2008 Olympia Weekend Recap

As an event and competitor sponsor, and major exhibitor, Optimum Nutrition is always extensively involved in the IFBB Olympia Weekend. This is the most prestigious event of the IFBB Professional Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure season, with the winners of each event earning best of the best status for an entire year. But the Olympia Weekend is much more than that. There's martial arts, powerlifting, visitor challenges and an incredible expo for sponsors to sample a broad range of products. To sum-up this incredible weekend from all points of view, we asked team members, athletes and competitors to share their unique perspectives. To get an even better feel for the excitement, click here to visit our 2008 IFBB Olympia photo gallery.

From NPC Figure Competitor Jennifer Rankin –

"The event was amazing! The booths were larger and more extravagant than I expected — especially the ON booth designed in a way that always gets everyone involved. Visitors commented on how it was like a 'fun house' with a walk-through maze and thick, bouncy carpet. The way we were sampling, it was almost like Trick or Treat! And with all the costumed models, you could easily envision a Halloween feel."

From NPC Fitness Competitor Kristina Lum –

"The 2008 Olympia was bustling with new and familiar faces. The expo always showcases an incredible array of interesting people, some displaying their physique, others just taking it all in. There were Pro Bodybuilders, Fitness and Figure competitors along with UFC fighters and even some American Gladiators. You could just feel the room's energy and excitement."

And From Natural Mr. Olympia, John Hansen,
A Review Of The 2008 Mr. Olympia Competition

The 2008 IFBB Mr. Olympia contest was shocking not to mention a big surprise. After decades of what I viewed as the same old same old, the IFBB awarded the Mr. Olympia title to the competitor who was in the best shape instead of automatically giving it to the reigning champ.

Last year, I brought up the novel idea of awarding the title to the bodybuilder who deserved it on that night. It had been that the Mr. Olympia was the one contest where the champ always won, even if injured, out of shape or just plain off. How much more exciting would it be for the fans, and the sport in general, if every Mr. Olympia was judged based solely on the condition of the competitors who lined the stage?

This year, things were different. After two years on top, Jay Cutler was dethroned by 3 time Arnold Classic champion Dexter Jackson. After Jay won last year in less than peak condition, the judges and Jay himself were roundly criticized by fans over the following 12 months. The judges were obviously listening to what was being said because they responded to the criticism by awarding the title to someone new.

Word before the contest was that Jay Cutler was in the best shape of his life, perhaps even equaling his incredible 2001 condition. Jay admitted in interviews that, after winning the title in 2006, he wasn't as hungry to win last year and that was the reason he was off. He was going to rectify this and leave no doubt in anyone's mind that he was the champ in 2008.

Dexter Jackson was considered Jay's greatest threat to the title. After winning his third Arnold Classic this year in his best shape ever, Dexter was determined to add even more pounds of muscle to solidify his chances of beating Jay. However, the Mr. Olympia title being what it is, I thought Dexter was going to do no better than second place.

Here is my review of all the contestants for the 2008 Mr. Olympia contest.

Out of the Top 15

Fouad Abiad was competing in his first Mr. Olympia contest after taking third place at the Europa Super Show. Fouad has a very good physique with good shape and a small waist. However, for the ultra-competitive Olympia, he wasn't hard enough to place higher. He can still afford to add more size to his frame, but he's a young bodybuilder and the best is still ahead.

Sergey Shelestov from Russia was not in the condition he needed to be in to make an impact at the Mr. Olympia. Although Sergey is a very big man with a big structure, he is not as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other competitors, so he really needs to come in ripped to place high. He had some great leg development but his upper body needed much more hardness.

Leo Ingram, the 2006 North American overall winner, was competing in his first Olympia after taking third at this year's Houston Pro. Leo has some of the biggest and thickest arms in the sport, and his most muscular poses are pretty freaky. What hurts Leo is the ever-present stomach bloat evident in abdominal poses. If he could bring the gut down, he'd place higher.

