The year was 1971. Joe and Ben Weider are in the middle of their legendary careers that established both the IFBB and the Weider publishing empire as pillars of bodybuilding. Arnold Schwarzenegger is early in his reign as the third Mr. Olympia, a run that would extend into the middle of the decade. That same year in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a young bodybuilder named Jim Manion was competing as an amateur bodybuilder and had just won the title of Mr. Pittsburgh.

Fast forward over 50 years later. Manion is now in the same position as the Weiders, leading the IFBB Pro League as well as promoter of the show he had won, now called the Pittsburgh Pro. He was hosting several of the top stars in bodybuilding for a guest posing exhibition, including Nick Walker, Andrew Jacked, Samson Dauda, Hunter Labrada, Martin Fitzwater, Urs Kalecinski, Ramon “Dino” Querioz, and the reigning Mr. Olympia, Derek Lunsford.

Several of bodybuilding’s biggest names and personalities gathered to celebrate the sport and feel the energy in the room. Bob Cicherillo is manning the podium. Among those in the crowd is Olympia owner Jake Wood, bodybuilding legends Flex Wheeler, George Farah, and five-time Classic Physique Olympia champion Chris Bumstead even made an appearance. The stars were out.

The Pittsburgh Pro has been a marquis show on the bodybuilding schedule for a long time, particularly because of their guest posing exhibition. Longtime fans will remember Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler trading shots and giving each other piggyback rides on the stage. Others will recall seeing Phil Heath, Kai Greene, and Dennis Wolf putting on intense performances. Then, there’s 2016 when Kevin Levrone shocked the world by telling the Pittsburgh crowd he would make his return to the stage at that year’s Mr. Olympia contest. The Pittsburgh Pro is a symbolic kickoff of Olympia season.

The 2024 edition lived up to the same standard. Lunsford has been working hard in his offseason so he could improve upon the physique that led him to his first Sandow Trophy. This show is particularly important for Lunsford because his 2022 appearance as the Olympia 212 champion is what led him to being granted an invitation to move up from the 212 to the Open at that year’s Olympia. He went on to place second to then champion Hadi Choopan, showing the invitation was well deserved.

Walker and Fitzwater were in the final stages of prep for the 2024 New York Pro, which took take place one week after this show. Dauda, Labrada, and Jacked all looked massive and powerful while Kalecinski and Querioz were showing the competitive fire that it takes to stand on the Olympia stage every year.

With each pose, the crowd was cheering with approval. They knew they were seeing something special on that stage because the next time many of these men will be on one at the same time will be at the historic 60th Olympia Weekend at the incredible Resorts World in Las Vegas, NV on Oct. 11-12. That is where the Road to the Olympia will culminate. The pit stop at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown hotel only added fuel to the fire for the athletes and fans alike. Now that they have gotten to see their favorite champions in person, they debate and discuss who will hold the Sandow Trophy at the end of Saturday night in Vegas.

Olympia President Dan Solomon was not in attendance in Pittsburgh because he has been working with the rest of the Olympia team to ensure that the 2024 edition lives up to the magnitude and prestige of a 60th running of the biggest weekend in fitness. He did offer his support to the Manion family and appreciation for the athletes and fans that were in Pittsburgh through a post on Instagram.

“I’m really excited about Tyler Manion’s recent announcement to turn the Pittsburgh Pro into a FULL BLOWN EXPO and a MAJOR PRODUCTION in 2025,” he wrote. “This event will immediately turn the city of Pittsburgh into a late-spring “destination event” on the annual schedule, a tremendous opportunity for athletes, sponsors and exhibitors to reach a powerful new audience. — The road to the Olympia just got even more exciting. Looking forward to this!!!”

2025 and Beyond

Just as Manion himself went from competitor to promoter of the show, he and his family are ready to take the Pittsburgh Pro to a new level. Jim’s grandson and IFBB Pro League Vice President Tyler Manion took to the podium to announce that they are moving the event to the Pittsburgh Convention Center and adding an expo in 2025. The Pittsburgh Pro will only get bigger and better in the years to come, but what will remain the same is that it will remain a symbol of how far Jim Manion has travelled.