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Mr. Olympia is the title awarded to the winner of the professional men's bodybuilding contest at Joe Weider's Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend—an international bodybuilding competition that is held annually by the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness (IFBB). Joe Weider created the contest to enable the Mr. Universe winners to continue competing and to earn money. The first Mr. Olympia was held on September 18, 1965, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City, with Larry Scott winning his first of two straight titles.
There is also a female bodybuilder crowned, Ms. Olympia, as well as winners of Fitness Olympia and Figure Olympia for fitness and figure competitors. All four contests occur during the same weekend. From 1994 to 2003, and again in 2012, a Masters Olympia was also crowned.
Starting in 2016, a new division called Classic Physique was introduced. Danny Hester was the inaugural champion in Classic Physique division.
Starting in 2019, a new division called Wheelchair Olympia was added.
The 1965 and 1966 Mr. Olympia were won by Larry Scott, a famous bodybuilder of the time. Scott subsequently retired after his 1966 victory, and to date is the only Mr. Olympia champion to have never lost a Mr. Olympia competition.
Harold Poole holds two Mr. Olympia distinctions : one is that he is the youngest ever competitor to have participated in the Olympia—in 1965 he competed in the first Mr. Olympia at the age of 21; the other is that he was the only man to compete in all three of the initial Mr. Olympia contests. He was runner-up in the 1965 and 1966 shows.
The 1967 Mr. Olympia, won by Sergio Oliva, heralded a new era in bodybuilding competition. At 5 ft 10 ins and 240 lbs Oliva, nicknamed "The Myth", displayed an unforeseen level of muscle mass and definition, including a "V" shape of a large and a well-formed upper-body that tapered down to a narrow waist. Oliva would go on to win the Mr. Olympia competition in 1967, 1968 (uncontested), and 1969—where he would defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger four to three, marking Schwarzenegger's only loss in a Mr. Olympia competition.
Schwarzenegger defeated Oliva at the 1970 Mr. Olympia after finishing second the year before, and also won in 1971 (being the only competitor). He defeated Oliva again in 1972, and went on to win the next three Mr. Olympia competitions, including the 1975 edition, which was highlighted in the 1977 docudrama Pumping Iron and featured other notable bodybuilders such as Lou Ferrigno, Serge Nubret, and Franco Columbu, who would go on to win the 1976 and 1981 competitions.
From 1974 until 1979, a dual weight division system was used, splitting competitors into two categories: "Heavyweights" (over 200lbs) and "Lightweights" (under 200lbs). The winners of each division would then compete against each other to decide an overall champion.
After winning the 1975 competition, Schwarzenegger announced his retirement from competitive bodybuilding; this was also depicted in Pumping Iron.
Frank Zane won the 1977, 1978, and 1979 competitions. While not as physically massive as previous competitors such as Schwarzenegger, Oliva, or Ferrigno, Zane developed his physique to highlight symmetry aesthetics and definition. As such, Zane was able to defeat opponents who exceeded his own muscle-mass but lacked his level of muscular definition.
1977 was the first year the Sandow trophy was awarded.
In 1980, Schwarzenegger came out of retirement to win the Olympia yet again, after a five-year hiatus. Schwarzenegger (who was supposedly training for his "Conan" movie) had been a late entry into the competition, and his competitors did not know of his intentions to compete. This seventh victory was especially controversial, as most fellow competitors and observers felt that he lacked both muscle mass and conditioning, and shouldn't have won over Chris Dickerson or Mike Mentzer. Several athletes vowed to boycott the contest the following year, and Mentzer retired for good.
The following year, Franco Columbu was victorious for the second time. Chris Dickerson won his only title in 1982, making him the first openly gay Mr. Olympia, and Samir Bannout won his only title in 1983. Then in 1984 Lee Haney won the first of 8 straight Mr. Olympia titles.
Haney retired from competitive bodybuilding after his last Mr. Olympia victory in 1991.
Having placed second to Haney the previous year, Dorian Yates won the competition six straight times from 1992 until 1997. Dorian is given credit for revolutionizing the sport during his reign as Mr. Olympia by combining larger mass than seen before with what was dubbed "granite hardness". The 1990s were given[by whom?] the nickname "The Growth Hormone era". Subsequently, judging in professional bodybuilding competitions started placing greater emphasis on muscle mass, with many bodybuilding traditionalists commenting that muscle mass had now become the most important factor to winning, even greater than that of symmetry, aesthetics, and proportion.
Yates retired from competitive bodybuilding after his 1997 victory, having accumulated several injuries. Kenneth “Flex” Wheeler seemed to be the heir apparent, but Ronnie Coleman, who placed 9th in 1997, surprised everyone with a much improved physique in 1998, winning the first of 8 consecutive titles.
In 1994 Joe Weider decided to add a separate Masters Olympia competition for professional bodybuilders to continue to compete at the highest levels in their later years.[further explanation needed]
Ronnie Coleman won the Mr. Olympia competition eight consecutive times, tying the record set by Lee Haney. Coleman returned in 2006 to defend his title but instead placed second to Jay Cutler, who won his first title after four consecutive years of finishing second to Coleman. Cutler successfully defended his title in 2007. Coleman came in fourth place and announced his retirement from competition. In 2008, Dexter Jackson defeated Jay Cutler and became Mr. Olympia. In 2009, Jay Cutler became the third Mr. Olympia in history (the others being Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu) to reclaim the title, and the only Mr. Olympia in history to reclaim the title after having lost it, by returning on stage and defeating the reigning champion, Dexter Jackson, who placed third in 2009.