Kevin English was the first winner of this year's new 202 pound class, instituted to create a venue where smaller pros could compete. Kevin won this class at the New York Pro Show and also took second place in the open pro division at that contest. He earned his pro card at the 1998 NPC Nationals as a middleweight, and has really added size to his physique over the last 10 years. With very good arm and leg development, he just missed placing in the top 15 at the Mr. Olympia.

Top 15

David Henry dropped five places, placing 15th, after making the top 10 at last year's Mr. Olympia. But David won the new 202 pound class, so he's the new "Giant Killer" as MC Bob Chicerillo dubbed him. David seemed to be holding a little water at the Friday night pre-judging but was noticeably harder at the finals the very next night. I think he would have been at least 2-3 places higher if he'd have displayed that condition during the pre-judging.

Ronny Rockel, at 14th place, has one of the more pleasing physiques on the pro circuit. He has good thickness in his pecs, delts and legs from the front along with very thick abs. Unfortunately, from the rear, Ronny doesn't carry the same impact with his narrow shoulders and underdeveloped back. He was harder than at the Arnold Classic, but could have been even more ripped to challenge for a top ten spot.

Craig "The Diamond" Richardson placed 13th, and was also not at his best for this year's Olympia. I saw Craig compete at last year's Atlantic City Pro where he looked incredible, diamond hard with impressive thickness. His Olympia showing didn't duplicate that rock-hard condition. Craig has great leg development along with huge delts, but his back development lags behind the rest of his body.

Johnnie Jackson, placing 12th, may be the strongest bodybuilder in the world, but he was a little off at the 2008 Mr. Olympia. Johnnie took a strong 9th place in last year's contest coming off a victory at the 2007 Atlantic City Pro. This year, he was a little too smooth and dropped to 12th place. Johnnie has incredible thickness in his pecs, lats, traps and delts but his structure is a little narrow so he needs to come in really hard to showcase all that thickness. His legs have always been a little behind his upper body and his calves are particularly weak, so he still needs to bring up his 'wheels' to balance out all that upper body mass.

Darrem Charles, the 11th place finisher, never seems to get any respect at the Mr. Olympia. Although he's won his share of pro titles (at least nine), he always has a hard time cracking even the top ten at the Olympia. He competed in top condition, as always, but a high-energy posing routine was weighed down by questionable choice of music. Darrem gives away a lot of mass to many competitors in the Olympia, and that's why he has a difficult time beating the top guys. However, with his quality physique and excellent posing skills it's always a pleasure to watch him perform.

Gustavo Badell, at 10th place, hit the Olympia stage with his trademark aggressiveness and intensity. He's been trying to regain the top three placing he earned during 2004 and 2005 Olympia contests. His combination of size and thickness with hard muscularity catapulted him to the top of the sport four years ago, but he's dropped in the placings over the last few years because of an expanding waistline and a slight legs to upper body imbalance. The competition was very, very tough. If Gustavo can bring up his legs some more while keeping his gut in check, he may be able to get to the top five next year.

Moe Elmoussawi, placing 9th, was the surprise bodybuilder of the year. This New Zealander's sudden rise to the top is very similar to Gustavo Badell, the guy he beat at this year's Olympia. Moe never placed in the top ten in a big pro show until this year's Iron Man Pro Invitational where he took 3rd. His hard conditioning along with thick muscularity helped him leap past other better known bodybuilders. Although he doesn't have the biggest structure, he does carry good mass with excellent arm development. This hard conditioning earned him a top ten placing at the Olympia.

Dennis James, who placed 8th, was back in Olympia competition after a two-year layoff. Dennis competed at a lighter body weight and really brought his waistline down to create a more aesthetic, pleasing physique. For the past 10 years, he's had one of the thickest and massive physiques in bodybuilding. Dennis has been a pro bodybuilder since 1998, so he might be coming to the end of his pro career pretty soon, but showed he still has more gas in the tank.

