in bodybuilding in both the amateur and pro circuits and had muscle jam packed on his 5'10 frame - hard, dense, skin popping muscle. With all that mass, he still lacked Haney's taper as well as his overall polish and finesse. Haney lost to Yates at the 1991 Mr. Olympia in the muscularity round, but judging from pictures Haney did have him on size.
At 5'11 and 1/2, despite his incredible taper, complete lack of any stomach distention to speak of, and slight joints and tiny waist, Haney still had more room on his frame for muscle while Dorian had more "muscularity" in terms of sheer mass appearing to overwhelm his frame. That is in short what "muscularity" means - it is not just a matter of size or else Haney would have beat Yates handily - it is more an issue of the "pop" of the muscle in terms of the craziest and freakiest amount of dense, cut mass falling off a bodybuilder's physique there is in a contest. By this definition, Dorian did win. But when the day was over, Haney won a well deserved eighth Sandow trophy and hung up his posing trunks with style. He was a graceful winner and seemed to have an idea of what was in the rearview mirror - a young up and comer named Dorian. Just shortly before his 32nd birthday, Haney retired - citing that he had no more room on his mantle for more Sandows. Haney was in my mind the best voice of professional bodybuilding of all time. He exhibited great confidence, had excellent family values, was a team player and was BALANCED - both in terms of his physique and in terms of his personality and training efforts. Rich Gaspari trained harder than Haney and Haney to this day will tell you that - Rich was too intense, and that's just not the way to be. After a point, intensity is a flaw. I think it worked for Gaspari as far as his physique was concerned but probably didn't do much for him mentally. Needless to say, Haney's balance was world class, and he retired as a champion.
By 1992, Dorian was in the picture. He won from then until 1997 and almost all of these decisions were debatable. In fact, I don't think there was a single Mr. Olympia contest where any industry expert would say Dorian dominated. Won? Sure. But there is a difference between simply winning a contest and winning it by such a large margin that there is no room for doubt in the minds of the people in the know. Dorian competed in the chemical era of bodybuilding - what I call the "guinea pig era" - an era where bodybuilders never used so many chemicals before and for that matter had no idea what the long term effects would be. Bodybuilding was slowly using more and more drugs for quite some time by the nineties since it was just the nature of the industry, but there was a huge increase when Dorian Yates was winning titles. I would say that modern bodybuilders are drug abusers to a certain degree, and I can state this as matter of fact and something I would say in person to any bodybuilder, just as I would call a person who abuses cocaine to be a drug abuser. You simply NEED to abuse drugs to find success in the highest ranks of bodybuilding these days. Dorian kept on winning and despite the debates ongoing both at the time and in current day, he won six times in a row before retiring in 1997. At that point he was a mess of injuries and was really in no position to compete in 1998 even if he wanted to. At that point, it would have been an insult to everyone to give him a gift of a victory.
1998. Ronnie enters the picture and comes out of nowhere to win the whole show. He had placed ninth in the previous year and sixth in the year before that. I don't think anybody expected him to come out on top, much like no one expected Gunter Schlierkamp to make a splash in 2002, or Gustavo Badell to make a splash in 2004, or Phil Heath to come out of nowhere and turn pro and then go on to win two pro shows against seasoned veterans. But hey - things happen.
1999. Ronnie wins again.
2000. And again.
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2001. And again.
And then up until 2005 nothing changed. Ronnie kept on winning. Some of these victories like 1998, 1999, 2003, and in my opinion 2001 and 2004, were not open to debate. I think Ronnie was the clear cut winner in those cases. Despite that, you will still see die hard fans of the other guys saying Ronnie shouldn't have won in 1999, 2001, and 2004, and a few of the more hardcore anti-Ronnie types will even tell you he shouldn't have won in 2003 - some of the plain ignorant ones (sorry, but I have to say it) will even say he didn't deserve to win in 1998. While I personally feel he was even more dominant in 2003, most would argue that 1998 was his best year. In my mind, the years that were open for debate would be 2000, 2002, and 2005. Had Ronnie not won the title in either of those three years - especially 2002 - I would not have lost a second of sleep over it. What can be said of bodybuilding's history is that even if a reigning Mr. Olympia winner is not the dominant winner, he will still win. Even if he is probably more deserving of second or third place. Generally speaking, a Mr. Olympia would need to show up deserving of at least top three in order to retain his title - just out of respect for his gift. It would be blatant to enter a contest appearing to be out of the top five and still winning.
Looking at all of this begs the question - Why did Jay win? 41 years of bodybuilding history would tell you that Ronnie would have won. He was the reigning champ, it could easily be debated that he did indeed deserve to win that night, and he showed up in more than respectable conditioning, especially for 42 years of age. So why did he place second? This is a question I think I will be wondering about for a while. Some say that Ronnie was rightfully beaten, but I would disagree with that, and even if Jay did beat him, Ronnie still should have won based on history. Some say Jay won because the IFBB feared that he would leave to join the PDI bodybuilding league if he came second again. Could you imagine how much credibility that organization would have if a pro of the caliber of Jay Cutler joined? Ronnie wants to break Lee Haney's and win nine titles and he can still come back to do that and he knows that. Ronnie won't leave to go to the PDI despite losing. I don't imagine Jay would have either - but hey, I'll hear out any conspiracy theories that may be thrown my way.
Now let's look at some comparison pictures of Ronnie and Jay so that you can make your decision as to who deserved to win and who didn't.
These pictures are brought to you courtesy of the good guys at Bodybuilding.com
The following pictures depict the direct comparisons between Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler:
So far I have seen lots of pictures and some video footage too and I still don't see why this contest was awarded to Jay when everything is considered. Mostly I think about the history of bodybuilding contests and how this has never happened before under similar circumstances. Why the change now? Also, where is the consistency? Maybe the judging is going to change to give the contest to the best man of the night? As far as I'm concerned Ronnie looked damn good at this show and beat Jay due to his overall muscle hardness and muscle maturity. Ronnie also had a superior chest and vastly superior arms. He was no slouch for size, and Ronnie trumped Jay on vascularity - Jay looked "soft but cut" as he always did. He was harder in 2005 but whatever Jay did to get that hard cost him in terms of his stomach which was distended in 2005 but looking at pictures from this year's show was not as bad, or at least Jay held his stomach in better during poses. One thing is for sure though: Jay did have Ronnie beat from the back. Not to say he had the better rear double biceps and rear lat spreads, but his back alone was better than Ronnie's - both in terms of size and conditioning, with the exception of the loose skin on Jay's lower back. Ronnie beat Jay on glutes and hamstrings and Jay beat Ronnie on calves. Overall I would give those poses to Jay based on his superior back - Ronnie's was down in size and not in the same conditioning it previously had been in and appeared to be injured somewhat in some pictures.
Can you argue that Jay deserved to win? Definitely. This was not a year that Ronnie dominated the competition. If this had happened in 2003 I would have just laughed at how silly the decision was. In truth, Ronnie and Jay both looked damn good and since bodybuilding is so subjective, I can see why the judges gave it to Ronnie. They just happened to feel that Jay's strengths outweighed Ronnie's on the day of the contest (I disagree however). The point is - it was close enough to go either way. For that matter, you could probably argue that Victor Martinez should have won, or maybe even Melvin Anthony. Personally I don't think so, but I guess depending on how you look at it, you could take that stance.
But the question remains - why did 41 years of bodybuilding history fail us tonight? That is a question I will probably be pondering for quite some time.
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