WITH AN EXPLOSION OF GROWTH IN JUST A FEW SHORT YEARS, THE IFBB PRO LEAGUE HAS BECOME THE GREATEST BODYBUILDING AND FITNESS FEDERATION IN THE WORLD—AND THERE’S NO BETTER PLACE TO PROVE IT THAN AT THE 2017 OLYMPIA FITNESS AND PERFORMANCE WEEKEND

Bodybuilding is where it began, back in 1965 when Larry Scott won the first Mr. Olympia. And bodybuilding—through its many incarnations, from the Sergio and Arnold years, to Zane, on through to Haney and Yates—is where it stayed. But 30 years later a new division added Olympia as its ultimate championship title, the Fitness Olympia in 1995. Since then, under the leadership of NPC and IFBB Pro League president Jim Manion, these divisions followed: Figure Olympia (2003); 212 Olympia (2008); Bikini Olympia (2010); Men’s and Women’s Physique Olympias (2013); and last year, the Classic Physique Olympia. From extreme size and condition to shape and beauty and mainstream athletic appeal, each division represents the broad spectrum of tastes in the fitness world. This September, we celebrate this diversity with a preview of the seven division champions and challengers at the 2017 Olympia Fitness and Performance Weekend. 

212 OLYMPIA

Will Flex Lewis remain undefeated and increase his 212 O count to six against this year’s crop of challengers? 

In 2011 Flex Lewis was back after taking the previous year off to make improvements to what was already one of the top three physiques in the 202 division. With a win at the Atlantic City Pro to qualify for that year’s 202 Olympia, Lewis suffered a devastating loss to three-time champ Kevin English. Now, six years later, that loss was the last time Lewis has seen anything less than first place in 14 contests, including five 212 Olympias (the division limit was increased in 2012). Already the record holder for most 212 titles and Olympias, Lewis is eyeing to widen the gap with his competition, led by last year’s runner-up and 2017 Arnold 212 winner Ahmad Ashkanani, longtime foes Jose Raymond, Eduardo Correa, David Henry, Hidetada Yamagishi, and others eager to dethrone the King of the 212. 

CLASSIC PHYSIQUE OLYMPIA

Classic Physique is set for a shake-up as a living legend comes back for another shot at Olympia glory.

OK, so with all due respect to defending champ Danny Hester, the big headline heading into the second Classic Physique Olympia is a guy who last competed in open bodybuilding at the 2003 Ironman Pro Invitational, where he placed third. Flex Wheeler, the four-time Arnold Classic champ and Mr. Olympia runner-up in 1993, 1998-99, will go for the O in a new division against a crop of both new and veteran athletes. How will he stack up against the likes of Hester, Arash Rahbar, Sadik Hadzovic, Darrem Charles, and the rest of the field? 

MEN’S PHYSIQUE OLYMPIA

Can anyone stop Jeremy Buendia from winning his fourth straight title? 

The most populated men’s division at the Olympia has been won the past three years by California’s Jeremy Buendia. He’ll have his work cut out for him this year, with Ryan Terry, who won the Arnold Men’s Physique earlier this year, and Andre Ferguson, Jeremy Potvin, Brandon Hendrickson, and the other 30 competitors who will make up what will surely be another record-breaking number at this year’s Olympia Weekend. 

 

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WOMEN’S PHYSIQUE

Will Juliana Malacarne continue her reign atop the IFBB’s youngest women’s division? 

After placing runner-up to Dana Linn Bailey in the inaugural Women’s Physique O in 2013, Juliana Malacarne came roaring back to turn the tables on Bailey the following year and hasn’t relinquished her hold since. The three-time champ and her famous legs will have to stand up to new challenger Daniely Castilho, who won the Arnold Classic Women’s Physique this past March, Danielle Reardon, Heather Grace, and other rivals if she wants to make it four in a row. 

FITNESS OLYMPIA

In a division dominated by veteran competitors, will a new face rise to the challenge and establish a new pecking order?

In its 22-year history, the Fitness Olympia has had nine champions. Four of those have been repeat winners, including reigning queen Oksana Grishina. With her YouTube-viewed routines putting her over the top, Grishina has been nearly unbeatable, amassing a 13-1 record since late 2013 (her last defeat coming at the 2013 Arnold Classic Europe). We’ll see if Regiane Da Silva, Whitney Jones, Bethany Wagner (who all finished behind her at this year’s Fitness International), or one of the other in the weekend’s smallest division can end her run.

BIKINI OLYMPIA

Don’t let the flowing hair, makeup, and high heels fool you: It’s gonna be all-out war on the Bikini O stage. 

Courtney King’s rise to the Olympia throne began back in 2013 when she finished seventh in her debut O appearance. Not spectacular, but not bad, either. After sitting out 2014, she moved up to third in 2015. Last year, after qualifying on points, she provided the only upset of the weekend when she beat out all the pre-contest favorites—including defending three-time champ Ashley Kaltwasser—to win the big one. But the drama didn’t stop there. Earlier this year, she lost the Bikini International to the woman she beat just months earlier, Angelica Teixeira. And then she lost to her again at the Arnold Australia. With both King and Kaltwasser sitting out of this year’s Olympia, it’s safe to say that the Bikini O just got a whole lot more interesting. 

FIGURE OLYMPIA

Latorya Watts, Candice Lewis, Cydney Gillon: Will last year’s top three go at it again or will another competitor crash the party? 

When Latorya Watts entered the Figure International this past March to defend her title, no one would have predicted that by Saturday night, she would finish third behind nemeses Candice Lewis (first) and Cydney Gillon. After all, Lewis and Gillon were runner-up and third, respectively, when Watts clinched her second Figure Olympia last September. Things were slightly better at the Arnold Australia, where she moved ahead of Gillon but still couldn’t overtake Lewis. Throw in four-time Figure O winner Nicole Wilkins, Camala Rodriguez, Gennifer Strobo, and the rest of the talented lineup, and it’s anybody’s guess what will go down in Vegas this September. 

 FLEX