In 2010, Cutler returned to claim his fourth Mr. Olympia title, becoming the fifth competitor in Olympia history to win the title more than three times. In 2011, Phil Heath defeated Cutler for the title, beginning a winning streak that lasted until 2018. From 2012 to 2014, the Olympia was dominated by the rivalry between Kai Greene and Heath, with Heath winning all three and Greene placing second. In 2016, Heath won his sixth straight title, while Greene did not compete in either the 2015 or 2016 Olympia. The 2008 Mr. Olympia winner Dexter Jackson took second place in 2015 while Shawn Rhoden was runner up in 2016. Heath won his seventh-consecutive Mr. Olympia in 2017, with Mamdouh "Big Ramy" Elssbiay taking second. With his 2017 win, Heath tied Arnold Schwarzenegger for second most Olympia victories, behind Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman who won eight. Shawn Rhoden defeated Phil Heath in 2018, snapping Heath's streak of seven victories. The 2019 Mr. Olympia was won by Brandon Curry, with both of the previous winners, Shawn Rhoden and Phil Heath, not competing. In 2020 Phil Heath returned to try to win a record-tying eighth title, but Big Ramy won the Olympia for his first title.
The IFBB selects Olympia contestants from among the highest-placed competitors at various qualifying competitions, collectively referred to as the Olympia Qualifying Season. The qualifying season for each Olympia runs for a year, and ends a few months before the competition. Under updated qualifying rules announced by the IFBB in 2019, to qualify for most divisions at the Olympia an IFBB athlete must meet one of the following criteria:
- Place in the top five in their division at the previous Olympia
- Win any of the IFBB qualifying contests
- Rank among the top three in total points awarded for second through fifth place at qualifying competitions
For certain divisions with more than 25 qualifying competitions, slightly different rules are used: The previous Olympia winner is automatically qualified, plus the winner of each qualifying competition and the top five in total points.
The IFBB Professional League also has the discretion to extend special invitations to other competitors.
- Competition was split into two weight classes from 1974 through 1979, with one division winner then named the Overall champion.
Number of overall wins
|Rank||Mr. Olympia champion||Year(s)||Number of wins|
|1||Lee Haney||1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991||8||0||0|
|Ronnie Coleman||1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 2004 and 2005||8||0||0|
|2||Arnold Schwarzenegger||1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 (overall & heavyweight), 1975 (overall & heavyweight) and 1980||7||2||0|
|Phil Heath||2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017||7||0||0|
|3||Dorian Yates||1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997||6||0||0|
|4||Jay Cutler||2006, 2007, 2009, and 2010||4||0||0|
|5||Frank Zane||1977 (overall & lightweight), 1978 (overall & lightweight), 1979 (overall & lightweight)||3||0||3|
|Sergio Oliva||1967, 1968, and 1969||3||0||0|
|6||Franco Columbu||1974 (lightweight), 1975 (lightweight), 1976 (overall & lightweight), and 1981||2||0||3|
|Larry Scott||1965 and 1966||2||0||0|
|8||Robby Robinson||1977 (heavyweight) and 1978 (heavyweight)||0||2||0|
|Kenny Waller||1976 (heavyweight)||0||1||0|
|Mike Mentzer||1979 (heavyweight)||0||1||0|
Number of consecutive wins
|Rank||Mr. Olympia champion||Years||Number of consecutive wins|
|1||Lee Haney||1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1991||8||0||0|
|Ronnie Coleman||1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005||8||0||0|
|2||Phil Heath||2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017||7||0||0|
|3||Arnold Schwarzenegger||1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975||6||2||0|
|Dorian Yates||1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997||6||0||0|
|4||Frank Zane||1977, 1978 and 1979||3||0||3|
|Sergio Oliva||1967, 1968 and 1969||3||0||0|
|5||Jay Cutler||2006 and 2007, 2009 and 2010||2 (twice)||0||0|
|6||Larry Scott||1965 and 1966||2||0||0|
|2016||Danny Hester||Las Vegas, United States|
|2020||Orlando, United States|
Men's 212 division
|2012||Flex Lewis||Las Vegas, United States|
|2020||Shaun Clarida||Orlando, United States|
|2013||Mark Anthony Wingson||Las Vegas, United States|
|2020||Brandon Hendrickson||Orlando, United States|
- "IFBB.com - History of Mr. Olympia". Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
- "Mr Olympia: Through the Years". Protein Hunter. 2016-04-30. Retrieved 2016-06-09.
- Hansen, John. "The 1980 Mr. Olympia Controversy | Iron Man Magazine". www.ironmanmagazine.com. Retrieved 2019-02-03.
- "Every Winner of the Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding Competition". December 17, 2020.
- IFBB Pro League Staff (August 20, 2019). "2020 Olympia Qualification System". IFBB Professional League. Retrieved 2020-12-25.
- "Mr. Olympia gets a pay raise over last 60 years". The Chive. 2016-08-01. Retrieved 2020-12-22.
- Wayne, Rick (1985). Muscle Wars: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of Competitive Bodybuilding. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 93, 95, 250, 257. ISBN 0-312-55353-6. OCLC 12107650.
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