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  • 6 min read

by Christian Duque

I don’t know about you, but isn’t the 2021 Arnold lineup starting to really give the 2021 Olympia one a run for its lineup? With the exception of Big Ramy, Brandon Curry, and Hadi Choopan, we’re seeing a huge number of major bodybuilding stars. William Bonac, alone, is a guy who’s won the Arnold and placed runner-up at the Olympia. I mean, what separated Bonac and Curry from the 2019 title, was a hair. Despite all the big names that have entered, The Conqueror remains the heavy favorite to win – at least on paper.

Now, with the addition of The Beast Roelly Winklaar, handicappers are scrambling. The 2019 People’s Champion looked his all-time best last year, just days before boarding a flight to Orlando, FL. In what could be the worst luck in the world, Winklaar tested positive for Covid19 and was therefore unable to fly and unable to compete. The fact that Roelly and William were both largely ignored, largely due to the fact that the Olympia promotions centered around their 4 Champions (Brandon, Phil, Flex, and Dexter) approach, means both found themselves out of many key conversations. When Flex dropped out (for health reasons), Big Ramy’s special invite made up for the gap, but Winklaar and Bonac were still in the shadows.

Seeing Roelly do the 2021 Arnold, alongside Bonac, will undoubtedly give them a huge amount of buzz just a couple weeks later for the 2021 Olympia. The addition of Nick Walker is also very interesting, as the newly-crowned 2021 New York Pro champion will have the opportunity to put his best next to some of the veteran champions. I would hate to call the Arnold a warm-up show for the Olympia, but if anything, it’ll be a great preview of what’s to come – both for Walker and his competition. Also, having Akim Williams in the mix (Top 6 at the 2020 Olympia and winner of the Puerto Rico Pro last week), will definitely make for a real battle on stage. I guess when Sergio Oliva made the call, it got answered!! This contest is shaping up to be awesome, but could it outshine the Olympia?

Historically, the former question would have no real basis. The Arnold kicks off the season and The Olympia ends it. Those who win the Arnold, along with the previous year’s Olympia runner-up, are thought to be the frontrunners / main challengers for that year’s Olympia. Handicappers always look to these two people – in any division – as the goto favorites when it comes to challengers. This year, however, the Arnold will be in September, it won’t provide qualifications or points for those who are Olympia-bound, and given it’s close proximity to the biggest contest in bodybuilding, it may actually take competitors away from it. Whereas competitors doing the Arnold, who are already qualified, would more than likely also do the Olympia, others might be prepping for Columbus – and Columbus alone.

One guy who has a lot of people talking is Kai Greene. There’s no love lost between Kai and the biggest event in the sport, but The Predator always did very well in Columbus, and he may want to return for another title. At 317lbs ripped – it’s almost a fact he wants to compete again. There’s simply no reason to be that big, that shredded, just to do comic book conventions and in-store appearances. Then again, Kai loves toying with the fans, so this might be just another year where he plays on those emotions. Phil Heath is another superstar who might do the Arnold. There’s no indication right now, but without Athleticon around, who knows? I certainly don’t.

The Arnold is the second largest physique-based event in the sport. Its winners cannot lay claim to being the best in the world, but they do have enormous bragging rights. Many will get to pose with Arnold and will have him as a contact. Imagine being able to pick up the phone and call or text the biggest star in bodybuilding. Arnold will always be that. No one will ever surpass his level of fame, his influence over people, and/or his many achievements.

While The Oak may not have a direct hand in running the event that bears his name (that’s The Lorimers, The Lorz, Mike Davies, etc), he does take special interest in recognizing the elite level athletes who win the various divisions and sports within the umbrella of events of his contest. And while many of the bodybuilders competing have all met Arnold and all probably could contact him, the fact remains, that whoever wins his show will be known worldwide. Having a photo with your arm raised high, in the winner’s circle, with The Terminator, himself, is huge!! Moreover, the prize money is nothing to sneeze at, either. Despite the fact there won’t be an expo this year, the promoters are giving the same amount of money!! That’s a true commitment to the sport and to the competitors. The only thing they could do to make it better, would be to bring back The 212, but that’s for another conversation. The fact is, the competitor list for the 2021 Arnold is already looking as impressive as the Olympia. I just hope that many of the big names who are confirmed for Columbus, will then compete in Orlando. Otherwise, we could see a year where the Arnold is bigger than the Olympia – in terms of quality.

With that being said, who do you think will win the 2021 Arnold Classic? I think a battle between Bonac and Williams at 100% would go down to the wire!! Imagine seeing Roelly and Nick both at 100% trying to out freak the other?!?! Another bombshell would be a perfectly dialed in Lionel Beyeke. Out of all the guys on that stage, Lionel has the most complete physique, but will he finally be able to bring his best? Then, of course, there’s Sergio Oliva Jr.

Sergio made headlines by calling out to bodybuilders high and low to compete to compete in Columbus. I don’t know if he expected anything quite like this, but what started out as a tough show, has now become World War 3!! Nonetheless, at 100% Sergio can hang with any of these guys and he can also win. Only time will tell what these guys bring to the stage. No amount of Instagram selfies or trash talk will matter, until the judges call out the top guys in the prejudging round. That being said, with this level of competition, I expect the fitness media to have a field day, pinning guys against each other, looking for rivalries, and trying to make the most accurate predictions.

Are you excited to see Roelly Winklaar and Nick Walker added to the Arnold Classic competitor list? Do you think either can win the contest?