Olympia fans walked away with programs, protein samples, and enough stories to last them until the Arnold Classic in March, at least.
So the 2004 Olympia is a wrap. Ronnie Coleman walked away with a seventh straight title and fans walked away with programs, protein samples, and enough stories to last them until the Arnold Classic in March, at least.
The Challenge Round, which represented the most significant change to the Mr. Olympia's old format, is being hailed as a success by most. Fan reaction was mostly positive, with the consensus agreeing that the new round injected a breath of life into the evening presentation. In all, there were 30 distinct challenges made by the top six finalists, each one a five second drama unto itself.
Undoubtedly the most interesting aspect of the Challenge Round was the window it gave fans into the judges' thought processes. Whereas in the past the Olympia audience would learn of the competitors' scores only after the show was said and done, this weekend they could track the judging after each and every pose. When they agreed with a decision they let the judges know it. When they didn't they were equally vociferous. In this week when Americans are heading to voting booths to make their voices heard it seems the Challenge Round was an appropriately democratic process.
With Ronnie Coleman winning a seventh consecutive term as the leader of bodybuilding's free world, the question is not so much whether he could tie Lee Haney's record of eight wins, but when he will decide to let someone else grab a piece of Olympia glory. At 40 years of age he showed no visible signs of slowing down. At 296 pounds he was bigger than ever. There's little doubt he'll return next year for more of the same.
The other major alteration to the men's show was the addition of an electronic scoreboard above the Olympia stage, which became especially crucial during the Challenge Round. The scoreboard turned out to be an unqualified success, with the judges' remote keypads delivering scores to the screen without a hitch. As scores changed from moment to moment the audience began to ride the emotional wave of the athletes' fortunes rising and falling and rising again.
As for the contest itself, few seem to dispute Ronnie's dominance, even many of his fellow competitors. For whatever faults he may possess, Ronnie Coleman is quite possibly the most impressive physical specimen walking the earth today. Pictures do not do him justice. When he stands relaxed muscle literally hangs from his frame, as if his skin can no longer support the pendulous masses of flesh he has forged with untold tons of iron and steel. It's difficult to imagine anyone surpassing Big Ron's level of mass in this, or any, lifetime.
At 273 pounds Jay Cutler got as close to Ronnie, sizewise, as anyone on the Mandalay Bay stage. But it appeared that subcutaneous water, his old nemesis, got the better of Iron Jay, preventing him from displaying the kind of crisp muscularity he had at the 2001 Olympia.
Gustavo Badell didn't exactly come from nowhere (he's been a pro for six years) but he really shined on Saturday night with a physique that was big, cut, and nearly flawless. Expect even bigger things from the Puerto Rican this coming year.
Dexter Jackson has more reason than anyone to dislike the Challenge Round. With a loss in the most muscular pose to Gustavo and a controversial defeat to Ronnie in the ab and thigh, he watched third place slip through his fingers like so much Las Vegas desert sand.
Markus Ruhl was sertainly big enough. At 280 pounds he was the third heaviest man in the show (behind Ronnie and Gunter Schlierkamp) but his lack of detail, especially in his back and hams, left some wondering how he placed so high, especially above guys like Darrem Charles and Victor Martinez.
The same was said of Gunter Schlierkamp. Not at his best on this occasion, there was ample talk in the days after the Olympia of the big German receiving an early Christmas gift from the judges. Expect Gunter to turn this negative talk into motivation.
Special mention needs to be made of Darrem Charles' posing routine, which received far and away the biggest reaction from the Events Center audience. As always the Trinidadian put on a tremendous show, replete with popping and locking, moonwalking and even a little posing. Not surprisingly, Darrem won Shawn Ray's best poser award and the $10,000 that goes with it.
So, what can we expect from next year's Olympia? More of the same, for sure. But with an entire year to plan (as opposed to less than five months this year) it's safe to say we can look forward to an even better production and more entertainment value than ever before. Don't forget, next year marks the 40th anniversary of Joe Weider's Mr. Olympia contest, so you can bet we'll give the fans and bodybuilders alike something special to celebrate!