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Casual bodybuilding followers already know about the Olympia and Arnold Classic, but the fans who have deep connections to the sport know that there is a third show that could be called a crown jewel of the industry – the Pittsburgh Pro.
The 2023 edition of the Pittsburgh Pro took place at the Wyndham Grand Downtown Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 12th and 13th. Olympia president Dan Solomon referred to the Pittsburgh Pro as “one of our industry’s greatest traditions” on his Instagram post about the event.
The contest is promoted by IFBB Pro League president Jim Manion, who was the 1971 Mr. Pittsburgh winner himself. Both Manion and Solomon, as well as many of the biggest stars, legends, and insiders of the bodybuilding world, were in attendance to gather and celebrate the sport they all love.
The Saturday afternoon finals had many fans in the hotel buzzing because of the men’s open stars that would be guest posing. This is an event that goes back decades, and some memorable moments have taken place during this exhibition such as Ronnie Coleman giving Jay Cutler a piggyback ride, Phil Heath and Kai Greene sharing the stage, and Kevin Levrone announcing his return for the 2016 Mr. Olympia seven years ago. One year ago, 2021 Olympia 212 champion Derek Lunsford guest posed and made headlines because of the size he put on. That led him to being invited to compete in the Open at the Olympia. He would place second to new champion Hadi Choopan.
Lunsford returned to Pittsburgh to psoe once again, and he was joined by two-time Mr. Olympia Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay, Arnold Classic champions Samson Dauda and Nick Walker, second generation superstar Hunter Labrada, and two-time Olympia 212 champion Shaun Clarida. Solomon and four-time Classic Physique Olympia champion Chris Bumstead greeted the fans and spoke about the significance of the Pittsburgh Pro for both before the athletes stepped up. As they were being introduced, Bob Cicherillo introduced Australia’s own Tony Doherty, who had brought a new pro to Pittsburgh, Mike Hulusi, who was allowed to step onstage with the six headliners and go pose for pose. Hulusi was in the final stages of his prep for the New York Pro, taking place on May 20th, and he looked close to contest shape. Imagine your first poses as a pro being among those in the elite of the sport at their biggest. Welcome to the IFBB Pro League, Mike.
The guest posers went through comparisons as if they were competing thanks to head judge Steve Weinberger, and they then went out into the crowd to pose with fans. After several minutes, they took a final bow before leaving the stage for interviews. The fans gave them a standing ovation for their efforts. Manion looked on with approval and appreciation as well.
The guest posers were a big part of the show, but this is a competition, after all, and there were six pro contests held between both days of competition with Olympia qualfiications on the line. Stars could be seen competing in lineups too. Two of those contests featured Olympia champions, and another two included a winner from the Arnold Classic weekend. Defending Ms. Physique Olympia Natalia Coelho won her division’s title, but three-time Bikini Olympia winner Ashley Kaltwasser placed second to winner
Aimee Delgado. Defending Wellness International champion Kassandra Gillis fell one spot short of winning the Pittsburgh Wellness show. That champion would be Gisele Machado. The winner of the Figure show was Cherish Richardson.
Classic Physique and Men’s Physique shows took place as well. Michael Daboul claimed the Classic Physique title and is now qualified for the 2023 Olympia, which is taking place in Orlando, FL on Nov. 2-5. As Solomon reminded the fans in attendance, tickets can be purchased at www.mrolympia.com.
The Men’s Physique winner was Corey Morris, who won his third straight show. During the interview with Cicherillo, defending Men’s Physique Olympia winner Erin Banks made his way to the stage to both congratulate Morris and warn him of what he was in for at the Olympia.
“Be your best because that’s what it will take to beat me, and there’s not many people that have beaten me.”
Another very important part of this weekend’s events is the amateur contests. The NPC is based in Pittsburgh, so what better way to introduce yourself to the sport than by competing on the NPC’s hometown stage? Put yourself in the competitors’ trunks for a moment. Combine the feeling of stepping onstage with being able to look out in the audience and see legends such as Rich Gaspari, Hany Rambod, former 212 competitor and Pittsburgh legend Seth Feroce, and other big names that you likely follow on social media in attendance watching you. Outside of the pro qualifying shows, there may be no bigger amateur stage than that one.
The energy that was created in the Wyndham Grand Downtown Hotel will be felt long after the stage is taken down and the people there have moved on to the New York Pro or other events on the schedule. That energy is why the Pittsburgh Pro is one of those shows that all serious bodybuilding fans and competitors need to put on their contest bucket list. The 2024 contest dates had yet to be announced, but you can follow @npcifbbpropittsburgh on Instagram to find out when next year’s show will take place.