The greatest title in the world

The Olympia is the most prestigious bodybuilding competition on the planet and pits the most finely tuned athletes against each other over a whole weekend of drama and slick, polished entertainment, unlike anything you have ever seen.

The men that have dedicated their lives to this sport over the years have done so to not only to win a trophy and prize money but to also prove themselves as the finest physical specimen alive, which takes huge amounts of discipline.

Building a flawless physique with perfect symmetry and god-like definition takes a huge amount of time and patience, not to mention the necessary stomach for intense bouts of exercise up to 3 or 4 times a day.

The likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates and Jay Cutler have all managed to win the title on multiple occasions and cement their place in history, but most recently Phil Heath has dominated the event, winning the last 7 in a row.

Heath was once again the favourite to defend his title going into the 2018 competition, up against other huge names including Roelly Winklaar, Brandon Curry, Big Ramy and Shawn Rhoden.

‘The Gift’ has taken on all comers and emerged victorious in recent times, but could he do it for a record-equalling 8th time in Las Vegas?

The trouble with being the best is that you become a target for the rest of your rivals, the man everyone wants to beat at all costs.

Read on to find out if Heath managed to stay out in front, or whether a new king emerged last weekend.

2018 Mr Olympia summary

With a whopping $400,000 up for grabs for this year’s winner, the line-up for the 2018 tournament re-united some of the biggest names in the business.

Rami was touted as the biggest threat to Heath’s title in the build-up but it became clear very quickly that this was not going to be a two-horse race from the outset by any means.

Winklaar and Roden came out strongly on the first day, the former making big improvements around the midriff and the latter looking almost flawless across the board, which was an ominous sign of things to come.

Unfortunately for Rami, he seemed to get his tactics all wrong and was holding far too much water in the first stage of the competition, which effectively ruined the big man’s chances of a podium finish.

Bonac and Curry emerged as early contenders too, while Heath seemed to be looking more bloated than usual in the early rounds of the competition.

The infamous ‘GH gut’ has been much maligned in the sport over the last few years, with judges now more inclined to mark down any athletes who neglect to refine their abdominal definition sufficiently.

The issue would be an even bigger topic of discussion on Day 2 of the Olympia, as the business end of the event began in earnest. As the competition drew to a close after a tense few hours of posing and flexing in front of a packed audience, two men were called back out in front of the judges to be scrutinised more closely.

Heath and Rhoden went toe to toe on the centre of the stage and each man’s strengths and weaknesses became clearer for all to see, with so much on the line. The Gift had the edge with his gargantuan shoulders and perfectly proportioned back, however, Rhoden was clearly in better shape in the lower body and around the midsection.

A runner-up in 2016, fans of Rhoden might have been forgiven for thinking that the 43-year-old had missed his opportunity, but when the final announcement was made, the oldest ever winner of the Olympia was confirmed.

Heath’s induction into the hall of fame will have to wait for at least another year after Rhoden was crowned the 14th winner of the competition in his 7th appearance.

The 7-time winner still received $150,000 for his efforts, but the disappointment of this defeat was etched all over his face, as Rhoden celebrated a well-deserved victory in front of a rapturous live audience.

Final standings and Post-Olympia quotes

Top 5 final result:

  1. Shawn Rhoden – Prize Money ($400,000)
  2. Phil Heath – Prize Money ($150,000)
  3. Roelly Winklaar – Prize Money ($100,000)
  4. William Bonac – Prize Money ($55,000)
  5. Brandon Curry – Prize Money ($45,000)

Shawn Rhoden

Rhoden expressed his joy at the final result when addressing the media after winning the Mr Olympia title, stating: “This means so much to me.

“I have been working so hard to get to this point, and my team has been with me every step of the way.

They have really worked me over to get me to where I am tonight and I am so grateful.

“I have been chasing Phil for such a long time. He has been a champion, and it means a lot to win.”

Phil Heath

The Gift meanwhile, was in a reflective mood in the days after the result, after congratulating his opponent on a famous victory.

“Well first off I will congratulate the new champ Shawn Rhoden on a job well done,” Heath began. “I wanna thank you all and I mean all of you even the ones who wished for my downfall because deep down we all in this together.

“Being on top for 7 straight years is a long damn time so imma relish in that, spend time with my own thoughts and continue to give all Honor to God because He has definitely provided me an incredible life that many of you have been apart of.

“Thank you thank you thank you, everyone, in attendance and those watching around the world. We saw history be made and I for one got a chance to be apart of life!”

Until next year

The 2019 Mr Olympia now looks set to be an even more thrilling spectacle, with so many athletes improving fast and others with a point to prove after a below-par showing this time around.

Heath dropping to his knees when the final announcement was made last weekend will be the lasting image from the 2018 competition, as the perennial champion finally tasted defeat after so long at the top of the Bodybuilding castle.

But all the credit should go to Rhoden, who proved that age is just a number and produced the best performance of his entire career to put his name up in lights and nail down his own legacy in the sport.

Winklaar will no doubt continue to improve, having returned to the stage in better condition than ever before and don’t write off Rami just yet after his latest setback.

The big man, whose real name is Mamdouh Elssbiay, was carrying far too much weight to finish in the top 5 this time around, but he will learn from his mistakes and likely come back even stronger next year.

The future looks bright for this sport after one of the most dramatic finales in years and with a new name etched into the Sandow Trophy, the competition has been blown wide open ahead of next year’s event, as the profile of Bodybuilding continues to grow exponentially all around the world.


Author: James Westwood

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