A bodybuilding season doesn’t seem complete without the Arnold Classic, which is why so many fans were pleased when the news was announced that this year’s edition will happen on Sept. 25, 2021, in Columbus, OH. Now that fans know the contest will take place, the next question is who will be in it? Unlike regular shows in the IFBB Pro League, there are only three ways to compete in the Arnold Classic.
- Mr. Olympia winners are automatically eligible to enter any contest they like including the Arnold Classic and Olympia.
- Past Arnold Classic winners are also eligible to enter any Arnold Classic.
- The final way is by invite by the Arnold Sports Festival officials. Competitors must apply, and the organization chooses the field within four months of the contest, so athletes have time to prepare.
Below, you’ll find the 14-man roster competing for one of bodybuilding’s most prestigious titles and a ticket to the 2022 Mr. Olympia competition.
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2021 Arnold Classic Lineup
After considering all applicants, the official list was released on June 15, 2021, via the Arnold Sports Instagram page. The competitors are listed below in alphabetical order (by last name).
- Lionel Beyeke
- William Bonac
- Maxx Charles
- Seung Chul Lee
- Mohamed El Eman
- Steve Kuclo
- Cedric McMillan
- Hassan Mostafa
- Sergio Oliva Jr.
- Justin Rodriguez
- Iain Valliere
- Akim Williams
- Nick Walker
- Roelly Winklaar
So who is favored to take the second biggest title in bodybuilding and the qualification to the 2022 Mr. Olympia?
Past Champions in the 2021 AC Lineup
Of the two men competing in the 2021 Arnold Classic, only two have won this very show. This automatically makes them top picks to secure the title.
Bonac is the 2018 and 2020 winner of this show and the only multi-time winner of the contest. Even though he placed fifth at the 2020 Mr. Olympia, he should still be considered the overall favorite due to his record of success in recent years. In addition, his 2020 form was one of his best looks ever, and if he repeats it, it would be hard to knock him off.
McMillan is the other former champion on this list. The 2017 winner had a memorable exchange with Arnold himself during the victory interview, but his full and round physique was another memorable aspect of his win. However, he placed sixth at this show in 2020. He will need that 2017 size with more detail and conditioning. He has been recovering from a bike accident but is cleared to train and is planning on competing in Columbus.
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Other Top Contenders
Here are our men who primed to take the 2021 Arnold Classic trophy and the 2022 Olympia qualification spot!
Kuclo finished fourth place at this show last year, which was his highest finish at the Arnold Classic. The “Kingsnake” took extended time off to put on size, and he has had this show as a target for quite some time. His amazing upper body and presentation serve him well. However, if he wants to claim an Arnold Classic title finally, he’ll need to bring his best package to Ohio.
Sergio Oliva Jr.
The son of the three-time Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva was in fifth place last year, but he also won the “Best Poser” award. He is rumored to be the biggest he has ever been leading up to his contest prep for this show. He planned on competing at the Chicago Pro later this season but announced he wouldn’t be.
This will be the Canadian’s Arnold Classic debut, but he finished seventh place at the Olympia in December 2020, so we have to throw his name into the mix. His last win was the 2020 New York Pro. One of the bigger competitors in the lineup, don’t be surprised if Vailliere takes the stage weighing in between 270 and 280 pounds.
Williams was a competitor that needed some time to hit his stride, but it was worth the wait. He finished in sixth place at the Olympia, with arguably his best look ever. His frame is packed with muscle. However, he needs to make sure his conditioning matches if he wants to overtake any of the previously mentioned athletes.
2021 Olympia Qualifying Shows
The cutoff date to qualify for the 2021 Mr. Olympia is Sept. 12, 2021. However, there are still six shows left that athletes can enter for the O, and it would not be surprising to see any of these competitors jump in these shows leading up to Columbus.
- Puerto Rico Open — June 26-27, Nassau, Bahamas
- Mr. Big Evolution — July 16-18 Estoril, Portugal
- Chicago Pro — July 23-24, Atlanta, GA (Moved Due to COVID-19 Regulations)
- Tampa Pro — August 6-7, Tampa, FL
- Texas Pro — August 13-14, Irving, TX
- Europa Pro — August 15, Spain (City not Announced as of this writing)
The 2021 Olympia will take place from Oct. 7-10 in Orlando, FL. There, athletes will contend with the returning champ, Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay, to seek the honor of taking bodybuilding’s biggest title.
Featured Image: @william_bonac on Instagram