Amid the nonstop action at the Arnold Classic weekend in Columbus, Ohio, Weider Publications signed two top IFBB competitors: Silvio Samuel and Chris Cormier. Samuel has proved to be the surprise of the early 2007 season, while Cormier is one of the most successful competitors in IFBB history.

A former weightlifter from Spain, Samuel has placed in the top six in each of the three pro events held so far this year — fourth at the Ironman Pro, second at the Sacramento Pro and sixth at last weekend’s Arnold Classic. Loaded with mature, rounded muscle, the 5-foot-6 Samuel is one of the best sub-220-pounders in the IFBB. To many observers, his physique is reminiscent of late-’60s icon Sergio Oliva, and Samuel’s upper body stacks up well even against much heavier opponents.

“I was so excited when I was in the office and met Joe Weider in person,” Samuel says. “It was one of my main aims to be working with them. I’m so happy about it, and I will try my best in order to keep with the Weider family.”

Currently training at Milos Sarcev’s Koloseum Gym in Fullerton, California, Samuel is poised to keep making improvements under Sarcev’s watchful eye. “The help of Milos and the training experience is what I really want. He’s a friend, but he’s a very serious person about training.”

Although he’s happy with his early-season success, Samuel knows there’s room for improvement. “I really worked for it, and I plan to be better in every competition, too,” Samuel says. “At the moment, we’re planning for Australia [March 10]. After that, we’ll sit down and decide where we are going next.”

When Cormier makes his planned return to the stage at the Europa Super Show in August, he will have been away from the stage for 22 months, following his only double-digit placing in more than 70 contests over the last 20 years. Cormier, who turned pro in 1993 by winning the NPC USA overall title, has won 11 pro contests – including four consecutive Ironman Pro victories – in addition to six consecutive runner-up finishes at the Arnold Classic (2000-2005).

Formerly affiliated with Weider from 1994 to 2001, Cormier says, “I feel like I’m right back home with a lot of the people I started out with. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity again to be involved with Weider and FLEX and MUSCLE & FITNESS magazines. That’s the one company that does give athletes a chance to promote themselves. They have a good eye for what they feel is right for the good of the sport.

“Before I won the USA, Joe [Weider] said to come back and we’re going to sign you to a contract. I left the place with tears in my eyes. Anyone who has done anything in the sport has come through those doors at one time or another. It’s good to have people that have been in my corner for a long time like Peter McGough and Robin Chang. I’m with people who care about the sport, care about me and care about where we can take the sport.”

Long considered a threat in any contest he enters, Cormier looks forward to his return to competition. “I’ve been out of contest mode only three times in more than 20 years,” he says. I was doing several shows a year for 10 years straight [in 1997, he competed an amazing 10 times]. Last year, I had all the time in the world to reflect on my career and what I’ve done, the upside and the downside. I also had time to reflect on what I want out of life and what I want out of this sport. I want to leave knowing that I was one of the best that this sport has ever seen.”

Look for more on Cormier and Samuel in upcoming issues of FLEX.