The year 2020 went down as the most challenging year for almost every one of us. It held us in a strong grip of fear, uncertainty, isolation, and depression after the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. Many lost their livelihood, their loved ones, and some even lost hope for a better future. Unwillingly, we had to put a brake on everything we planned to do with our lives and survive the year. Inactive and isolated, we led ourselves into introspection and looked at 2021 as the year that would start a fresh chapter in our lives.
When the year 2021 kicked off, the top news in the bodybuilding industry were those of canceled or rescheduled events, stories of survivors of the deadly pandemic, and even some sad news. The New Year, although far from perfect, turned out to be much better than the previous one. As 2021 comes to an end, let’s take a look at everything that happened in the world of bodybuilding.
Top Headlines of The 2021
As mentioned before, the news in 2020 revolved around event cancellations, covid casualties, and a struggle to survive the pandemic. However, 2021 was a little different as the wheels were set in motion for things to happen. With that in mind, let’s delve into some of the biggest headlines of the year.
Mamdouh ‘Big Ramy’ Elssbiay wins the 2021 Mr. Olympia
Winning Mr. Olympia marks the pinnacle of bodybuilding achievements. After a challenging 2020, Mamdouh ‘Big Ramy’ Elssbiay defending the highest spot became one of the biggest news of the year.
Mr. Olympia prize money reaches a new high
To the delight of every athlete competing, Olympia CEO Jake Wood increased the prize money for Olympia winners once again in 2021. The combined prize pool at the 2021 Mr. Olympia was 1.6 million for athletes competing across all 11 divisions.
The $200,000 increase from 2020 served in the best interest of bodybuilders that made numerous sacrifices to step on the stage and rewarded their efforts in a great way.
8 of 9 Mr. Olympia winners of 2020 defend their spot in 2021
2021 Bikini Olympia title winner Jennifer Dorie made history at the 2021 Mr. Olympia for being the only winner that dethroned a reigning champion of the division. Out of the 9 winners of Mr. Olympia 2020, every winner defended their spot in 2021 except for Janet Layug, the 2020 Bikini Olympia winner.
Mr. Olympia will return to Las Vegas in 2022
Since its inception in 1999, every Mr. Olympia event took place in Las Vegas, Nevada until 2019. However, Mr. Olympia 2019 winner Brandon Curry became the last winner to be crowned in Vegas. The Nevada state-imposed restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic forced Mr. Olympia to be held elsewhere in 2020 and 2021. After Mr. Olympia 2021 in Orlando, Florida, it was announced that Olympia will return to its home in Las Vegas in 2022.
On December 10th, 2021, Mr. Olympia Productions President Dan Solomon made the official announcement with a video message posted on his Instagram account and stated that the event will take place on the weekend of Dec. 16-18, 2022 in Las Vegas.
Ronnie Coleman receives the Arnold Classic lifetime achievement award
Tied with Lee Haney for the most Mr. Olympia wins, Ronnie Coleman is considered by many to be the greatest bodybuilder of all time. Coleman was awarded the Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement award during the 2021 Arnold Sports Festival.
Arnold Schwarzenegger presented the award to his compatriot. The sight of an emotional Ronnie who remembered his late mother during the speech is one of the most heartwarming visuals of the year.
Watch Ronnie Coleman Lifetime Achievement Award Speech:
NPC National Championships turn 40 years old!
NPC president Jim Manion spearheaded the first NPC National event in 1982. The nationals went on to become the foremost platform of amateur bodybuilding in the years that followed. NPC National Championship turned 40 in 2021 and it has served as the stepping stone for legendary bodybuilders like Lee Haney, Shawn Ray, Kevin Levrone, Rich Gaspari, Jay Cutler, and Victor Martinez to name a few.
Carlos Thomas Jr. Becomes the Newest IFBB Pro bodybuilder
One of the highly touted prospects of the year 2021, Carlos Thomas Jr. predictably won the 2021 NPC National Championships to become the newest IFBB Pro bodybuilders of the year. Many experts consider him as the next big thing in the sport and expect him to be one of the foremost IFBB pro bodybuilders of his generation. Although Carlos Thomas Jr. won in the super heavyweight division and overall at the NPC Nationals, his significantly short stature makes us wonder if 212 will be a better starting point. The next couple of years is going to be an intriguing affair for Thomas, who has all the hype and attention to start his journey as a pro.
