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APRIL ’03   It may be a stretch to say Heath and Cutler were pals soon afer meeting. It was the 2003 NPC Northern Colorado— the debut contest of 23-year-old Phil Heath, and as a 192-pound light-heavyweight, he won the novice and open overall titles. The guest poser, 29-year-old Jay Cutler, had won his second straight Arnold Classic the month prior, and many considered him the favorite for that year’s Olympia (he’d been second in 2001 and sat out 2002). On that April day, he was 100 pounds heavier than Heath, although both are 5'9". And yet the unknown neophyte told the world-famous veteran pro he would compete against him one day on the Olympia stage. Yeah, right. It’s just one of those things starry-eyed wannabes tell celebrities, and Cutler politely played along like he always does—and like Heath does now. Nobody to legend: “I’ll see you on the Olympia stage one day.” Legend to nobody: “Keep training and you’ll get there, kid.” But this time would be different maybe for the only time in history. This time the nobody became a legend, too—and then things got really interesting.

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APRIL ’05   When Cutler returned to pose at the same contest in 2005, the other guest poser was that wannabe from two years prior. And yet 30 pounds heavier, Heath had morphed into something nearly unrecognizable. The two went out to eat afterward, sparking a bond. That day, Cutler recognized the gifs of the Gif, and he e-mailed photos to us at FLEX.. Before the 25-year-old Heath won the USA Championships in July 2005, and earned pro status on his first try (like Cutler did, at 23, at the 1996 NPC Nationals), he was signed to Weider/AMI, and, against all odds, his Olympia prophesy had gone from “yeah, right” to “OK, maybe”— though it was still more than three years from fruition.

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JULY ’06    FLEX was there the first time the two future Mr. O’s trained together. It was in a Las Vegas gym, three days before Cutler’s 33rd birthday, and two months before he won his first of four Olympia titles. At 285, he was leaner than Heath, who weighed 50 pounds less. The Gift was 26, a Pro League rookie who had won his first two professional contests that spring. If he thought he could skate by on his stellar genetics, this back- thickness workout with the man he called his “big brother” was his wake-up call. The nine-year pro schooled the rookie with a fast-paced, high-volume barrage of basics, forcing “little brother” to use much lighter weights and suck for air between sets. It was just what Heath needed. Cutler had also got by on his DNA in previous years, relying too much on machines, winning Arnolds but losing the Olympia annually to Ronnie Coleman. Then, he returned to compound basics and split his weekly back training into width and thickness sessions. That September, for the first time, he beat Coleman. Heath got the same lesson. “I learned what it means to be a professional bodybuilder,” he later said of that lats-kicking. “Before that, I thought of workouts as sort of a run-through, like in basketball. Afterward, I went all out.” He too adopted more free weights, and, by 2008, his previously weak back was a strength.

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SEPTEMBER ’08    While Cutler collected San- dows in 2006 and 2007, his “little brother” steered clear of the Olympia stage. Not until his third year in the Pro League when he had acquired sufficient mass did Heath make his Olympia debut. He weighed 227. Cutler was 260. But the gap seemed much closer due to the Gif’s superior collection of cuts. The O rookie looked even better at Saturday’s finals than Friday’s prejudging, and many, including yours truly and head judge Jim Rockell, thought he deserved to be the first man to win the Olympia on his initial try (excluding the inaugural Olym- pia). It wasn’t to be—but then again it wasn’t Cutler’s show, either. Dexter Jackson was named the 2008 Mr. Olympia. Still, the Blade’s win seemed to merely postpone the inevitable showdown between Cutler and Heath. “I’ve been second before, and second isn’t so bad, but it’s not the way I want to finish of, so I’ll be back,” a subdued Cutler, 35, said afterward. In contrast, Heath, 28, was jubilant to enter body- building’s trinity on his first try. “Getting third place was just un- believable,” he said. “This show proves miracles can happen and dreams do come true.” And yet he, like Cutler, who finished just one place ahead of him, had bigger dreams to fulfill.

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JANUARY ’09    It was time for a rematch— not on the stage but in the gym. When Heath and Cutler trained together again for a FLEX feature—an of-season chest workout—the former was 270 and the latter 294. Thus, the previous body weight gap had been cut in half. What’s more, Heath virtually matched Cutler’s weights and he equaled his pace and intensity. “This time I wasn’t going to lose,” the Gift said. “I lost once. I wasn’t going to lose again.” Since that initial workout in 2006, the two have ofen trained together, and, once the Gif acquired the right mind-set and upped his strength, they’ve been gym equals. “Afer that first back workout, I’ve always hung with him,” Heath afrmed. “He knows it, and we both thrive on it. We push each other to be the best.”

