2023 Arnold Classic Wheelchair Preview; Antoni Khadroui and Anand Arnold Withdraw

Can “King Kong” Kelley win his sixth Arnold title?

There are four men’s events taking place at the 2023 Arnold Classic. One is the Pro Wheelchair Championship, scheduled for Saturday, March 4, 2023, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, OH. Five-time Arnold Classic Wheelchair winner Harold Kelley will look to win a sixth Arnold title, while nine other men will look to do what Gabriele Andriulli did in 2022 — pull off a major upset and defeat Kelley.

On March 1, 2023, founder and CEO of Wheelchair Bodybuilding Nick Scott informed BarBend that Antoni Khadraoui and Anand Arnold withdrew from the 2023 Arnold Classic contest. Khadraoui’s withdrawal was a result of travel issues that will prevent him from getting to Columbus. Arnold suffered an undisclosed injury that compelled him to pull from the event.

The initial 10-man roster settled to the eight athletes listed below in alphabetical order:

2023 Arnold Classic Roster — Wheelchair Division

  • Woody Belfort
  • James Berger
  • Bradley Betts
  • Tim Caldwell
  • Dillon Depiazza 
  • Tory Jones
  • Harold Kelley
  • Bryan Williams
  • Anand Arnold — withdrew
  • Antoni Khadraoui — withdrew

The first Women’s IFBB Pro Wheelchair athlete Jan Pasky-Jaquin will guest pose.

Past Champion — Harold Kelley

Kelley has been the most dominant athlete in the Wheelchair division’s short history. He is its only Olympia champion and a five-time Arnold Classic winner. It was at the 2022 Arnold Classic Pro Wheelchair show that Andriulli defeated him for the title. That was his first loss since he took third in the Dallas Pro Wheelchair show in 2014. That contest was won by Nick Scott, who is now in charge of the IFBB Pro League’s Wheelchair division. 

Kelley sought revenge and got it when he won the 2022 Olympia in Las Vegas, NV. Andruilli finished in second, and he is not in this lineup. Kelley is expected by many to score win number six and maintain his position atop the division.

Antoni Khadroui

Outside of Kelley, Antoni Khadroui of Algeria was the highest-placing finisher from the 2022 Wheelchair Olympia — he ranked third in that contest. Khadroui placed second to Gabriele Anduilli in the 2022 Arnold Classic UK contest.

Khadroui won the 2018 Toronto Pro Supershow title. This would have been his third time competing in the Arnold Classic — he was fifth in 2017 and seventh in 2018.

Anand Arnold

Anand Arnold would have made his second Arnold Classic appearance in 2023. He was third in this contest in 2019 and had two Olympia appearances. Arnold was runner-up to Kelley in the 2018 Olympia but ranked 12th in 2022.

Top Contenders

Some of the top contenders most likely to challenge for Kelley’s throne are athletes who have put him to the test before:

Woody Belfort

Belfort is entering his second season as a pro. He earned his pro status at the 2022 Toronto Pro Qualifier, sanctioned by the Canadian Physique Alliance (CPA). He won the Toronto Pro Supershow unopposed the next day to earn his 2022 Olympia qualification.

Belfort was sixth in that show — a surprise because of the number of veterans he shared that stage with. This will be his first Arnold appearance as a pro competitor.

Bradley Betts

Betts finished the 2022 Arnold Classic Wheelchair in third place. He had momentum leading to the 2022 Olympia thanks to his win in Dallas, but he finished the Olympia in 10th place. The 2019 NPC National Wheelchair champion is making his third consecutive Arnold appearance in 2023. He was third in 2020 (there was no contest in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Tory Jones

Jones took a similar road to the 2022 Olympia as his Canadian counterpart, Belfort. Jones won the CPA Toronto Pro Qualifier in 2021 and the Toronto Pro Supershow the following day. Due to regulations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones’ qualification applied to the 2022 Olympia. Jones finished eighth in that show and will make his inaugural attempt at winning the Arnold Pro Wheelchair show in 2023. 

Dark Horses

While they may not be people’s top picks to oust Kelley due to less experience, blazing out of the gates isn’t out of the question:

James Berger

Berger will make his pro debut in this contest. Berger earned IFBB Pro League status by winning the 2022 NPC Wheelchair National title. According to NPC News Online, he has competed in various amateur contests since 2013. Berger looks impressive in side and back shots; one or both could be where he excels in the eyes of the judges.

[Related: 2023 Orchid Pro Singapore Results — Bojana Vasiljevic and Alessia Facchin Win Figure and Bikini Contests]

Tim Caldwell

Caldwell turned pro at the Wheelchair Nationals in 2022. The 2023 Arnold Classic marks his pro debut. Caldwell is an Over 40 Masters competitor and competed as an amateur from 2016 until 2022. 

Dillon Depiazza

Depiazza earned his pro status at the 2021 Wheelchair Nationals but didn’t compete in the 2022 season. He joins Caldwell and Berger as first-time pro competitors. His wide lats serve him well in poses like the front double biceps

Bryan Williams

Williams is a virtual unknown in this contest. According to the Wheelchair Bodybuilding website, he turned pro in 2014 at the NPC Wheelchair Nationals but never competed as a pro until now. He may not have pro experience, but he could shock the field with a refined physique that hasn’t seen been tried on a competitive stage in nine years. 

Fans that want to watch the Arnold Classic Wheelchair contest and all seven IFBB Pro League shows during the Arnold Classic weekend can order the pay-per-view, which covers all the contests live, on the Arnold Sports website, courtesy of Fanmio. This show will be a part of the 2023 Arnold Expo in the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Expo tickets serve as entries for this contest, and seats are on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Featured image: @haroldkelley71 on Instagram