MR. OLYMPIA MOVES TO ORLANDO, FLORIDA! By Christian Duque, November 20th, 2020
Bodybuilding fans around the world breathed a huge sigh of relief when Chief Olympia Officer Dan Solomon made the announcement that the most prestigious contest in physique-based sports would be moving to Orlando, FL.
The reason a lot of fans were growing more and more concerned was because of the direction Nevada state officials were moving. Initially, the Olympia was to be held in September (as it normally is), but in order to ensure it happening with an audience, it was moved to December. As Covid numbers increased in the state, many were concerned the Olympia would be capped at 250 audience members. This would have been horrible news for a contest that draws VIP’s, fans, media and businesses from all over the world. Fortunately, Solomon and his team, along with owner Jake Wood held an emergency meeting to see where the event would be most successful.
As of late, Florida has become a go-to place for many contests that would otherwise have been postponed (yet again) or cancelled. In fact, Florida has been the home of the NY Pro, the Teen, Collegiate Masters Nationals, and others. In fact, Orlando (the new site of the 2020 Olympia) is also hosting the NPC Nationals. Florida’s three southeastern counties (Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach) are also heavily restricted so that’s added some complications, as well. Nonetheless, when life gives gifted leaders lemons, they make lemonade.
With regards to the event itself, this is shaping up to be one of the most competitive years – ever!! Fans are beyond excited at the prospect of The Persian Wolf, Hadi Choopan getting on stage. In 2019, he was crowned The People’s Champion and took a commanding 3rd place. Others can’t wait to see the improvements made by 2020 Arnold Classic Champion William “The Conqueror” Bonac. Many fans can’t wait to see Big Ramy, who despite contracting Covid 19 and being sidelined from competition in Spain, was granted a special invite, allowing him to compete in Orlando, FL. I, for one, don’t think anyone is going to beat 2019 Mr. Olympia Brandon “The Prodigy” Curry, but many fans online are dying to see the comeback of 7x Mr. Olympia Phil “The Gift” Heath, who’s determined to tying the records set by 8x Mr. Olympia Lee Haney and 8x Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman? Can Phil win? Will Brandon repeat? Will Hadi be the upset? The fans can barely contain themselves so the fact that the event will happen in a region where other big contests have gone on without hitch, is fantastic news.
While other contests like the NY Pro and the Arnold Classic are extremely important and have huge purses, the Olympia is the tried and true, defining contest of our sport. It’s the only event whose winner can say he/she is the very best in each respective division. There has never been a year where the event wasn’t celebrated and new owner Jake Wood was ready to move heaven and earth to make sure it took place. Moreover, the production value is of utmost importance. This one event serves to showcase everything the sport is and can be, to the mainstream world. It was always the dream of Joe and Ben Weider to see bodybuilding as a mainstream sport, as an Olympic sport, even. And I must say that bodybuilding is no longer the cult sport it used to be and that’s owed to the growth of the Mr. Olympia, the event’s presence on social media, and the expansion of the fitness industry.
10-20 years ago, many of the sports supplement products we take for granted, today, were only available at health food stores, but today, nothing could be farther from the truth. You can walk into Walmart, Target, even CVS and Walgreens, and find pre-workout powders, protein bars, and creatine. Not only is the mainstream public more at ease with bodybuilding – both in terms of training and familiarity with the competitive aspect of it – but it’s no longer the butt of jokes, it’s no longer weird. That’s huge!! The Mr. Olympia, and the Arnold Classic to an extent, is directly responsible for changing public opinion. Also, Arnold, himself, is a huge part of this second look by the mainstream public. Arnold won the Mr. Olympia 7x and is, arguably, its greatest ambassador of all time.
In addition to all but guaranteeing the show will go on, the move to Orlando also promises a far more successful expo. Whereas companies may have had all sorts of doubts insofar as the size and breadth of the expo in Vegas, Orlando has already been home to many of the biggest shows in bodybuilding. The fact that others big contests have seen huge successes there, will undoubtedly create a far stronger sense of optimism and hope when it comes to big companies shipping entire booths and sending crews to work the expo. Fans will also flock to this event in droves because this is where they’ll get to meet the stars they look up to, the stars they want to look like.
While some promoters may have postponed or taken their chances, when it comes to the Olympia, you’re dealing with the cutting edge of our industry. These folks are the trendsetters, the pioneers, and innovators who show everyone else the way. As always, Dan Solomon, Shawn Ray, Bob Cicherillo and of course, owner, Jake Wood lived up to everyone’s expectations and far surpassed them!!
ROELLY WINKLAAR – FLYING UNDER THE OLYMPIA RADAR
By Christian Duque, November 26th, 2020
Hype seems to be the name of the game in bodybuilding today. So many guys put more into their photos on Instagram than they do into following their training, dietary, and supplement regimens. Most of the shots you see from your favorite fitness stars on the Gram, Facebook, or Twitter, have probably been attempted a few dozen times, with a considerable amount of time devoted to cropping the photo, selecting a filter, and of course – what the hell to write in the text. I know you think celebs just take a photo and run with it, but many of these folks are utter perfectionists. So many competitors have made their way based on the photos they’ve posted to cyberspace and all the outlandish soundbites they have to their credit on fitness industry programs.
