10-year Friendship Rivalry between Mr. Olympias Phil Heath and Jay Cutler

Let's go back in time and review what has formed a 10-year friendship and rivalry between Mr. Olympias Phil Heath and Jay Cutler.


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.

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.”

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.”

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.’”