|The Muscletime Report: 2008 Arnold Classic|
|Written by Raymond Cassar with Millard Baker|
|Tuesday, 04 March 2008 21:51|
The beginning of the 2008 IFBB Pro season was dominated by the discussion of Phil Heath. The strategically leaked internet video footage and photographs revealing a seemingly superhuman Phil resulted in a full blown case of "Phil Heath mania." So it was no surprise that the big questions on the minds of bodybuilding fans entering the 2008 Arnold Classic men’s bodybuilding contest were related to Phil "The Gift" Heath.
Will Phil Heath look better than he did two weeks ago at the 2008 Iron Man Pro contest? Is Phil Heath prepared for the increased competition? Can Phil Heath win the 2008 Arnold Classic?
We learned tonight that the answer was "no". The perfect shape, the symmetrical physique, and the full and round muscle bellies were all present on stage. But Phil was not quite as sharp as he was earlier in the month making him vulnerable to the improved physiques of his competitors. Phil was not quite dry enough to overtake an improved package presented by veteran bodybuilder Dexter Jackson (and in my opinion, not even Kai Greene).
The 2008 Arnold Classic ranks as one of the best in the history of the contest. The quality of the competition was unparalleled with nine of the competitors in the lineup having previously won IFBB shows as professional bodybuilders. How appropriate that this stellar group of athletes converged on stage during the 20th anniversary celebration of the Arnold Classic Weekend along with a reunion of some of the most celebrated bodybuilders in history who had previously held the title of Arnold Classic Champion.
During prejudging, four bodybuilders clearly distinguished themselves from the rest of the group with only minor differences separating Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath, Kai Greene and Branch Warren. The judges had an even more difficult job awarding placements for the next six spots with only few points separating several of the competitors. The lineup was that good. It was one of the tightest I have seen in years at the pro level.
1. Dexter Jackson
Dexter Jackson came into the show with a vengeance. He was overlooked by judges and fans alike at the 2007 Mr. Olympia. The emergence of Victor Martinez as the top ranked competitor and worthy heir to the Olympia crown overshadowed Dexter’s consistently high placing over the previous years.
When Victor Martinez withdrew from the Arnold Classic due to a knee injury, he was quickly replaced by a comparable threat in the form of Phil Heath fresh off his victory in Los Angeles. Phil’s physique wowed fans and commentators alike leading to rampant speculation that Dexter Jackson would likely be overmatched by the "unbeatable" physique of Phil Heath.
Once again Dexter was being overlooked. Consequently, Dexter’s hunger for victory did not waiver as he continued training harder and dieting harder than ever.. This was evident when he took the stage during prejudging. I feel Dexter was in his best condition ever. This is exactly what he needed to do to keep the threat of "The Gift" at bay.
2. Phil Heath
I feel that Phil Heath has missed his timing again just like he did last year at this show. He was off perhaps less than five percent, but in a tight contest it’s enough to drop you a place or two.
In spite of placing behind Dexter, I believe Phil is still the most genetically gifted bodybuilder in the sport at the moment; he has a beautiful physique with unmatched potential. And remember folks, he’s only 28 years old.
3. Kai Greene
The physique of Kai Greene was the most anticipated by a large segment of the audience. Kai had gained massive amounts of bodyweight in the offseason. His coach, Oscar Ardon, told everyone he had gained an additional twenty pounds of solid muscle since he won the 2007 Colorado Pro show. Yet, Kai still surprised fans, judges and even fellow competitors when he stepped on stage.
Many fans were treated for the first time to the best poser in bodybuilding. Kai did his thing for the entire world to see on the Arnold Classic stage. You can not help but smile in disbelief at how he effortlessly moves from one pose to another.
His posing routine at the 2008 Arnold Classic was inspired but not flawless. His routine was likely penalized for exceeding time restrictions and his music selection was abruptly terminated. I’ve seen better routines from Kai in the past but even this routine raised the bar for on stage performances. With all due respect to Melvin Anthony, the "most entertaining posing" award was Kai’s to give away. And he surrendered it to Melvin.
I can’t help but reminisce on the days when Kai Green first started bodybuilding. I first met Kai when he was only sixteen years old; he already displayed the rare genetic potential to become a truly great professional bodybuilder one day. It is great to see Kai Greene walk on stage at one of the top professional bodybuilding contests in the world. It gives me great satisfaction to see him fulfill his promise and potential as a bodybuilder after he endured so many hardships in his life
4. Branch Warren
Branch Warren was undoubtedly the freakiest bodybuilder in the lineup. His condition was comparable to the physique that made him runner up to Dexter Jackson at 2006 Arnold Classic. The sole weakness preventing him from winning a show like the Arnold is his lack of symmetry and aesthetics. Branch’s insanely muscular physique is good enough to win many pro shows but not at a contest where the most symmetrical bodybuilders in the sport were all on stage next to him.
Branch Warren had the most fans in the audience. Each time he took center stage whether it was during mandatory poses or comparisons with other competitors, his fans were vocal in their support. While judges may place Branch lower due to his lack of "aesthetics," it is precisely the hardcore, un-aesthetic physique that feeds his popularity and grows his fan base. If the people in the audience were allowed to judge the show, Branch would have been declared the winner!
