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Tales From Columbus

Behind-the-scenes stories from the Arnold Classic

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Chapter Five: CORMIER’s GROUNDHOG DAY

WHO'S ON FIRST.. NOT THE REAL DEAL

Imagine going to the altar, and at the point at which the bride is expected to answer, “I do,”

she instead retorts, “You must be bloody joking.” Oh, the agony of such rejection. Now imagine it happening six times in a row, and you begin to get an insight into the trauma experienced by Chris Cormier as he finished runner-up in six consecutive Arnold Classics from 2000 through 2005.

Here’s a year-by-year account of Cormier’s unparalleled six-year run.

2000: A week earlier, Cormier had beaten a not-at-his-best Flex Wheeler at the Ironman Pro. The latter had been too heavy and carried more water than the Hoover Dam. For the next seven days, Wheeler was on a treadmill for about three hours a day — rubber suit and all — and went through hell to whip his body into shape. The outcome was that he beat precontest favorite Cormier in Columbus, and The Real Deal’s unwanted second-best run had begun.

2001: Is Chris Cormier unlucky? Are Bob Cicherillo’s threads so loud that he’s being sponsored by a megaphone company? At the 2001 Arnold Classic, for the only time in its history, the reigning Mr. Olympia entered the contest. Not only that, but said Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman, was in the best shape of his career, before or since. Now that is bad luck.

2002: Fresh off of his controversial

second place to Coleman at the 2001 Olympia, Jay Cutler entered his first Arnold Classic and, at 260-plus pounds, he was just too big for Cormier, who came in at 253 pounds. Cormier commented, “I’ve got more detail than Jay, a more classic physique. My muscle insertions go all the way down. All in all, I think I presented a superior physique at the Arnold.”

2003: For their rematch, both men reduced bodyweight: Cutler to 257 and Cormier to 241. At that weight, The Real Deal was more of a flat deal and Cutler took his second Arnold title while Cormier banked his fourth runner-up check.

2004: This was the one that Cormier so nearly won — and maybe should have won. Although Cutler claimed to be 266 pounds, he appeared flat and smaller than the previous year. By comparison, Cormier was 260 full pounds, which, distributed over his classic frame, offered the promise that his second-best streak would end. In fact, Cutler won the first two rounds; in the evening, Cormier won the last two. It wasn’t enough, as The Real Deal would finish just one point behind his blond foe. Backstage, Cormier asserted, “Five times, man, five times in a row I’ve been second. I beat him, everyone knows I beat him.” Then he cried.

2005: Cormier returned a little lighter, but just a tad less impressive, to face a new adversary for top spot: Dexter Jackson. Eventually, the latter took it and Cormier, for the sixth consecutive time, stood onstage as a spectator as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger interviewed the winner. It is, thus far, his last Arnold Classic appearance and how good it must feel now that he has stopped banging his head against a wall. A measure of Cormier’s unprecedented Arnold record is that five of his defeats were against men who have won the Olympia. The sixth was to Wheeler, who many feel is the best to never win the Olympia.

Postscript: A few weeks after the 2005 event, Cormier in a philosophical mood opined: “In a way, finishing second so many times is also a backhanded compliment. One of the marks I plan to leave on this sport is the fact that I was a top competitor for so long. Many bodybuilders today have short, meteoric careers. They do well during one season, and then they never regain their former conditioning. So I take pride in that.”

“So,” I asked, “you’ve come to terms with finishing second six times in a row?”

He paused, before exploding with laughter, “Fuck, no! Six fuckin’ times man! Can you believe that, Silver Fox [his pet name for me]? Can you fuckin’ believe it?”

Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the one — or six — and only Chris Cormier.

The End.

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