Since seven-time 212 Olympia champion Flex Lewis retired from the division in 2018, 212 has been one of the most competitive IFBB Pro League divisions at the elite level. Since Lewis ‘ exit, two different men have won the Olympia — Kamal Elgargni in 2019 and Shaun Clarida in 2020.
Since the last Olympia, serious contenders have emerged in 2021. Competitors like Keone Pearson now want to assert themselves at 212, which could spell trouble for Clarida, Elgargni, and perennial contender Derek Lunsford. Below is the qualified athlete’s list for the 2021 Olympia — taking place from Oct. 7-10 — and then six bodybuilders you should watch in the 212 division.
2021 Olympia | 212 Division — Qualified Bodybuilders
Note: the following list is of athletes thus far qualified, not a finalized competitor list.
- Noel Adame (USA)
- Ahmad Ashkanani (Kuwait)
- Kerrith Bajjo (USA)
- Steve Benthin (Germany)
- Piotr Borecki (Poland)
- Tonio Burton (USA)
- Shaun Clarida (USA)
- Lucas Coelho (Brazil)
- Pasquale D’Angelo (Italy)
- Kamal Elgargni (Libya)
- Ahmed ElWardany (Egypt)
- Nathan Epler (USA)
- Angel Calderon Frias (Spain)
- Vladimir Iacovlev (Moldova)
- John Jewett (USA)
- Junho Kim (South Korea)
- Derek Lunsford (USA)
- Naser Mohammed (Kuwait)
- Keone Pearson (USA)
- George Peterson (USA)
Any competitor can shock the judges and move up the placings, but there are always favorites. Here are the stars to watch because they will likely be among the leaders of this pack.
Clarida won his first Olympia title in December 2020 after placing third in 2019. One could argue that, in 2020, his sixth ever Olympia, he was the most improved athlete in the entire show across all divisions.
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The problem for Clarida — and it’s a good problem to have — is that he’s now the division’s top dog, so the judges will scrutinize him more harshly. To secure his title, he’ll need to come in even more impressive shape than last year. In an Instagram post made on Sept. 30, 2021, Clarida implied he’d come in sharp but with “another five pounds added.” Five more pounds on his 5’2″ frame will look like a lot. If he’s true to his word, then the competition may need to worry because there’s a solid chance Clarida will be the first man since Lewis in 2018 to score a consecutive 212 win.
Elgargni is the only other man in this lineup that knows how it feels to win this title. To say that Clarida walked away with the 2020 Olympia would be a lie. The 2019 champ stepped on stage in phenomenal shape and went deltoid to deltoid — few would have complained if Elgargni was declared the winner.
With almost a year to prepare, the rematch is going to be interesting. Elgargni must have tight conditioning and also present his size advantage over Clarida through smart posing. If he misses the mark, even slightly, it could place him on the outside of the comparisons. Elgargni works with longtime coach Chris Aceto, so the chances of him being off the mark are slim.
Update: On Oct. 6, 2021, the same day this article was published, George Peterson was reported dead. The Olympia was the first to announce Peterson’s passing on Instagram. At the time this update was made, Peterson’s cause of death isn’t known.
“Da Bull” entered the 212 division in 2020 after starting his pro career in the Classic Physique division. He placed third at that year’s contest behind the two former champions, but he showed that he belongs on this stage.
Peterson’s strongest feature is his back. His rear lat spread and back double biceps poses are among the best in all of bodybuilding. He also appears very dense when he is onstage. Now that he’s had an entire offseason to grow into his 212 forms and has experience preparing for shows at that weight, we may see Peterson show up and steal the show.
Lunsford flexed onto the professional bodybuilding scene in 2017, and people thought he was heir apparent to Lewis’ throne. Unfortunately for him, that hasn’t happened yet. Many fans want to see him in the Open division — he stands tall for the 212 Division at 5’6″ and packs a lot of muscle — but he is determined to win the 212 Olympia before that happens.
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For Lundsford to pull off an O win, he has to get as lean as possible without missing his peak at prejudging. That has been his trouble in the past. The native of Indiana can certainly take this title if he does everything correctly.
Like Peterson, Pearson is another athlete who moved up from Classic Physique to the 212 Division. He earned a trip to the Olympia in 2020, but he opted to sit out last year. He qualified this year by winning the 2021 Chicago Pro, and now he is all in.
Fans have seen “The Prodigy” in the 212 before, but it wasn’t against this talent level. It’s hard to know how Pearson will fare until folks see him stand next to the other top contenders.
Burton shocked many people in the world of bodybuilding when he won the 2021 Indy Pro at the beginning of this season. That was his first pro contest, and he was the clear winner in the lineup. Instead of racking up more wins, Burton opted to go through a short offseason before preparing for the Olympia (which he qualified for by winning the Indy Pr0).
He has large arms and shoulders, which will help him a lot. Burton has a similar issue as Pearson in that he’s untested in this division. If Burton has one thing going for him, it’s that the other 212 competitors haven’t faced him either, so they won’t know how to prepare to stand next to him on stage.
Don’t Miss the Olympia
Olympia Weekend takes place in Orlando, FL, from Oct. 7-10, 2021. There’s $1.6 million on the line for athletes in the 2021 Olympia. Last year, Bumstead pocketed $30,000 for his win. The specific prize-money breakdown isn’t yet available. For those who can’t make it to Orlando, there’s a PPV available for $59.95 at olympiaproductions.com.
Featured Image (left to right): Photo by Will Wittmann (@w_wittmann on Instagram | @dereklunsford_ on Instagram