1:16 pm – Saturday, September 19th
Woke up at 5am to make sure I had enough meals in before I start snacking into the show. First meal as planned was pancakes and eggs. I ran to Denny’s not far from the hotel. Bumped into one of the competitors there and we wished each other luck before he left. Once he left I put my cap and my hood on over my head to make sure I am fully emerged into enjoying this long awaited breakfast. To seal the deal I put on my headphones on without turning them on.
I felt anxious. I did not know what to expect in the lineup of that size. I told myself that I don’t need much coming into this, I have nothing to prove to anyone, especially after three Olympias. Realistically, I would be happy and content with top ten, but if it doesn’t go my way, then that just means there’s more work to do and I love to work when it’s something I’m passionate about. Recalling the interview with Dave Palumbo at Meet the Olympians, he mentioned that I can be a threat to the top guys in the division, yet there isn’t as much buzz around me as the top three guys, I told him that it was a good thing and that it just means that I have less pressure on me. Having finished my train of thought and breakfast at the same time, I took a stroll to get my last layer of tan.
Full, dark and happy I arrived back in my room to pack for the show. I brought all the necessities that me and Jay Hall bought when we went shopping for groceries few days prior. Boarding the athlete bus to head to the arena, I got to see everyone again. We all wore our Olympia uniform, matching jackets and track pants. We looked like a team, but we’re far from being one. I smiled throughout the whole ride on that bus, eating my sweet potatoes & oats mixture.
When we got there, we all settled into our own little areas. Some guys started pumping up right away even though we still had about forty five minutes left until we had to go on. Jackets started coming off, abs, full chests and wide shoulders became the new uniform. I didn’t take my shirt off until the last ten minutes before going on stage. I was pumping up in my loose tee, as always with a rice cake in my mouth. When I took off my shirt, I was pleased with what I saw, but instead of being happy with my efforts, I gave credit to the mirror for making me look wider and fuller than usual. I thought it was just that kind of mirror.
Five minutes left and we are being called to line up. I get hyped. My pumping up strategy goes from a composed plan of what I needed to pump up the most, to grab whatever you can and just lift, push, pull and curl random shit in every direction. I get so pumped I start breathing heavy and can’t control it. We start walking out in numerical order. My number is up, my name is called and I walk out into the stage, blinded by bright lights, staring into nothing and everything. A loud noise, combination of cheer and applause perks my spirits up. My eyes adjust and scan the crowd. I hit my first pose. I take my time, but as slow as transition seems in my mind, I know I’m rushing through my routine, yet I don’t slow down. Turning my back to the judges, I lose my shit and forget how to properly hit my back pose. I improvise, I know it’s not working so I transition as quick as I can back to the front pose. I take a bow and walk off the stage.
I always have a plan, but the emotions get the best of me last minute and the plan just falls apart. I feel like I messed up my back pose, even though I feel like my back has improved. My posing is very basic, I follow the guidelines of what the NPC has listed on their website and try not to step outside those guidelines.
Standing backstage awaiting comparison round, I keep pumping up, not looking at the big screen which shows who’s up on stage at that given time. After a while, I happened to glance over at the screen and see one guy throw up a double bicep pose, which I was told can get you disqualified, another guy doing lat spreads and bodybuilding transitions. Both of them respectively ended up placing second and third. How they get away with going outside the guidelines of men’s physique posing without getting points taken off or disqualification, beats me. However, the physiques they brought match their placing.
During comparisons I felt confident in my front pose, but blind and confused in my back pose. It was time for callouts. I was one of the first group called out on stage, but after being compared to the other athletes in the group, everyone was sent back in line except me. Which meant that I will now be compared to a second group of athletes, meaning I will be fighting for fifth to tenth spot. I was not disappointed, and kept posing like I was still fighting for first. We were switched around several times, before the second group was sent back in line with me in it. Prejudging finished and we had about an hour before we go back on for finals.
