by Christian Duque
As we approach the 2023 Masters Olympia in breathtakingly beautiful Romania many competitors are starting to really take their contests prep seriously. Of course, competitors at this level are not cookie cutters by any stretch of the imagination, but as the contest approaches in less than six weeks time the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher. Especially with the recent win by Phil Clahar at the highly competitive Orlando Pro.
This wasn’t just any win by the way folks. This was a masters competitor winning at open competition. The victory alone sent shockwaves throughout the masters bodybuilding community. Because now, one of its own wiped the floor with some of the best open competitors in the bodybuilding world. Now everybody who is going to share the stage with Phil simply cannot stand even the possibility of being upstaged.
When it comes to bodybuilding, athletes tend to put it all on the line. It doesn’t matter if it requires more training with less calories or if it means having one of the most grueling hell weeks imaginable. It is absolutely critical to bring your best physique to the stage. This also includes having amazing vascularity and condition. And this is where things can get really dicey.
A lot of times you might have a 16 week prep and 98% of it might be perfectly fine. A lot of these guys have been training intensely for years and it doesn’t matter that they’re doing a contest or not. That’s just their old school work ethic at play. Many old cats will not go to the gym simply to take a selfie or record themselves doing a set. In fact, they might find that to be incredibly ridiculous. A lot of school lifters take the gym very seriously and go there only to work. That having been said, what about that remaining 2%? Why is that tiny slither of a prop so dangerous and why is it the basis of this article dealing with masters competitors at the Super Bowl of Masters Bodybuilding?
That final 2% comes into play during the 48 hours between check-in’s and the point when athletes take the stage. To a lot of outsiders this period is pretty inconsequential. All of the work has been done and now the athletes simply need to get their numbers and listen to the promoter talk about the competition. From there they go to their room, maybe have a meal, watch some television, and get a good nights sleep before the big show. If you believe that you also believe that the moon is made out of green cheese. There is no rest and relaxation during those final 48 hours. If anything, the final 48 hours for some can be the most emotionally draining of the entire prep.
Now let’s say that we agree on everything up until this point and let’s also throw in that most competitors range from their 20s to the early 40s. And by early 40s I mean if anything 41 and 42. There are simply not a lot of competitors in their mid 40s or much less in their late 40s actively competing in open bodybuilding.
And while there are a lot of masters competitions, I think it’s safe to say that many masters competitions are substantially less competitive than open ones. Again I will probably take flack for that but I’m not here to write flattering articles. We write factual articles at IronMagazine. That’s not to say that masters competitions are not deep or that they don’t bring about some of the most impressive physiques out there but they are not as competitive as open ones. Moreover, a lot of marsters competitors understand the intricacies of competing in an age-specific range. They don’t have to hit the gear quite as hard, the final 48 hours are not as extreme, and there are not financial livelihoods on the line relative to where the placings come down. If anything, it’s a lot of fun and a great opportunity to make some wonderful memories.
I don’t want to portray masters competitions as second tier events where 10th place medals or participation certificates are handed out, but it’s simply not the scene of guys getting sick or even dying as it is with the open. Just in 2022 we lost a huge number of bodybuilders around the world. Some of these deaths were the product of pre-existing conditions, some were because of non-related illnesses, but let’s be honest – a great many of them were very much bodybuilding-related deaths.
My concern could not be any greater when it comes to the Masters Olympia. And everything I have seen with regards to updates from the athletes doing the competition has me increasingly worried. We are dealing in some situations with competitors that have not done a competition in years, let alone one at this level. Not only are they flying around the world to a competition in a country they’ve never been to, but they are vying for an Olympia title. And as I said earlier in the article, when one of the competitors on that stage has recently won an open bodybuilding competition, the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher than what they are. A lot of guys are going simply to save face. The last thing they want is to come out of retirement only to be embarrassed. They simply cannot allow that to happen. And then there’s another group of guys that seriously believe they can emerge from the competition victorious. Both groups can face equally dangerous outcomes if they are not ready for what’s to come. And wants to come is that dreadful final 48 hours.
My hope is that the promoter and his very skilled team will at least consider my concern in this article and make sure to give the athletes a proper athletes meeting at the Masters O. Additionally, there are public relations and legal factors to consider. If even one competitor at the Masters Olympia gets carted off to the hospital or worse, it could have the potential to severely sabotage a fantastic production and a wonderful gesture to bring back masters competition to the forefront of the sport.
The meeting should cover key points whether they are controversial or not. Diuretics should most definitely be addressed and a strong focus on health and well-being should resonate in the room. If any competitor feels that they are at risk of passing out or worse, they should forget about the competition and concern themselves with their well-being. This may seem like basic common sense to most, but believe you me, it could go a very long way in a bodybuilding check ins meeting. The problem is it never happens. Everyone talks about how things should be and how things will be after a major tragedy but the time to act is now. And I doubt anyone will.
So many guys look their best yet during that final 48 yet they are falling apart inside. Plus you have to take into account that many of these masters competitors are coaches in their own right, and are extremely familiar with the highs and lows of prep. What may work for their 25 year old clients may not work for them at 55. And it’s not a question of toughing it out either. They need to be made to understand that they cannot become a statistic.
There is nothing hardcore about being dead.
I only hope for the best, but when you have guys that have not competed in years, who are of advanced age, and who are going to probably hit it harder than they have in as much as a decade, things could go south pretty easily. And even though the show is in Romania, and not in the United States, word would still spread like wildfire. The mainstream media would have its hands all over it, and it could very easily become a black guy for the sport. Again, the most important thing to me is the health and well-being of the competitors. I am sure this will be a world-class production and that everything will go off without a hitch. Just the same I hope there is a strong focus on the health and well-being of the competitors at the check-ins and throughout the entire competition.