Nowadays, it’s all about hype, all about drama, and all about making noise. If you can bark like a little dog behind at tall fence, you’re good to go. Guys like Roelly WInklaar don’t talk smack; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any soundbites of The Beast tearing any competitor down. Roelly doesn’t disrespect Brandon, he didn’t disrespect Shawn when he was #1, and he didn’t ever do it to Phil. There’s a reason for that, he’s a class act and he’s a real champion.
When Roelly didn’t live up to expectations in 2019, he didn’t blame his coach, he didn’t cast doubts on the integrity of the judges, he simply accepted a good placing and went back to the drawing boards. He had an Olympia qualification for 2020 and with that, nothing else needed to be said. He didn’t throw a fit, he was sincerely happy for Brandon, and his fan base grew. Just because Hadi got the People’s Champion award, a nod Roelly got in 2018, didn’t mean Winklaar’s fan base missed a beat. With BPI Sports in his corner and training at the world-famous Oxygen Gym, Roelly (alongside Mr. Olympia Brandon Curry) has spent more than a year, putting all his efforts into bringing his absolute best physique to the 2020 Mr. Olympia stage this December in Orlando, FL. Much like Brandon, however, Roelly is getting very little media coverage and many commentators almost gloss over him for hyped up guys like Big Ramy and trash-talkers like Phil Heath.
Nick Miller (aka Nick Strength & Power) doesn’t even have Winklaar in his Top 6!! That’s the most popular bodybuilding YouTube channel in the industry!!
When you look at Olympia promotions, you don’t really see a focus on Winklaar, either. When you look at who the major media outlets are talking to, you don’t get the sense that talking to Roelly is a top priority.
Roelly is a hybrid of aesthetics and mass, all wrapped into one. He can battle Ramy, but he can also battle Dexter. He can give mass fans something special, but he can also go classic, showing off great symmetry and balance. Furthermore, his many years of competing at the highest levels have afforded him the ability pose for the judges – and – pose for the fans. There’s a very big difference. One style is aimed at scoring points and the other is all about entertaining the audience and giving the photographers what they want. At smaller shows, photographers can have the competitors come back on stage and hit the poses they want. That may work at small, local shows, but that’s not going to happen at the Arnold or the Olympia. The really seasoned professionals are able to give everyone something to be happy with. To Roelly, it’s come to be second nature.
One of the great things about social media is that sponsors and athletes can build quite formidable social media platforms. My good friend Chris Mackenzie, CEO of BPI Sports, has done just that. The company has deep roots in the fitness industry and they’re able to reach a lot of fans through their platforms. While Roelly may not be all over RX, MD, and GI, BPI has him on all their pages and channels. The hard push from his main sponsor has kept Winklaar very much on people’s minds.
Further, Roelly has also invested time and effort into his own platform over the years, keeping him from becoming dependent on media outlets to reach his fans. Not all competitors had this vision. Many, even with knowledge of how to start and grow social interactive tools, have opted to spend their time doing any number of other things. Some competitors, I’ve come to find out, hire people or agencies to run their platforms. That can be good or bad. It’s good because they appear to be active online, their fans get replies, and their fanbases grow; however, it’s not really them running these accounts. The fans might be fooled, momentarily, but as soon as an expo, seminar, or in-store appearance is had, fans know almost right away, if their heroes are real or if they’re frauds.
Roelly is all over his social media, he reposts stories, and he comments. You know it’s him – whether you’re interacting with him on IG or you’re talking to him in person. If you want to see what Roelly’s looking like, all you need to do is go to the BPI page or his own. If you’re going to wait for media outlets to bring you content on him – you might be waiting a long time.
Much like Dexter Jackson, Roelly has learned to live with not being a media favorite. He gets more coverage than The Blade (mostly everybody does), but not a ton more, either. As I’ve said before, here, and on other articles, the media stopped caring about physiques a long time ago. They want hits. Muscle alone, just doesn’t command large audiences (in their opinion). When you stop to think about who’s who in fitness audiences, you start to come to the realization that a great many folks don’t understand what bodybuilding is all about, who buys the supplements, and a huge segment may never have been to a contest.
It’s hard to believe The Beast has been pro for a solid decade. His motorcycle accident from 2014 seems like it was from another life ago, but no one can forget his indomitable spirit and his committment making a 100% recovery. His placings have improved over the years and in 2018, it seemed Winklaar was on top of the world. 2019 wasn’t a bad year, but I think he lost a few bandwagon fans and his decision to hunker down and train, flying under the radar, may have cost him a big amount of media fanfare.
What’s interesting, though, is that not having that attention may have helped keep his eyes on the prize. While media is only as powerful as you make it, being one of the guys pundits can’t stop talking about, can be both a blessing and a curse. At some point, I suspect media outlets are going to figure out that they’ve been ignoring a guy who could potentially be the last man standing next to Brandon Curry. With Flex Lewis out, I think that outcome is a heck of a lot more likely. Also, even at 100% I’m not convinced that Lewis could have necessarily neutralized Winlaar. I don’t know that at 100% Winklaar can’t keep Hadi out of the Top 3, either. There is an interesting match-up between Roelly and Dexter. In fact, I recently ran a poll at StrengthAddicts IG on this very comparison and it drew quite a bit of conversation.
I predict The Beast will be runner-up to Brandon Curry and not just that, I think these two will go down to the wire. I think Bonac and Dexter will battle for the 3rd place spot. I may be wrong, but I’m pretty confident in my prediction. Where do you see Roelly placing and do you think his fly-under-the-radar approach to the 2020 Olympia was the way to go?