The bodybuilding world is still digesting Derek Lunsford‘s historic victory at the 2023 Mr. Olympia contest. In the latest Old School Labs podcast on November 15, 2023, Samir Bannout scrutinized the flow of Lunsford’s physique and argued that symmetry has been overlooked in today’s Men’s Open division.
“Symmetry should always come into consideration. Hardness should always come into consideration. Presentation — because the round three back in the days it was like the pose-down,” shared Bannout.
On November 4, the 2023 Mr. Olympia competition ushered in a new Men’s Open landscape, courtesy of former 212 Olympia (2021) Derek Lunsford’s monumental victory. He secured the sport’s most prestigious title after a showdown with his teammate Hadi Choopan and Arnold Classic winner Samson Dauda. Not only would Lunsford walk away as the 18th Mr. Olympia and the world’s first two-division titleholder, but he also enjoyed the luxury of being assigned the Olympia People’s Champ Award.
The electrifying night in Orlando, Florida was littered with controversy after Bob Cicherillo called Lunsford in first place. During the picture ceremony, Hadi Choopan walked off stage and removed his second-place medal. He later congratulated Lunsford on the achievement, but fans and the bodybuilding community alike have taken issue with the results.
With so much to discuss following the competition, Bannout, a former Mr. Olympia winner, opened up on how the event was judged. Further, he examined whether officials are taking symmetry into account during competitions.
Samir Bannout Talks Derek Lunsford, Says Symmetry Overlooked at 2023 Mr. Olympia: “The Truth Must Be Told”
Samir Bannout and John Hansen considered whether Lunsford could present a harder look from the front in the future.
“What do you think, what led to Derek not to be as hard this year from the front?” asks Samir Bannout.
“I just think it’s a genetic thing with the front and the back,” explained John Hansen.
“I’ve seen Derek… chest is more sliced in the off-season when he was training with Hadi with I mean Hany, I saw striations in the chest and a lot of size. Sometimes in competition, you know… you get too excited. I saw his chest striated months before the Olympia. But I think certain people and I was one of them – is at competition time the excitement of the competition, the expectation the night before, then you’re looking at things.”
According to Bannout and bodybuilding legend Lee Haney, stress on stage and higher cortisol levels can affect the quality and clarity of a physique on stage.
“Me and Lee Haney talked about it, the more relaxed and calm you are, the dryer, the less cortisol you have. Your nerves can actually mess up and cause some of the intracellular fluid to go the extracellular. He’s perfect. Honestly, he’s perfect. I don’t fault him. That’s such a minor.”
“I don’t know [if the prejudging being late affected his dryness]. He’s usually a calm bodybuilder, I wasn’t. I was always intense. He’s more on the calm side, but I’m sure Hany will figure out exactly what’s needed. Electrolyte management and he will be dry like desert stand in the front.”
As for Lunsford’s physique, Bannout thought he was only at “70%” from the front, adding, “the truth must be told.”
“Hadi was really dry in the front. This is why we said oh my God, when he walked out, the first impression, you look at the freakiness and shredded in the front and honestly Hadi was damn shredded, his abs was etched to the bone.
His chest — you know, if you ask me who had better middle or physique having both of them at 100%… honestly, I would go Derek. If they are both 100%. Derek wasn’t at 100% from the front, he was at maybe 70%. The truth must be told,” said Samir Bannout.
Bannout: “They Are Not Really Putting So Much Emphasis On The Overall Symmetry”
Having witnessed the 2023 Mr. Olympia in person, the 69-year-old former champion contends that symmetry has been overlooked in bodybuilding as of late.
“Tyler – I saw the video… and his assessment was overall good. Overall. Okay, but there are things that we should – I agree with you. The overall flows of the body, the symmetry that actually – the symmetry that Lunsford has. Lunsford has a very pretty symmetrical body. Tyler would say okay, ‘he hit this pose and that’s Hadi’s pose where he shows the striated chest so we went with Hadi.’
The back we both agree, Hadi lost the back to Derek for sure. So, I see they are not really putting so much emphasis on the overall symmetry John. That is from my – hearing Tyler talking about the flow the couple of times, it was mentioned there if you listen to it again,” said Bannout.
Samir Bannout suggests that the judging criteria at competitions such as the Mr. Olympia may have shifted away from symmetry.
“Again, I don’t think, I honestly think this show if you want to judge symmetry, it’s like, it would be very tough. I mean you got judges who focus on overall symmetry, and some judges only focus on size and detail, so something has changed over the years John. Something has changed.
For me, I was winning on my balance and symmetry although some judges were obviously, they cheated me one time on my symmetry.”
Bannout isn’t the only bodybuilding veteran giving his take on the dramatic 2023 Olympia conclusion. Former titleholder Jay Cutler and Milos Sarcev joined forces recently to assess the aftermath.
Ultimately, Sarcev, who coached third-place finisher Samson Dauda, favored Choopan’s physique most. However, he acknowledged that the finals were close and urged fans to remove politics from the sport.
Officiating bodybuilding contests is inherently subjective. “The Lion of Lebanon” acknowledges the evolving nature of the sport, particularly in the way judges assess and score the symmetry of bodybuilders.