Flex Wheeler survives a life-threatening battle with Covid-19
Bodybuilding legend Flex Wheeler was set to work with the production team at the 2021 Mr. Olympia. However, a severe case of Covid-19 infection not only stopped him from stepping on the other side of the Mr. Olympia stage but also turned out to be the most difficult battle of his life.
Wheeler had to spend weeks in a Florida hospital and nearly lost the battle with failing lung and kidney function. Thankfully, the bodybuilding legend emerged victoriously and later shared the harrowing experience with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for life.
The Arnold Schwarzenegger controversy
Whether it’s for health, social or economic reasons, the virus continues to haunt a large section of the population. Actor, bodybuilding icon, and Politian Arnold Schwarzenegger received huge backlash in 2021 for his comments ‘screw your freedom’ during a discussion related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Arnold’s remarks became one of the – if not the – most controversial topic of the year, received criticism not only from bodybuilders but also from athletes competing in other sports. 4-time World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw, who used to cite the seven-time Mr. Olympia winner as his inspiration, was among Arnold’s biggest fans.
However, that is no longer the case. Shaw removed Arnie’s poster from his gym to express his disappointment in the latter’s remarks and posted the video on his Instagram account with the caption ‘FREEDOM IS IMPORTANT’.
Tom Stoltman becomes 2021 World’s Strongest Man
The 27-year-old cemented his place in history by becoming the first Scottish Strongman to win the competition. Tom, along with his brother and Europe’s Strongest Man Luke Stoltman has emerged as the force to reckon with. Overall, the future looks bright for the sport and the Stoltman brothers heading into 2022.
Watch Tom Stoltman on winning WSM 2021:
Dexter Jackson significantly downsized post-retirement
Although not major news compared to some of the others mentioned in the list, Dexter Jackson’s downsizing after retirement is significant. A professional bodybuilder’s lifestyle, diet, and training routine during competitive years are not necessarily something that helps with longevity.
Carrying the extra muscle mass and continuing with the diet, supplement, and training into the 40s and 50s is more likely to harm physical health than preserve it. Jackson, by losing the mass and downsizing to an average gym-goer has set a positive example for bodybuilders to follow.
Sad News: Bodybuilders that left us in 2021
Athletes are more than mere competitors trying to gain success in life. For the vast majority of us, bodybuilders and athletes from every sport are a source of motivation and inspiration. They are the most prominent examples of people dedicated to their craft that motivate us to get up and work for things we are passionate about.
Be it due to Covid-19, other diseases, accidents, suicides, drugs, or any reason in the world, our heart cries to see our favorite athletes leave the world. The pain of losing these legendary athletes is exponentially higher when their time here comes to an end too soon. The bodybuilding world saw a record high number of athletes pass away in 2021.
Shawn Rhoden, George Peterson, John Meadows, Dave Draper and Chris Dickerson and are some of the most notable bodybuilders that left the world in 2021. Furthermore, many unsung heroes of the sport breathed their last this past year and we need to take a moment to pray for their departed souls.
Some bodybuilders that passed away in 2021 include:
- Chris Dickerson
- Dave Draper
- Shawn Rhoden
- George Peterson
- John Meadows
- Matt Mendenhall
- Andy Haman
- Jennifer Hernandez
- Alena Hatvani-Kosinová
- Megan Elizabeth
- Phil Hernon
- Billy Smith
- Sophia Graham
- Jenny Lynn
- Laura Bass
- Melissa Coates
Notable Pro Bodybuilding Champions of 2021
While the focus of news remained primarily on the safety protocols and rights and wrongs of holding competitive sports events, athletes across all sports were hard at work and did everything in their power to make progress in their careers. The sport of bodybuilding saw the crowing of many incredible champions and the list of notable athletes includes:
Nick Walker – 2021 New York Pro and 2021 Arnold Classic
From what we have seen from him so far, Nick ‘The Mutant’ Walker is made for bodybuilding! The 26-year-old earned his IFBB pro card with the win at the 2020 NPC North American Championships and won his first pro competition, the 2021 New York Pro, in less than a year later. The win guaranteed him a spot at the 2021 Mr. Olympia and cemented his position as one of the most talented prospects of today. Walker then went on to win the second most prestigious pro bodybuilding competition, the 2021 Arnold Classic, and closed the year with a fifth-place finish at the 2021 Mr. Olympia.
