As the Olympia draws near, a lot of attention is being paid to Big Ramy, Hunter LaBrada and Nick Walker. And it should. The competition between these three - and probably a few more - will be as it was then.
These three bodybuilders seem to be the guys making the most noise on social media about their potential at this year's Olympia. That doesn't mean that nobody is talked about. It's just that these three seem to get more attention than the other guys in the line-up. I think that's normal for the season. In the run-up to the Olympics, everyone creates their own imaginary podium.
Regardless of the order you place them in, one thing is pretty clear: Big Ramy, Hunter LaBrada, and Nick Walker come in more than the 30 other qualifying guys. For many enthusiasts, these three names just jump off the page.
I'm sure there is some debate about Brandon Curry being the 2019 Mr. Olympia; or William Bonac, who I've said on numerous podcasts is 100% deadly; or Hassan Mostafa, who at the age of 51 took a highly controversial second place finish at this year's Tampa Pro and has everything in the box to bag a Sandow. The same goes for the guy who hit him, Akim Williams.
And let's not forget one of the most improved bodybuilders, Derek Lunsford. But as good as these guys are, the best they can do is slip in when Nick or Hunter easily miss. But they are not the headliners. If these guys don't even crack the top 10 in the end, it's too late. If their names are not announced in the first call, the arena will erupt. And not in a good way.
But the Olympic gods have something up their sleeve and this year is no different as all of these men have their flaws. Which is nothing new. But for some reason, this year some people are focusing on the oddities each of these men bring, especially Big Ramy.
Are we picking nits here, or are we talking about issues that could potentially cost points? Sure there are other contenders that could win the show that might have fewer issues/imperfections, but as mentioned, these three guys seem to be making the biggest buzz, with seemingly less talk about who might win and more about why someone may not.
Let's start with the obvious: Big Ramy
The incumbent Mr. O doesn't care about who he is, he cares about his particular circumstances. It appears that Big Ramy has a golf ball-sized indentation in the distal aspect of each of his outer quad sweeps, with his right side looking more severe than his left. Well, that's not new. He had them last year and the year before that. However, they seem to be a little more pronounced today than they used to be. It couldn't be for any reason other than that he's slimmer now. Or is it maybe something else?
It's that "something different" that's garnered so much attention that these little dimples have been the subject of not only a staggering number of IG posts, but entire podcasts too! Whatever these things are, it's a testament to what makes social media so evil.
Because all it takes is your typical anti-steroid crusader to trick his inexplicably high following into believing drugs must be the cause, unleashing a tidal wave of false negativity so deeply stupid that it is painful to read. Whole peanut galleries of self-proclaimed pundits ranting in barely coherent rants about how "drugs are ruining sport." This is despite the fact that not only are they still watching, but we've given them Physique and Classic Physique to try and satisfy their longing for a time when bodybuilders used fewer drugs - mind you, no drugs, just less , allegedly.
The sequence is as evil as it is wonderful. With not even a shred of first-hand knowledge, witnesses or evidence, public discourse suddenly changes its slant and a meaningless blemish becomes empirical evidence that drugs are ruining sport (again).
According to the "experts," Ramy's quadriceps are either scar tissue or a sign of nerve damage from constant injecting of his quads. Emphasizing that his drug use is excessive, not because they actually know him and know firsthand what he's on, but because there are divots in his quads!
Well, I'm not sure what's more alarming here: the sheer idiocy of something like this, or the number of people who have consumed it like an energy drink and become so upset about it that they would blame Mr. Olympia for it that he ruined the sport along with his quads - ugh. That's what happens when you don't limit your kids' online sessions at an early age.
According to Big Ramy's trainer Dennis James, who was in Dubai with Big Ramy when he had an MRI of his quadriceps, the results showed there was no scar tissue, no necrosis. There was absolutely no indication that injections had anything to do with it. There was also no evidence of a tear or rupture. What Dennis explained sounded like a small area of the muscle belly where a group of muscle fibers were stuck together, causing an "adhesion" that could restrict blood supply to the area and lead to a divot.
In another podcast, Big Ramy's nutrition coach, Chad Nichols, further emphasized the fact that Ramy's quads have always been an issue. The very first thing he did when beginning to work with him was extensive deep tissue and scraping work to break up adhesions and increase blood flow. So Big Ramy's trainer and his nutritional coach both agree, based on hard evidence and first-hand knowledge, that drugs and injections had nothing to do with it; there are no cracks or other damage and the issue is noted as resolved.
w to the big question: does it matter? To answer that, I have to cite the other two gentlemen in the title. Are Hunter LaBrada's Pectoral Torn Remains Important? How about the squiggly veins in Nick Walker's calves? Will any of these gentlemen be affected by having their placements affected? no That's like saying that the value of my bike is affected by the one square millimeter stone chip on the front fender. Wouldn't we rather have no rockfalls? Of course, but everyone has a rockfall. So the idea of perfection is ridiculous. Punishing someone for an imperfection is worse.
With that argument crushed forever, I see a reason social media is so consumed by these three guys. Aside from the normal love-hate relationship that rages with every interesting and passionate rivalry, this year is almost like a time capsule opening before our eyes.
There was a time when this almost exact mix of champions clashed on the Olympic stage. In 1987, the top three bodybuilders in the world were Lee Haney, Rich Gaspari, and Lee LaBrada. An incredibly imposing, unbeatable mountain of a man, Haney was only slightly more in his eight-year Olympic reign than Big Ramy is today.
At the time, Gaspari was a relative newcomer and the youngest Olympic competitor in history. He was a tight, solid block of striated muscle that belied his youth and literally shocked the world when he came out of nowhere two years earlier and finished third in his first Olympic attempt and second the next behind Haney sagged. Looking at Gaspari alongside Haney in '86, '87 and '88 and Walker alongside Ramy today, the evolution is unmistakable. Walker is the Gaspari of our time, and he poses as much of a threat to Big Ramy as Gaspari poses to Haney. Maybe even more. t only does Walker bring Gaspari-like stamina, but he's just MASSIVE.
That leaves us with the originator and emulator - Lee LaBrada and his son Hunter. This is the ultimate rarity in our world; It's like the comet that flies by every 12,000 years. For me it's the top story of the whole weekend. Aside from his insane size and condition, this is a big reason people are talking about Hunter. Out of nearly eight billion people on the planet, history has only allowed one man, a former Olympian, to watch his son compete in the Olympics. The only other father-son Olympian line belongs to junior and senior Sergio Oliva. Unfortunately, Senior never saw Junior compete. So far, Lee is the only person on earth for whom the stars are aligned like this. And he must be proud. His son is just as much of a threat to Sandow today as he was then.
I wasn't at Olympia 87 in Gothenburg, Sweden. I haven't seen Haney, Gaspari and LaBrada on stage in person. But from what I've seen of this lineup over the years, if this year brings us a podium with Big Ramy, Nick Walker and Hunter Labrada, it's going to be like seeing a Ghost of 87. Could either LaBrada or Walker interrupt Big Ramys' reign? I don't think it's likely, but it's certainly not impossible. If it happens, or if LaBrada beats Walker or vice versa, it won't be because of an imperfection.
Am I predicting that these three men will occupy the podium when the curtain falls on December 18? I do not have to. As the hours get closer and closer to show time, social media will continue to raise the temperature. I hope the discourse lends itself to more positive things than three year old quad divots. Unfortunately, due to social media and human nature, I don't have much hope. The show has to speak for itself.