To this day, I still think of the Arnold Classic as open-ended male bodybuilding and almost forget that the Arnold Sports Festival is now host to 60 different sporting events, including some full-on Olympic events. As it has become such a magnet for international sport, the Arnold Sports Festival hosts far more athletes than the Olympics.
Call me a dinosaur if you will, but the genesis of everything that bears Arnold's name in Columbus, OH still lies at the feet of the 15 open bodybuilders who first took the stage in 1989 when not representing 60 sports were, but only one. open bodybuilding for men, i.e. the Arnold Classic.
This weekend, 15 competitors are expected to fight for the Arnold Classic title, including former Mr. Olympia Mamdouh "Big Ramy" Elssbiay. While it's difficult to predict a winner in advance with this deep field, here are six visions of what could come out of this weekend's Signature Event.
Vision 1: The 2023 Arnold Classic will be the most anticipated, most watched and most critically analyzed Arnold in its 34 year history
In 1989, the Arnold lineup was a proverbial thunderstorm, every athlete a tough hitter. Check out this list of superstars:
- Former Mr Olympia Samir Bannout
- Bertil Foxx
- ron love
- Albert Beckles
- Gary Strydom
- Rich Gaspari
- Robbie Robinson
A field as thick as history would allow. For anyone still craving a field as deep as it was in the good old days, look no further than this year's offerings:
- Former Mr O Big Ramy
- Akim Williams
- Andrew Jacked (is that a great name for a bodybuilder or what?),
- Justin Rodriguez
- Kamal el Gargni (Last year champion and 3rd place Olympic champion)
- Nick Walker
- Patrick Moore
- Samson Dauda
- Shaun Clarida
- William Bonac
If only half of them are in shape, it's going to be almost impossible to judge this thing. This lineup (in form) rivals any of the venerable 90's.
Vision 2: More than half of Saturday's competitors will appear in shape
If we've learned anything from the last Olympia, it's that conditioning has become a bone of contention high enough to knock a reigning two-time Mr. O into 5th place. The call for better conditioning (yes, like in the '90s) has become deafening. The fans love size, but not at the expense of stamina. The top of the top must have both.
Vision 3: Shawn Clarida and Kamal el Gargni will be the two most fit athletes to compete
They are also the smallest. t incomplete, mind you—especially Clarida—but tiny in stature. However, if Clarida shows up at 100% - and all indications are that it might be above that mark - then he's really going to pose a problem (for the judges) as to what to do with him.
Vision 4: Big will always be big. However…
I believe that if this ideology is not properly penned in, irreparable damage will soon be done to the sport. We cannot forgive the condition in favor of the size. But lately that has been the case. I've even recently heard negative comments regarding the expectation of tight glutes as a fair and reasonable measure of fitness! Unfortunately, the judges have to start at the top, even though the best physique on the stage might not deserve eighth place.
So what are we going to do to fix this? You gotta reward the shredded boys. That's the only way the grown-ups will be careful. Nick Walker is by far the most conditioned - consistent - of the really big guys competing today. However, his condition is no match for Clarida or Kamal. And it should be. And I think he will be.
Vision 5: Some of the greats have listened to the criticism
The chatter on the internet was debated for weeks after the Olympics. There have been countless podcasts denouncing the condition the competitors were bringing to the stage. And there was no shortage of subsequent comments. Why were so many boys out of shape, not hard, not striped, soft? Those were the questions everyone was either asking themselves or trying to answer. All for free. What the hell is going on here? Why can't these guys look like their IG pics two weeks later?
However, this is not the first time this issue has been brought to the fore. It's been teased and pounded on for years. I think the message has finally gotten through, and this year we're going to see guys — big boys — like Samson, Justin Rodriguez, Andrew Jacked and Akim Williams take it to Nick Walker in the conditioning department — where they all have to be Clarida and fend off Kamal.
The fight this year will be over. Which, although I hope I'm wrong, will be the end of Big Ramy. And that brings us to...
Vision 6: Big Ramy's attempt to justify himself to the Arnold will prove to be a gamble his body cannot redeem
It really hurts me to say this, but Big Ramy made a colossal mistake in deciding that his appearance at the Arnold will be a means for the two-time Mr. Olympia to make up for his disappointing fifth place finish. The first fly in the ointment is the fact that the Arnold doesn't justify the Olympia - just the Olympia.
A two-time Mr Olympia who subsequently finishes fifth at the Olympia does not enter the Arnold to redeem his Olympia placement. Does a Formula 1 driver lose the world championship and then try to redeem himself at Mugello? NO! The only way to make up for losing a World Cup is to win the World Cup.
If Big Ramy wins the Arnold, history still shows that he placed 5th at the Olympia. Well, if he comes back and wins the Olympia, well, you could say he's confirmed. But what happens if he doesn't win the Arnold? What if Ramy finishes fifth at the Arnold? It's certainly a way of indicating the thickness of the lineup. Then what?
He goes to the Olympia to redeem himself from the loss of the Arnold, where should he redeem himself for the Olympia? Yes, in this case he is done. Ramy was to spend the year dealing with his injuries, his stem cell treatments, his digestion, whatever, and preparing to redeem himself at the only place where salvation can be found - the Olympia.
Would I like to see Big Ramy win the Arnold? Yes, more than you can imagine. It would be a great comeback in the history of the sport. Do I think he will? For me it was a mistake to take part in this show. There's a far greater chance that the result will ruin his chance for real redemption - the Olympia.
If he doesn't show up exhausted, bone dry and bursting out of his skin when all the holes are filled and his triceps are back in play, he's going to lose. History has proven that such a quick comeback is unfortunate. t only does he have to deal with that, but he has to deal with the pressure put on him by himself, his people, his country or a combination, and the fact that the hyenas are circling the lion. t to mention the fact that he's fighting the wrong fight.