Iain Valliere – 2021 Tampa Pro and Texas Pro
Another up-and-coming name in the professional bodybuilding circuit, Canadian IFBB Pro bodybuilder Iain Valliere had an amazing year with two pro-competition wins. Valliere took home the 2021 Tampa Pro trophy after finishing in the top three during his previous two appearances in 2019 and 2020. Valliere then went on to secure a win at the 2021 Texas Pro and closed off the year with a 2nd and 7th place finish at the 2021 Arnold Classic and the 2021 Mr. Olympia, respectively.
Hunter Labrada – 2021 Chicago Pro
Bodybuilding legend Lee Labrada’s son Hunter Labrada scored his second pro competition win at the 2021 Chicago Pro. Since earning his pro card, Labrada has competed in Mr. Olympia twice and finished in the top ten on both occasions.
Patrick Moore – 2021 California Pro
Known for an extremely aesthetic look to his physique, Patrick Moore started 2021 with a bang when he won the 2021 California Pro. However, a series of unsatisfactory showings later in the year compelled him to make a difficult yet equitable decision. Patrick Moore decided to take the year 2022 off and revealed that he will not compete before 2023. His size puts him on the smaller end of the open division. However, the constant preps have not given him the necessary time in recent years to make proper gains. We hope that the time off solves every problem he has been dealing with and he returns fully prepared to take on his competitors.
Mamdouh ‘Big Ramy’ Elssbiay – 2021 Mr. Olympia
Mr. Olympia 2021 took place in Orlando, Florida from October 7th to 10th. Mamdouh ‘Big Ramy’ Elssbiay defended his title by defeating Brandon Curry and Hadi Choopan. Big Ramy remained the 16th bodybuilder to win the prestigious Mr. Olympia in the 57-year history of the competition.
Harold Kelley – 2021 Wheelchair Olympia
Wheelchair Olympia is one of the most inspirational divisions in bodybuilding. Wheelchair legend Harold Kelley became a 4-time winner at the 2021 Wheelchair Olympia and beat Gabriele Andriulle Antoni Khadraoui en route to the historic win.
Andrea Shaw – 2021 Ms. Olympia
2020 Ms. Olympia winner Andrea Shaw defended her title in 2021 and emerged victoriously at the 2021 Ms. Olympia.
Shaw also scored a win at the 2021 IFBB Pro League WOS Rising Phoenix Pro Women’s Bodybuilding and made her case for the best female bodybuilder of today.
While open pro is where most attention lies, other divisions deserve the rightful mentions as well.
- Cydney Gillon – Ms. Figure winner
- Whitney Jones – Ms. Fitness winner
- Brandon Hendrickson – Mr. Olympia Physique winner
- Chris Bumstead – Mr. Olympia Classic Physique winner
- Sarah Vallegas – Olympia Women’s Physique winner
- Derek Lunsford – Mr. Olympia 212 winner
- Jennifer Dorie – Ms. Bikini Olympia winner
- Francielle Mattos – Olympia Wellness Champion
Other notable mentions
Following the 2021 Mr. Olympia, IFBB Pro bodybuilding events took place in England, Nevada, Egypt, and Toronto where the winning athletes qualified for Mr. Olympia 2022.
The list of athletes is as follows:
- Nathan DeAsha – 2021 Arnold Classic UK
- Shaun Clarida – 2021 Legions Sports Festival Pro and 2021 Nevada Pro
- Regan Grimes – 2021 KO Pro Egypt
On behalf of our entire team have a happy and safe new year!