Silvio Samuel, placing 7th, was the most conditioned bodybuilder in this year's Mr. Olympia. I think Silvio was overlooked and could have easily been a place or two higher. He always brings incredible conditioning to every contest, and was noticeably thicker and bigger, easily the most impressive I've seen him look since the 2007 Iron Man Pro Invitational when he made his first big impact in the pros. Reduced contest appearances translated into a bigger and thicker Silvio at the Olympia.

Melvin Anthony, The Marvelous One, placed 6th. This was his 3rd consecutive top six performance at the Olympia. Coming off a strong victory at the Atlantic City Pro two weeks earlier, Melvin was not quite hard enough. With great shape and proportions, not to mention being the best poser in bodybuilding, Melvin has all the tools necessary to be in the top three. However, with all his gifts, Melvin seems to have difficulty really nailing that ultra-hard conditioning required to win today's top professional bodybuilding competitions. Melvin has one of the smallest waists in the pro ranks along with excellent shape and mass so the future is all in his hands.

Toney Freeman redeemed his poor 14th place showing at last year's Mr. Olympia by being the first name called out at this year's Olympia and placing 5th. Toney is called "The X Man" because of his superior frame. His wide shoulders, small waist and sweeping thighs create an imposing threat to any competitor on a bodybuilding stage.

Toney made some major improvements to his physique in the two weeks since the Atlantic City Pro Show where he only took 4th place in the Open division and second place behind Darrem Charles in the Masters division. With added size to his legs and arms, Toney only needed to harden up in order to showcase his size and incredible proportions for a top five Olympia placing.

I personally thought Toney looked a little soft at the pre-judging Friday night and was surprised he was called out first in the comparisons. However, by Saturday evening, he was much harder with prominent vascularity covering his legs and arms. He was still thick and full and his posing routine radiated the confidence of a top contender.

Dennis Wolf, at 4th place, was one of the most highly anticipated athletes on stage at the Olympia. Last year, the German surprised everybody by placing 5th and quickly became the fan favorite. With his incredibly wide shoulders and narrow waistline, Dennis clearly has the potential to dominate the sport. At 6'1", he towers over most of the line-up and everyone was anxious to see if he could pull an upset by winning the overall.

Unfortunately, Dennis did not create the kind of excitement that he did the year before. Maybe it was the incredible pressure he was under to win the show after last year's spectacular performance, but 'The Wolf' did not dominate the stage, maybe because some of his individual body parts are out of proportion to the rest of his physique.

From the back, Dennis still needs to bring up the middle-lower portion of his lats. He also needs bigger calves to balance out those huge quads. Wolf is one of the youngest competitors so there's plenty of time for improvement and muscle maturity. As he continues to add size to his large frame, Dennis could be the future of the sport if he fulfills his enormous potential.

Top 3

Phil Heath, "The Gift", finally competed in his first Mr. Olympia contest after skipping it the last two years, and placed 3rd. Phil wanted to wait until he was really ready before stepping onto the Olympia stage and, boy, was he ever ready! In fact, my vote for the 2008 Mr. Olympia would have been Phil Heath. After losing a very close decision to Dexter Jackson at this year's Arnold Classic, Phil came to the Olympia even bigger and better. His genetics are truly one in a million, and he seems to make substantial progress in his physique every six months or so.

Phil was very hungry for the title and he showed more fire and determination than any other bodybuilder onstage. He presented a massive and ripped physique that showcased the best arms and delts in the sport. His posing presentation was aggressive and polished, which is amazing considering the short time he's been in the sport. Phil even showed signs of Ronnie Coleman as he pushed back Dexter Jackson during the posedown, refusing to let the Blade stand next to Cutler and himself.

It was a sight to see as Phil stood next to his mentor, Jay Cutler, in the judging comparisons. It was Jay who saw the potential in Phil and took him under his wing several years ago. Cutler recognized that this kid had what it takes to be the very best and helped guide him in the right direction. How ironic that when the student and the teacher finally competed against each other, the student clearly outshined his mentor.

