The entire sport of bodybuilding revolves around Olympia Weekend. It’s here that first-time winners become household names and multi-time champs become icons. While the Mr. Olympia competition is the highlight of the weekend, every division gets a chance to shine at the O, from Classic Physique and 212 to Bikini and Women’s Bodybuilding.
And just like Super Bowl weekend or the World Series, there is plenty of drama to indulge in as we head into the biggest bodybuilding showdown of the year — currently set to occur from Dec. 16-18. With so much history on the line, we’re breaking down six of the biggest storylines to watch for at the 2022 Olympia.
Editor’s Note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
6 Storylines to Watch at the 2022 Olympia
- Big Ramy’s Potential Dynasty
- The Most Stacked Mr. Olympia Roster in Recent Memory
- Will Hany Rambod Lead Chris Bumstead to a Fourth Win?
- Past Champs Collide at the Bikini Olympia
- Andrea Shaw’s Ms. Olympia Dominance
- The Future of the 212 Division
All eyes are on Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay this year. As the two-time reigning Mr. Olympia champ (2020, 2021), Ramy has the opportunity to etch his name among all-timers like Frank Zane and Sergio Oliva, who also scored three wins at the big show. And from the looks of it, he’s on the right track.
In October of 2022, Ramy revealed that he weighs over 330 pounds with a serious pair of boulder shoulders and visible abs. This is a far cry from 2021, when many people — including seven-time Mr. O Phil Heath — said Ramy took the stage looking worse than the year before.
This year, Ramy has been updating fans regularly on his progress, proving that his training regimen is locked in and that he’s ready to exceed expectations in 2022.
The glimpses of Ramy’s physique have been so impressive that past Mr. Olympia winners like Samir Bannout, Jay Cutler, and Ronnie Coleman have all picked him to walk away with a win. Coleman has even gone on record saying he could see Ramy staying at the top for three or four more years after this.
On the surface, it looks like Big Ramy is set up for a third win — the big question is whether or not he will continue after that. He previously said he would retire from bodybuilding at 38, which is how old he’ll be at the 2022 Olympia. And while he softened his stance on that somewhat during an appearance on Dennis James’ podcast, it’s something to keep an eye on.
If Ramy wins this year and continues after that, we could look back at the 2022 Mr. Olympia as the year he solidified his dynasty.
Beating Ramy at his best is a tall enough task, but the rest of the Mr. Olympia field doesn’t make it any easier. The 2019 Olympia winner Brandon Curry and perennial dark horse Hadi Choopan are always threats to pull off an upset — or, at the very least, remain in their respective second- and third-place positions from 2021. And then you’ve got to deal with fan favorites like Hunter Labrada and Nick Walker, both of whom cracked the top five last year and have seemingly only improved since then.
It doesn’t even get easier after that. Derek Lunsford, who won the 212 Olympia in 2021, is making his Men’s Open debut in 2022, and his recent physique updates showed him looking far bigger than his 212 days. Longtime favorite William Bonac also upped his mass in the off-season, with Ramy himself saying he’s one of the biggest threats this year.
On top of that, there are complete wild cards like Andrew Jacked and Michal “Krizo” Krizanek, two promising rookies who weren’t on anyone’s radar in 2021. Now, they’re looking to play spoiler in one of the most stacked rosters in recent Olympia memory.
From top to bottom, there’s little breathing room this year. And while past Olympia winners are leaning heavily toward Ramy, plenty of athletes are working around the clock to pull off the upset.
The Men’s Open division gets most of the press and prestige, but Classic Physique makes more headway every year as one of the highlights of the weekend. And much of that has to do with the popularity of three-time reigning champion Chris Bumstead.
To help him get to his fourth win at the show, CBum recently enlisted the support of coach Hany Rambod, who has experience guiding the likes of Phil Heath (a seven-time winner) and Jay Cutler (a four-time Mr. O) to Olympia glory. Rambod is tweaking both Bumstead’s training and diet to help ensure he brings home title number four, but much like Men’s Open, this won’t be an easy feat.
