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The Historical Significance of Phil Heath and the 2020 Mr. Olympia

It isn’t only about the wins record.

The bodybuilding world felt a major jolt of energy on August 7th when Phil Heath announced that he was returning to the Mr. Olympia stage to compete for his 8th career Sandow trophy. It’s now common knowledge that if he was to win this December, then he would tie Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman for the most Olympia victories ever. There is actually more historical meaning to his official entry into the biggest bodybuilding contest in the sport than fans are aware of.

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At Least 3 Champions on One Stage

With Heath officially competing this year, the 2020 Mr. Olympia will include three past champions. They are Heath, current Mr. Olympia Brandon Curry, and 2008 champion Dexter Jackson. It will be the first time since 2013 that three past titleholders will compete against each other. Seven years ago it was Heath, Jackson, and 4-time winner Jay Cutler.

Here are two other scenarios to consider. If Shawn Rhoden is able to move past his current legal situation and is allowed to participate this December, that would be four champions which has never happened in the history of the contest. Second, James “Flex” Lewis is a seven-time 212 Olympia winner. This year, he will join the Open men on the big stage. If you include him and count his victories into the equation, that would be five Olympia winners on one stage.

Regaining the Title After Losing It

There have been occasions where past winners have retired, returned, and left with the title once again. However, only one time in the history of the Olympia has someone actually lost the title onstage, and then returned to reclaim it. That was Cutler in 2009 who scored revenge against Jackson for shocking him the previous year.

Heath lost the Olympia to Rhoden in 2018. So if he were to leave Las Vegas with the title, then he would become the second man to pull off the feat. Combine that feat with tying the record, and Heath could certainly have a valid argument as the greatest champion ever.

40 Isn’t Over the Hill in Bodybuilding

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the Olympia being rescheduled from September to December, the 2020 contest now takes place on the same weekend as Heath’s 41st birthday. If he were to claim victory on the Vegas strip, he would be the fourth man at least 40 years of age to hold the Sandow. Rhoden, Chris Dickerson, and Coleman are the other three. Coleman is the only man to have won it twice after turning 40.

Top 2 for a Decade

While Heath has his eyes set on the top spot, there is a chance that he finishes second. After all, Curry is still the champion and shouldn’t be overlooked. Neither should Arnold Classic champion William Bonac for that matter. If Heath were to finish either 1st or 2nd this year, that would be 10 years being placed as one of the top two bodybuilders in the world. The only other man to have pulled that feat off is Cutler with four wins and six runner-up finishes.

While there are a few different greats that are associated with the previous historical marks, Heath would be the only one to be among all of them. If he were to successfully reclaim the title in a few months, it would be hard to argue against him as the greatest competitive bodybuilder ever.

Featured Image: Instagram/philheath

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