The professional sport of bodybuilding will be very exciting in the coming years with Phil Heath's addition to the line-up. He possesses the rare combination of outstanding physical potential along with the intelligence and patience needed to fulfill those genetics. Most importantly, he also seems to have the hunger and desire to dominate the stage and WIN! If he is judged fairly, I predict he will be Mr. Olympia very soon.

Jay Cutler the reigning champ took 2nd. He returned to the stage determined to win back both fans and judges after his disappointing and controversial win last year. The rumor was that Jay would be better than ever, and he was expected to win the title easily, putting to rest the critics who burned up the internet boards all year long saying that Cutler was given a gift of the Sandow trophy in 2007.

To his credit, Jay was in much better condition than last year. It wasn't his conditioning that hurt him; it was the shape of his physique. Cutler was never one of the most aesthetically pleasing bodybuilders and, as he has continued to add size and get bigger over the years, his waistline has expanded dramatically. The larger waist has destroyed his symmetry and lines, and earned him the unfortunate moniker 'The Refrigerator.'

Jay is one of the largest bodybuilders competing today. His super wide shoulders are balanced with some of the best legs in the sport and his broad, thick back can knock anyone off the stage. At 5'8" and 270 pounds, Cutler has the mass that audiences love to see. He's also one of the most liked and respected bodybuilders, always giving 100% to the fans and judges alike.

This year, Jay was still not in peak condition for the pre-judging on Friday night. He wasn't as far off as last year but he was definitely retaining water and, compared to the hard, ripped physiques of Dexter, Heath, Wolf and Silvio, Jay didn't compare. Still, the Mr. Olympia being what it is, I thought Jay showed just enough to retain the title.

The next night at the Finals, he was much harder and in better condition. He must have shed 10 pounds of water in the 24 hours since the pre-judging and it looked like he'd repeat. The extra hardness, however, was off-set by a somewhat flat appearance. His pecs, in particular, didn't have the fullness and size Jay normally displays.

It was interesting that the music selections Jay chose to pose to reflected his poor condition the year before. He started his posing with the song "It's Too Late to Apologize" and finished with the song "I'll Do Whatever It Takes". The latter song included the lyrics, "I'll do whatever it takes to turn this thing around" and "I know that I've let you down".

Jay appeared very confident and relaxed during the Finals and definitely did not seem concerned with the possibility of an upset. I'm sure it was a total shock to lose the title to Dexter but Jay displayed true character by waiting onstage until Dexter composed himself so he could be the first one to congratulate the new champ. After all, Jay was in the same position as Dexter only two short years ago when he dethroned eight-time champ Ronnie Coleman.

Dexter Jackson, Mr. Olympia. In one of the most shocking upsets in Olympia history, Dexter Jackson beat out two-time champion Jay Cutler. Dexter was considered to be Jay's biggest competition, but even he was shocked to actually pull off the win.

Dexter really opened some eyes earlier this year when he held off a big threat from rising star Phil Heath to win his third Arnold Classic title. He showed some major improvement at the Arnold by adding quality pounds of muscle to his frame while retaining sliced conditioning. Dexter didn't earn the nickname "The Blade" for nothing.

With a physique that's not only aesthetic and symmetrical but massive and ripped, Dexter sports a front double biceps pose that was probably the best in the contest. His massive arms and wide shoulders taper down to a tiny waist and huge separated thighs. Dexter's back is rock-hard, and has striated glutes along with deep abs. Next to Silvio, Dexter was the most conditioned athlete onstage.

Dexter's posing routine was somewhat uninspired but it did showcase his incredible physique with slow and deliberate moves. In the posedown, I actually thought Dexter would be moved out of second into third by the incredible physique of Phil Heath, but Dexter managed to surpass not only Phil but the champ himself. Congratulations to Dexter Jackson, our new Mr. Olympia winner.
Leave a Comment
Scott Welch
Oct 19, 2008
Great review John!
Leonard Ciaburri
Oct 19, 2008
Male vanity!