I was thirsty, but held off on drinking water until finals were done. Guys were congregating, discussing prejudging, wondering what happened and why some of them weren’t called out in groups they would have liked. I just sat around collecting my thoughts, keeping to myself. Before going back out, one of the guys approached me with his hand out saying he’s been following me for a while and that it was a great pleasure for him to share the stage with me.
Finals came and went. It was quick, but for me it dragged and I couldn’t wait to get off that stage. I knew I wasn’t in the top six, so I did a light pump just to make sure my physique looks presentable. The MC announced fifth place, it was someone who wasn’t in any predictions, he wasn’t a veteran. It was someone who simply brought a top five package and got what he deserved. I couldn’t wait to get off the stage because during the announcement of top five, my tan started running into my eyes, burning like a motherfucker. Before I knew it, my eyes started watering, while I was squinting trying to see through a blur of tears filling up my eyes. It was down to top two, as I stood there with no visibility. The announcer took his time letting the audience know who the top two were and dragged it out for as long as he could. All I thought about was: “please, hurry up so I can go wash my face”. I couldn’t hold it and asked the expediter on stage for a towel to clean the tanning solution from my eyes. Just as the mc announced first place winner I felt tears rolling down my cheek, at this moment the expediter comes up dabbing the towel over my eyes. To the audience, all of this probably seemed like I was an emotional mess, either crying because I lost or shedding tears of joy for whoever won.
Walking off the stage, I ran to my station to clean my eyes out with my dirty shirt. Cleaned up a bit, I started collecting my things. Congratulating guys that were passing me by with their medals and trophies. One of the guys, Eren, came up to me to say that he’s been a long time fan and follower and that he’s trained naturally as well. Eren shook my hand, and I congratulated him on being part of the biggest physique Olympia lineup.
I put my jacket on and walking out, received a participation medal. This was my third Olympia medal, it may not be for first, second or third place, but it’s just as important to me. It means that I set out to do something and I completed the task. It solidified me as a comeback kid, always getting up after being knocked down. The etched eyes of Joe Weider, with his arms crossed and his signature mustache stared at me from the heavy medal as I rubbed it between my fingers before putting it on. I stood the for a second, taking in the fact that very few people in the world have this medal, I have three. I thought about how fortunate I am to be able to keep coming back to this stage.
Proudly wearing my medal, I walked to my sponsor’s booth where I was set to attend and take photos with people for a few hours. During my proud walk, I was checking the score sheets online – I got ninth place.
Getting to the booth, I noticed a line that was formed waiting for me. Putting on my best happy face, I settled in and started greeting people as they flashed their cameras in my face. The overwhelming amount of people made me feel like a winner, like I did something great. I may have gotten ninth, but to these people I was first, regardless of what the score sheets said. More flashes. I stood there until there was no more line, until I greeted and met everyone who wanted to shake my hand and take a picture. I paid compliments back to guys who said they aspire to look like me, by saying that they already look ready for the stage. They fed me their energy and in return I gave them mine.
The rest of the day I spent in my bed, recalling the events of the day and what happened. Being glad that it’s finally in the books and that I can move on to better myself for next year. A phone call disrupted my thought process, but I’m glad I answered it. It was my parents, calling to tell me not to be disappointed, and that I was number one to them. They said they followed the entire thing online, which made me feel great, they even memorized names of other competitors. This was a shock to me, to hear my parents being so involved. My mom was angry at the judges for placing me where they did, while I assured her that the judging was fair. Receiving the medal, the Olympia jacket and being here again was a reward in itself, having my parents be proud of me and finally being involved in what I do felt better than any trophy I could have gotten. Their phone call filled me with positivity, pride and a sense of accomplishment.
“The man with no imagination has no wings”
– Muhammad Ali
Sometimes it takes a while, but eventually people will come around, and just like my parents, one day that first place at the Olympia will have no choice but to accept that I am a determined man, and my mental focus will ultimately drive me past the limits of what I imagine is possible.
Live a life without limitation.