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SEPTEMBER ’09   If you just look at the placings, their second onstage clash looks like no contest. But num- bers fail to tell the true story. First, let’s deal with first. Many were counting Cutler out and predicting Heath’s elevation to bodybuilding’s throne – or if not Heath, defending champ Dexter Jackson or that year’s Arnold Classic champ, Kai Greene. And yet at 271 dry pounds, Cutler romped to a blowout victory. “I was just physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to be on top once again,” he averred aferward. “It’s very emotional, because I realized when I lost it how special it is, and I’m willing to bust my ass to stay on top.” Now, look at the scorecard. Down, down, down through the placings we find the name Phil Heath in fifh. He’s never been lower. He had planned to come in at a ripped 240 and seize the Sandow. The day before the show he was on target. But at prejudging on Friday he was 227 and his legs were deflated. Food poisoning early that morning had violently rid him of 13 precious pounds. Still, he roared back at Saturday’s finals when he appeared much fuller, closing the gap on scorecards by tying for second in the posedown. In the end, 31 points separated first and second place, but, in an incredible four-way logjam, only nine points separated second from fifth. Hampered by his Friday score, Heath was fifh, but by the contest’s end he was, in the estimation of most, the second-best bodybuilder onstage. “Losing like this is going to bother me,” he said, “but it’s going to fuel me, too.”

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SEPTEMBER ’10    Finally, the third time they stood on the stage together we got the showdown be- tween “big brother” and “no- longer-little brother.” During the 2010 Olympia posedown, the chants of their respective fans—Cut-ler! Heath! Cut-ler! Heath!—bled into a collective roar. And later, afer the other names were called, they were lef alone at center stage, the top two in the world awaiting the announcement of No. 1. Cutler told Heath then, “Who would’ve thought when we met that we would actually be on the same stage and be friends and be the last two standing here for the Mr. Olympia.” Who, indeed? Maybe only Heath. A mere three points separated Cutler and Heath at prejudging. Only 15 pounds separated them on the scales: Heath at 245 and Cutler at 260. Even more than those numbers indicate, however, this was one of the closest Olympia contests—a true apple versus orange decision between the broader, bulkier 37-year-old Cutler and the denser, crisper, 30-year-old Heath. In the end, Cutler carried home his fourth Sandow, but the decision fueled a debate that lasted 12 months. Afterward, Heath expressed his joy at being one of the last two standing with his good friend, and then he added, grinning, “And I had him, boy, I just know I had him. And he was like, ‘Holy crap, this young guy can get me.’”

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SEPTEMBER ’11    Twelve months later, Heath didn’t just get him. He became the 13th Mr. Olympia in dominating fashion. At a high-def 248 pounds, his was arguably the most impressive combination of, as he says, “freaky and pretty” ever seen on a bodybuilding stage. In contrast, the 258-pound Cutler was of. His lef biceps was torn and inflamed, his legs were downsized, his upper body was flat. Again, the two friends were alone waiting the announcement of who would take home the Sandow—but this time there was no doubt. Heath said, “Thanks for never letting our friendship get messed up by this whole industry.” Cutler nodded, and said, “You’re gonna be the king now. Are you ready?” The soon-to-be Mr. Olympia replied, “Yeah. I’m ready, because you showed me how to do this.” One week later in Mumbai, India, at the Sheru Classic, Heath beat Cutler again, but before then, backstage at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, he savored the moment of accomplishing it for the first time and securing bodybuilding’s ultimate title. “That was the best feeling of my life,” he said. “It was especially awesome knowing I beat a Mr. Olympia to be Mr. Olympia. It would’ve been different if he had retired and the title had been vacant and I had won that way. But to know I beat a four-time Mr. Olympia, a guy who was relevant over 10 years in bodybuilding, being top two, and such a good friend, that’s incredible.”

Mr. Olympia Rapid Recap

SEPTEMBER ’13    Last year, when Heath won again, it was the first of his five Olympias without his “big brother” in the lineup. He admitted it was strange not having his friend there. It seemed Cutler had retired, but the four-time Mr. O never officially said so. This year, he announced his return and his intention of collecting Olympia title number 5. Meanwhile, Heath is striving to do what Cutler failed to do twice and earn his third Sandow in a row, stamping this era as his dynasty. Cutler will be 40 when he steps on the stage on September 27, and it will be two years since his last contest. Can he regain or surpass his previous form? Heath, at 33, will be in his prime and in still only the seventh year of his pro career (by contrast, it will be 16 years since Cutler’s pro debut). Either man winning will be a tremendous story. But those aren’t the only intriguing plots. There’s Kai Greene, last year’s runner-up, looking to climb the final rung on the ladder. There’s Shawn Rhoden, who shocked the world with his dramatic new additions last year and his third- place finish. There’s two-time Arnold Classic champ Branch Warren and that other Mr. O, the ageless Dexter Jackson. And what about Mamdouh Elssbiay, fresh of his victory at the New York Pro—can “Big Ramy” become the first man since Flex Wheeler 20 years ago to crack the O top three as a rookie pro? The 49th Mr. Olympia is shaping up to be the most exciting of all time. Two of the favorites will continue to be close friends, but this may be the final time they share an Olympia stage, and, as the past 10 years have proven, you never know what will happen when these legends clash.

IFBB Olympia Weekend 2013

IFBB Olympia Weekend 2013