The Mr Olympia is the ultimate competition in bodybuilding, with the Sandow trophy being the most prestigious of prizes.
The Mr Olympia first started in 1965 and is currently held in Las Vegas each year.
Some of the greatest bodybuilders to ever grace the sport have shone in this competition, with names including: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman and Phil Heath.
But which competition over the last 55 years was the best?
In this article we are going to list the top 7 shows and why they will live long in the memories of bodybuilding fans.
In no particular order here we go:
- 1969 – Sergio Defeats Arnold
The only man to ever defeat Arnold in a Mr Olympia competition was Sergio Oliva, aka ‘the myth’. This was one of the greatest rivalries from bodybuilding’s golden era, a time where bodybuilders were regarded as looking the best throughout history (from an aesthetic point of view). You can read more about the golden era here – https://insidebodybuilding.com/golden-era-bodybuilding/ .
One year earlier Sergio Oliva was awarded the trophy, with literally zero competition. This year he would truly be tested by the young and confident ‘Austrian Oak’ who’d been plastered all over Weider magazines for the last 12 months. However Arnold would have to wait to be crowned Mr Olympia, losing out to Sergio by one vote.
Arnold was in the best shape of his life at this point, coming into the competition ripped, after cutting down his weight by 15lbs. However, Sergio’s mass and tiny waist just edged it — with Arnold giving the Cuban a congratulatory kiss, upon hearing the results.
- 1970 – Arnold and Sergio Rematch
After losing out to Sergio in 1969, Arnold came back in even better shape from the previous year.
This felt like an away tie for Arnold with the 1970 venue being in New York, a crowd packed full of African and Latin American’s who were in full support of Sergio.
Arnold has just beaten ‘the myth’ in the AAU Mr World competition 2 weeks prior to this contest, however Oliva remained the favourite being the 3x reigning champion.
Oliva received a standing ovation from the crowd, displaying a bigger physique than ever before — going for mass over detail. This approach backfired, as Oliva looked to be retaining too much fat, combined with excessive oil that blurred out muscle definition.
Arnold was crowned Mr Olympia champion for the first time, receiving $1,000 and seemingly doing the impossible in defeating ‘the myth’.
- 1973 – Controversy as Arnold’s Gamesmanship Pays Off
The 1973 competition was one of the most controversial and greatest Mr Olympia contests of all time.
There was fierce competition this year with Frank Zane, Franco Columbu, Serge Nubret, Sergio Oliva and Arnold Schwarzenegger battling it out.
In the previous year Arnold was crowned winner, due to all other competitors being disqualified due to them competing in other events.
Thus, Oliva was coming back hungry to regain his title as the king of bodybuilding; whilst Serge Nubret came in looking sharp, with incredible cuts and definition.
Controversy arose when Arnold requested a room with a black backdrop, which would wash out Sergio Oliva due to his darker skin and highlight Arnold’s physique more. The Austrian was also seen standing slightly in front of the Cuban, as opposed to side by side; giving an illusion of the Austrian being more muscular than he truly was. This was a glimpse of the cerebral superiority Arnold had over his competition throughout his career and his winning mentality of doing everything in his power to gain an edge over his rivals.
- 1991 – Haney’s Dominance continues
In 1991 Lee Haney had already won 7 Mr Olympia titles, tying Arnold’s record of 7 wins. In this competition he would line up against a young Dorian Yates, Lee Labrada, Shawn Ray, Rich Gaspari, Bob Paris and Robby Robinson.
There possibly had never been so much talent on one bodybuilding stage — and Haney continued his dominance going out in style with a record that still stands today of 8 wins (equalled only by Ronnie Coleman). Haney’s perfect balance of mass and conditioning simply was unbeatable in his era. I’m sure Dorian was happy Lee called it a day after this year.
- 1998 – Ronnie is crowned king
Dorian Yates had just retired, giving Flex Wheeler the perfect opportunity to win his first sandow trophy; being in the shadow of the British bodybuilder who’d won 6 consecutive titles.
There would be stiff competition from Nasser El Sonbaty and Kevin Levrone; with legendary names such as Lee Priest and Shawn Ray also appearing on stage this year.
However, an outsider named Ronnie Coleman came to spoil the party, dwarfing Flex Wheeler whilst matching his conditioning to take his first of 8 Sandow trophies (which remains a record today).
Ronnie had previously finished 16th, 15th, 11th, 6th and 9th before shooting up to first place. Many believe this is when Ronnie started taking additional “chemicals”, that would take his size and mass to whole new levels in a short space of time. He credits Flex Wheeler in helping him in this respect, as Ronnie had previously been unaware that other competitors were taking such ‘supplements’.
- 2006 – Jay Beats Ronnie
After winning 8 Mr Olympia’s in a row, Ronnie Coleman appeared to be invincible; until 2006 where he failed to bring his best package — and Jay Cutler came and snatched what would have been his 9th title, bringing a more conditioned package, particularly in the lats and with superior calf development.
This would be the end for Ronnie who was appearing to slow down and be past his best. This was the beginning of a Cutler dynasty that would take his Sandow tally to 4.
- Phil Dethrones Jay
Phil Heath aka ‘the Gift’ (due to his cartoon-like genetics), defeats Jay Cutler, with a package that displayed world-class conditioning; combined with huge mass.
Before the winner was announced, Jay was already seen congratulating Phil in a manner to suggest his time was up — and looking at his friend as a proud father who knew he was going to dominate the stage for many years to come. He was certainly right with Phil going on to win 7 Sandows; who would only miss out on an eingth due to his own lacklustre display in 2018.