Fans and bodybuilding veterans are still in disbelief following Derek Lunsford’s triumph on the 2023 Mr. Olympia stage. In a recent Cutler Cast podcast, Cutler and Shawn Ray reflected on the show’s conclusion, and the futures of Hadi Choopan, Derek Lunsford, and Samson Dauda.
While fans and competitors alike accepted the results of the 2022 Mr. Olympia wholeheartedly, that certainly wasn’t the case this year. After Derek Lunsford’s history-making win, he was harassed and threatened on social media by angry fans. To capture his first Sandow trophy, Lunsford bested his teammate Choopan in a close-fought battle.
With negativity engulfing bodybuilding discussions online, several prominent voices in the sport have spoken up. Jay Cutler and Sarcev joined hands earlier this month, urging for an end to politics in bodybuilding. Additionally, on Instagram, Samson Dauda appealed to fans, urging them to conduct themselves positively for the sake of the sport’s integrity.
Now, Shawn Ray, a decorated 1990s bodybuilding standout, tackled the contentious issue with former four-time Olympia titleholder Jay Cutler. The two also opened up on the top three 2023 Mr. Olympia finishers and who might take the title next year.
Shawn Ray Outlines Derek Lunsford’s Responsibility as Top Ambassador of the Sport: ‘Weight of the Crown is Heavy’
“As you know the weight of the crown is heavy and it comes with a lot of responsibility and you’ve got to choose your words properly. He’s representing numerous brands, Evogen is doing a great job and Hany Rambod, obviously, he’s a rock star, so he’s going to protect his athletes but Derek’s calling is to be the best representative he can be.”
“So the best play for him, and he’s accessible, is to keep talking because he’s articulate, passionate, he’s God-fearing, he gets what it takes and I was there when he won the USA here in Vegas and he was talking to Manion. He’s done everything like yourself, right, to position himself where he can come across as a very competent spokesperson that wants change for all athletes,” explains Shawn Ray.
“The momentum he had… there wasn’t a mad wave going into that contest saying we want to upset Hadi. Hadi lost some very close competition, Derek won the contest, I’ve got no protest. A year ago, I was up there going you know what I have Derek winning this competition. Surprise! Hadi wins.”
“I liked Derek this year. I liked Derek this year even though I had him winning last year. Yeah. These two physiques are different depending on the pose right? Right when you get me over here, you got me over there, because this is Hadi’s shot [most muscular] this is not a shot Derek should stand next to him on. Derek has a lot of maturing to go. I guarantee he’s 10 years younger than Hadi, yeah he looks a lot younger. He’s fresh and he’s got some longevity there.”
Ray: Samson Dauda Winning 2024 Arnold Classic & Mr. Olympia in Same Year Not Beyond His Reach’
Given his structure, potential, and size, Shawn Ray believes it’s only a matter of time before Samson Dauda takes the sport’s most coveted title.
He can also keep his weight down throughout the whole year and do what only two people have done, Ronnie Coleman and Dexter Jackson. Win the Arnold in March and the Olympia in October the next year, he can win both those Arnold Classics and the Olympia – something that hasn’t been done since Ronnie, Dexter, and Brandon Curry did it.”
“But Samson has a better opportunity because there is no comparison with Hadi and Derek. It’s either him, those two, or him. He’s either going to be third on the three-peat or he’s going to be first. If he shuts the door on both of them, we’re not talking about Derek or Hadi anymore,” shared Ray.
“If he stays lean and uses his time to go back to Ohio and defend his title, he gets that little cushion financially, but he also gains that confidence. Then he has to have it in his head, ‘I want to beat Brandon, I want to beat Dexter, and I want to beat Ronie, and win the Olympia in the same calendar year. That is not beyond his reach.”
Ray emphasized that Dauda won’t just be a future Mr. Olympia, but the next champion.
“This was Samson Dauda’s show to lose,” added Ray.
“Samson is in control of his own fate and I think he can beat both of them no question. He’s the next Mr. Olympia.”
Given the fan backlash following Lunsford’s victory, Ray made it clear that politics had nothing to do with the judge’s verdict.
“Hadi got the Mr. Olympia title, not because he was Persian but because he deserved it and he chose him. So the same situation, Jesus, six-time second-place finalist in the Mr. Olympia, Hadi just got second the first time, third, I mean he’s already been to the mountain top. Nobody took anything away from him. You can’t bring the political aspect, you already had it, they gave it to you.”
“He knows what being a Mr. Olympia is like, he’s going to do everything he can to win back the title. I remember when Jay was making a comeback and they said you couldn’t win it and he actually came back and won it,” said Ray.
Shawn Ray wasn’t the only high-profile name in the sport to break down the controversial Olympia outcome. Days ago, IFBB Pro League Vice President Tyler Manion systematically assessed all eight mandatory poses Lunsford and Choopan presented on the Olympia stage. After careful consideration, Manion revealed Lunsford won 5-3.
There’s no telling what will happen at the next Mr. Olympia after the landscape’s shake-up. We look forward to seeing Dauda, Choopan, and Lunsford wage war once again when the biggest show of the year returns in October!