Bumstead is squaring off against two-time Classic Physique winner Breon Ansley, as well as Terrence Ruffin, Ramon Rocha Queiroz, and a much improved Urs Kalecinski. To make things more dramatic, this will also be Ansley’s final year in Classic Physique, as he plans to move to 212 in 2023.
Ansley previously held the division crown in 2017 and 2018 before being unseated by Bumstead, so there’s no lack of motivation on his part to secure one more Olympia victory. This is a division continually on the rise, and the showdown between Bumstead and Ansley could be the highlight of the entire weekend.
You’ll notice that the top men’s lineups this year don’t feature many past Olympia winners. Men’s Open has Ramy and Curry, while Bumstead and Ansley are the only Classic Physique winners on the roster.
That’s what makes the 2022 Bikini division lineup so intriguing as four past winners will compete at the show: Jennifer Dorie (2021), Janet Layug (2020), Elisa Pecini (2019), and Ashley Kaltwasser (2013-2015).
Dorie is the most recent winner, but Kaltwasser and Pecini were also in the top five last year. Then there’s Lauralie Chapados, who came in second place last year and won the Bikini International title at the 2022 Arnold Classic. At that show, she actually beat out both Kaltwasser and Pecini.
Though Chapados has yet to win at the O, her recent success at the Arnold makes her arguably the most credible threat to Dorie’s crown. But then again, with this much past hardware on stage at once, everyone has a legitimate shot at the win.
The Ms. Olympia contest made its long-awaited comeback in 2020 after a six-year hiatus, and since then, the division has been dominated by one woman: Andrea Shaw. After making the switch from Physique to Women’s Bodybuilding in 2019, Shaw has ruled the roost, winning the Rising Phoenix show from 2019-2022 and the Ms. Olympia in 2020 and 2021.
Like Big Ramy, Shaw is the favorite to win her third Ms. O, solidifying her dynastic ways and making a case for being the best of the generation. But while she won’t have to contend with 2021’s runner-up Helle Trevino this year due to injury, she will face off against third-place competitor Margie Martin.
One of the biggest surprises of the summer came when reigning 212 Olympia champ Derek Lunsford got a special invite to compete in Men’s Open at the 2022 Olympia. By accepting the invite and moving divisions, Lunsford officially left the 212 division without a defending champion for the first time since 2019.
This opening gives the 2020 champ, Shaun Clarida, the perfect opportunity to swoop back in and regain his status as the dominant competitor in the division. Clarida only recently announced that he would be returning to 212 after briefly flirting with possibly switching to Men’s Open, but he says he has unfinished business in the division.
Before he starts making room on his trophy case, Claria has to contend with the likes of Kamal Elgargni and Keone Pearson, both of whom are solid contenders. But despite the stiff competition, this is still a division in flux. Of the competitors on stage, only Clarida and Elgargni have previous experience winning the 212 Olympia. And each of them has only done so once.
Clarida now has a chance to start a new dynasty in a division that hasn’t had a multi-time winner since Flex Lewis last won in 2018. But there’s always the chance that some new blood will come in and score the victory.
As usual, the most anticipated contest during the weekend will be the Mr. Olympia. It features one of the most competitive fields in recent memory, and there’s a lot of history on the line. With a win, Big Ramy would enter the inner circle of Sandow winners — but if he manages to get dethroned, it would be an upset for the ages.
But the Mr. Olympia is far from the only contest to keep an eye on. Andrea Shaw and Chris Bumstead are looking to continue their winning streaks, while Shaun Clarida is looking to lay the groundwork for a potential dynasty in the 212 division. Plus, Men’s Physique, Women’s Physique, Wheelchair, Fitness, Figure, and Wellness Olympias will all also be on the line.
We’ll finally see who comes out on top when Olympia Weekend takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada, from December 16-18.
Featured Image: @mrolympiallc on Instagram