5. Silvio Samuel
I am almost convinced that Silvio Samuel was born with a physique like this; he is always in exceptional condition. He is simply never out of shape, show after show. For the average pro bodybuilder, appearing in such condition for one or two is achievable. But Silvio has competed in practically every pro bodybuilding show over the past two years. To be able to maintain this kind of hard striated body all that time is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Silvio was quite emotional after placing behind both Gustavo Badell and Elmoussawi at the 2008 Iron Man Pro. It is difficult to definitively say that Silvio looked better at this show than he did two weeks ago; in my opinion, he did look slightly better than at the Iron Man. Do I think he deserved to place higher than both Moe and Gustavo at this show since both Gustavo and Moe improved since the Iron Man? Possibly, but it is an incredibly close call.
6. Gustavo Badell
This is where it becomes challenging to write these reports. Everyone at Muscletime knows the competitors quite well. They have become our second family. As a result, our critical commentary sometimes may upset our friends in the sport.
This brings me to Gustavo Badell who placed outside the top five at this year’s Arnold Classic. Even though Gustavo looked better than he did two weeks ago where he landed in second place, everyone else upped their game a notch too. The addition of competitors like Dexter Jackson and Kai Greene made this contest incredibly close. That Gustavo could go from second place to sixth place in two short weeks is indicative of the difficulty of earning money as a professional in the sport especially when one consider the quality and size of Gustavo’s physique.
We thoroughly enjoyed Gustavo’s creative routine during the finals and the prejudging posing routine which he performed quite passionately. Everyone is assured of being awaken with the huge guttural scream that Gustavo delivers as an exclamation on every pose!
7. Toney Freeman
This is still not the Toney Freeman of last year. But he was considerably improved from the Iron Man but still not enough to redeem himself. With all that said, he has the nicest symmetry for a big man while standing relaxed on stage.
Toney is left to return home and rethink what may have gone wrong and revise his precontest strategy and preparation. I’m certain Toney will return to what he is fully capable of achieving and that is battling it out for top honors.
8. Melvin Anthony
At the beginning of the year, several commentators felt that Melvin Anthony would place in the top five at the Arnold. Certainly, the package Melvin brought to the 2007 Mr. Olympia would have landed him in the top 5 or higher. But he left that package on stage in Las Vegas last year.
9. Johnnie Jackson
What can we say about him? We never cease to be amazed at the extreme thickness and roundness of his muscles. This was evident again when he removed his shirt to begin pumping up for his on stage presentation. His upper body from the abs up is built like a tank with round and thick muscles all over.
This is not to say that his lower body is unimpressive. His upper body is incredibly powerful with the high, thick pecs, round delts and huge traps that especially stand out during his most muscular poses.
But his conditioning was about 5% off the physique that won him contests in the previous two years.
10. Desmond Miller
Desmond Miller is close to becoming one of the more fearsome threats in the sport of bodybuilding. The only weakness preventing him from jumping several spots higher at shows of this caliber is his back development. The good news for Desmond is that he appears to be on track to make the necessary improvements; it is only a matter of time.
Desmond has been working with a new coach for the past year; the Iron Man Pro was the first contest under the guidance of Dr. Clay Hyght. We’ve seen Clay and Desmond fine tune the conditioning and presentation in each successive on stage appearance. We expect to see a lot more from Desmond in the future as he gains more experience and continues to improve his back development.
11. Moe Elmoussawi
Moe Elmoussawi told me just prior to going on stage that his conditioning is 20% better with added size since the Iron Man. Now I don’t know about the added size but he is correct in his assessment of his overall appearance. He was much improved from the Iron Man two weeks ago. He was one of the few athletes up there that looked good from every angle. Aside from Branch Warren, he had to be the hardest looking guy on stage and that is saying something in this very tough lineup.
Moe is the first to give credit to his brother, Abbas. Abbas is constantly with him and advising Moe on his diet and contest preparation. The brotherly love between them was evident with the support and encouragement that Abbas provided backstage.
I was totally shocked that Moe placed outside the top ten. It is beyond me how it was possible that the judges placed him this low.
Moe was the biggest surprise of the Iron Man with his 3rd place showing. Moe was also the biggest surprise of the Arnold Classic but unfortunately for the inexplicable placing the judges gave him.
12. Dave Henry
Dave Henry must be at his absolute best to place high at shows of this caliber. And this was not the case at the Arnold. He was in much better condition than he was in Los Angeles two weeks ago. But so were many of the competitors who placed ahead of him.
13. Ronny Rockel
Ronny Rockel has a very pleasant looking physique; it is the type of physique than 9 out 10 people would like to have. Unfortunately, he needs to enter a contest in better condition to place higher. Ronny has historically been sharper at contest time; he missed the mark at the Arnold which was particularly evident when he turned around to display his back.
14. Deshaun Grimes and 15. Adorthus Cherry
It is very difficult to make one’s pro debut at a contest like the Arnold Classic or even at the Iron Man Pro for that matter.
Deshaun Grimes and Adorthus Cherry were, sorry to say, outclassed. But with time and experience, they can learn, progress, and compete at this level.