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KAI GREENE HAS A STANDING INVITATION TO THE OLYMPIA. HERE’S WHY THE “PEOPLE’S CHAMP” NEEDS TO COMPETE… AND THREE WAYS HE CAN WIN BODYBUILDING’S ULTIMATE TITLE.
In June, IFBB Pro League president Jim Manion issued a special invite to the 2017 Mr. Olympia, being staged on Sept. 15 and 16 in Las Vegas, to Kai Greene. The three-time (2012-14) Mr. Olympia runner-up hasn’t competed in bodybuilding’s show of shows since the 2014 event. This was the infamous occasion of when Kai went into Mr. T mode, berating and exchanging trash talk with reigning champ Phil Heath at the press conference, and then later at Friday’s prejudging he challenged his nemesis to something more physically hazardous than a double biceps shot.
From the fallout of that explosive incident it seemed Kai would never compete in the Olympia again, as his camp cited disagreements with the organizers. Against that scenario it remains true that the most awaited clash in modern bodybuilding is the one involving Messrs. Heath and Greene.
Even if Kai, in the meantime, has seemingly turned down the invite, it will remain open right up until 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 14. That is the scheduled start time of the 2017 Olympia press conference. So, especially given Kai’s gift for the dramatic, don’t write off the reality of seeing him stride into the conference room at the 11th hour to accept the invite.
With that option in mind, it’s pertinent to assess Greene’s chances of striking Olympia gold and toppling Phil Heath. For the academic hell of it, it’s worth examining the credentials the guy brings to the stage against a man he has not beaten in eight attempts since he won the 2010 Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH. Here are three ways Kai Greene can potentially overcome Phil Heath.
ROUTE 1: RIPPED TO SHREDS
In this day and age, condition is, if not the top factor in separating one physique from another, then one of the key aspects, A guy with great shape and proportions but who is softish will lose out to the guy with a sinew-splitting condition whose physique does not flow as well. Phil versus Kai confrontations always come down to the freaky aesthetics of Phil Heath against the WTF “someone call Ripley’s Believe It or Not” musculature of Kai Greene. The deciding factor between the two has never really been condition, more like Phil’s 3-D look beating out Kai’s CGI (computer-generated imagery) look. But if Kai came in more ripped than he’s ever been, a process that probably means losing a certain amount of size, and retains eye-pooping fullness, then maybe it could be a game changer, a Sandow changer.
ROUTE 2: DROP THE MOST-MUSCULAR
Flashback to the climax of the 2014 Mr. Olympia contest. One last comparison is called for between the bitter foes of the weekend, Phil Heath and Kai Greene. They go through the eight comparisons, and as the duo completed the seventh pose, the abs and thighs comparison, the climax was approaching. Cue the eighth and final pose; the most-muscular. It was déjà vu and Groundhog Day rolled into one.
It always ends like this. The Mr. Olympia version of gunfight at the O.K. Corral was coming down to one single shot, bodybuilding’s money shot: the most-muscular pose. Those succinct words really encapsulate bodybuilding competition: Who has the most muscle?
It always ends like this. Phil Heath hit the shot, his green eyes blazing, his teeth grimacing. Kai hit the shot with equal determination, and we witnessed the sight of the unique accumulation of each bodybuilder’s muscle tissue fighting to stay on his frame.
It always ends like this because, even not at his best, Phil Heath’s most potent shot (apart from back double biceps) is the most- muscular, while that same pose is possibly Kai’s least potent weapon. Kai doesn’t have the same density and fullness across the whole shoulder girdle that Phil does. For Kai to excel in this shot he has to be huge in order to pack that area with muscle. But when he goes huge, he loses condition and sharpness elsewhere. So even when these modern-day protagonists are close, that final money shot, the finale to the contest, is the lasting image for the fans and judges’ pens. The point here is to suggest Kai cuts his losses and sort of forfeits it by hurriedly hitting a one-hand-on-hip, one-hand-clasped-in-front most-muscular (his best version of that pose) and then transition to hit a side chest or serratus shot.
He should take a leaf out of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1980 Olympia playbook when he ignored hitting the required compulsory if it was not one of his best and morphed into biceps or side chest mode. If Kai just relinquished the most-muscular pose, fine. He’s going to lose it anyway, but by not hanging about in that pose he doesn’t leave that final and lasting image of Phil supremacy. In this strategy Kai needs to come in sharp and full and limit the real comparisons to the first seven poses.
ROUTE 3: PHIL COMES IN OFF
Phil Heath is one of the few Olympia champs who seem able to come in at less than 100% and still be judged ahead of his peers. It may seem like a negative winning strategy to rely on your rival’s shortfall, but a win is a win however it is achieved. The longer Kai stays out of competition, the longer he will be unable to take advantage of any Phil misstep. There are precedents of contenders missing out on maximizing on a champion’s vulnerability. At the 2001 Olympia the consensus was that a shrink-wrapped Jay Cutler should have beaten a not-at-his-best-champ Ronnie Coleman. To a fusillade of booing, Cutler was announced runner-up, and then as a reaction to a dispute he had with then-Olympia promoter Wayne DeMilia, he decided not to enter the 2002 Olympia. On that occasion Ronnie, lo and behold, was again not at his best and barely claimed his fifth Sandow against a rampant Kevin Levrone. Jay in his 2001 form would have surely triumphed a year later. The moral here: Sit out at your peril.
A similar situation perhaps occurred in 1997 when reigning champ Dorian Yates made his last defense hindered by a torn triceps. Throughout his career Yates maintained that he felt his biggest threat was that Sultan of Symmetry, Flex Wheeler. Who knows how a 100% Flex would have fared against a wounded Shadow? We’ll never know, because shortly before the contest Wheeler got waylaid by a pack of ninja warriors and was karate chopped from the event. The moral again: Sit out at your peril.
So there you have it, three routes to victory for Kai Greene. Time and the press conference on Thursday, Sept. 14, will decide whether he is indeed planning a path to victory.
WHY KAI NEEDS TO COMPETE AT THE 2017 OLYMPIA
Why? Because he’s one of the best bodybuilders in the world, his Olympia ranking from 2012 through 2014 making him second best in the world. Supporters hail him as the People’s Champ, but that will never stick unless he steps on the Olympia stage and takes top honors. Let’s be honest, the Olympia needs Kai Greene, but equally Kai Greene needs the Olympia to put the final exclamation point on maybe bodybuilding’s ultimate reps-to-riches story. From the most desperate beginnings, he discovered bodybuilding as a teenager, and the flame was lit inside that he wanted to be the absolute best he could be. That flame evolved into being a pro, then into being a winning pro, then proceeded to be an Olympia contender, and then the Holy Grail, the ambition and ability to be Mr. Olympia. This is the man who said of his Olympia quest: “I would sacrifice everything for a Sandow. I would have been willing to sacrifice my organs to make it happen. No price was too great. I had a passion to win a Sandow. I believed it was my destiny. It was that belief that allowed me to put 805 pounds on my back and squat down to the floor and made me throw up, but it didn’t put me off doing it again and again and again. I had the passion, the belief, that all this effort was worth it to fulfill my dream.”
C’mon Kai, deep, deep inside it’s a good bet that that passion, that flame, still burns fiercely. Get on that Olympia stage where you belong. Stay true to that decades-old dream, and even if you fail you won’t spend the rest of your life wondering of what might have been if only you had persevered. Don’t be that guy. Be that Kai Greene guy, the quintessential underdog, the guy who overcame every obstacle put in his path. Be that guy, Kai, you owe it to yourself.