5 of the Best Bodybuilding Moments in 2022

Upset victories. Triumphant returns. Historic wins. We've got it all!

Physique sports are going strong, whether you’re a casual fan or a diehard competitor. Plenty of memorable moments went down in the sport of bodybuilding throughout 2022: There were surprise victories, stunning defeats, unexpected returns, and several newcomers bursting onto the scene to make a name for themselves.

As the year winds down, it’s worth looking back at some of these moments to remember the highlights from a packed 12 months of fierce competition. Without further delay, here are five of the most memorable bodybuilding moments from 2022.

The Best Bodybuilding Moments of 2022

Brandon Curry Wins His Second Arnold Classic Title

Brandon Curry racked up a career’s worth of accolades in 2019 when he won both the Arnold Classic and Mr. Olympia. In 2020 and 2021, Curry stuck just to the Olympia, finishing second in both years.

But you can’t keep a competitor like Curry out of first place long, and in March 2022, he returned to the Arnold stage and took home the top spot yet again, beating out the likes of William Bonac, Steve Kuclo, and Samson Dauda.

[Related: How Jay Cutler’s “Quad Stomp” Pose Became the Most Iconic Photo in Mr. Olympia History]

With this victory, Curry became just the third Mr. Olympia winner with multiple Arnold Classic titles under his belt, joining Jay Cutler and Dexter Jackson in elite company. And on top of the prestige, the $200,000 in prize money probably didn’t hurt either.

Janet Layug Returns to the Olympia

Janet Layug has been one of the most recognizable faces of the Bikini division since she broke onto the scene all the way back in 2014 with a second-place finish at the Olympia. Since then, Layug has racked up all sorts of hardware, with wins at the Arnold Classic, Prague Pro, and the Olympia, which she won for the first time in 2020. Unfortunately, she decided not to defend her title in 2021.

“I’m focused now on opportunities to give back and do more in the industry, so the decision not to defend my Olympia title felt like the best decision for me,” Layug wrote to BarBend in an email statement in August 2021. “I feel so grateful for all the love and support.”

The layoff didn’t last long, and in 2022, Layug made her highly-anticipated return to the stage in the hopes of regaining her Olympia title. Though she fell short of her ultimate goal with an eighth-place finish, the return of a fan-favorite competitor is a memorable moment no matter the outcome.

Blessing Awodibu Wins the Indy Pro and New York Pro

It’s hard to have a better seven-day stretch than Blessing Awodibu had from May 14-May 21, 2022. In that time, Awodibu won both the Indy Pro and New York Pro, cementing his qualification for the 2022 Mr. Olympia and staking his claim as a name to watch out for in the years to come.

At the Indy Pro, Awodibu bested both Charles Griffen and Maxx Charles. The following week at the New York Pro, he beat Charles again, along with Andrea Presti, Theo Leguerrier, and six other hopefuls.

[Related: The History & Winners of the Masters Olympia Bodybuilding Competition]

Though the Indy Pro has since ceased operations, the New York Pro remains one of the most high-profile Men’s Open bodybuilding competitions outside of the Mr. Olympia. Past winners include Sandow standouts like Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay, Dexter Jackson, and Phil Heath, along with current contenders like Nick Walker and Iain Valliere.

While Awodibu eventually tied for last place at the 2022 Mr. Olympia, there were seven memorable days in May when the upstart looked like a world-beater.

Major Shakeups Define the 2022 Olympia

The Olympia is home to plenty of history every year, but 2022’s edition was about as entertaining and dramatic as the show has ever been. The main theme throughout the weekend was the sheer number of shakeups that occurred at the top of many of the major divisions.

First, there was Erin Banks, who dethroned the three-time reigning Men’s Physique champion Brandon Hendrickson. This was made all the more fitting for Banks after he came in second to Hendrickson in 2021. Banks also took home the Men’s Physique title at the Arnold Classic, rounding out a career year.

Then there was the Women’s Physique title, which many expected to comfortably get back into the hands of reigning two-time winner Sarah Villegas. Well, someone didn’t tell Natalia Abraham Coelho about those plans, because she wowed the judges and earned the crown, ending Villegas’ streak before it really got started.

But in terms of pure shockers on the women’s side, look no further than the Bikini Olympia. This contest featured four past winners going at it, including Jennifer Dorie (2021), Janet Layug (2020), Elisa Pecini (2019), and Ashley Kaltwasser (2013-2015). Turns out, they all lost out to Maureen Blanquisco, who was 2021’s fourth-place finisher.

[Related: Poll: Fans More Excited About Classic Physique Olympia Than Mr. Olympia]

For as surprising as all those results were, they were just an appetizer for what came at the end of a wild weekend in Las Vegas.

Hadi Choopan Wins the Mr. Olympia Title

Iranian bodybuilder Hadi Choopan had been nipping at the heels of Olympia success since 2019 when he took third place during his debut at the show. Since then, Choopan’s physique has only improved, but he still kept falling just short of his ultimate goal.

That didn’t look like it was going to change in 2022, as Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay seemed primed to walk away with his third consecutive Mr. Olympia title. But, as fans saw in years past, Ramy was a bit off his game, coming in with less of his trademark definition and lacking the conditioning that earned him an easy win in 2020. Choopan, on the other hand, never looked better.

With full, dense muscles and striations everywhere you looked, Choopan beat out Ramy — as well as Brandon Curry, Nick Walker, and Derek Lunsford — to take home his first Sandow trophy.

Ramy was as close to a sure thing as you could get — but then again, Vegas isn’t known for safe bets.

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