This year feels different. We truly are witnessing a changing of the guard in bodybuilding. It’s not just a younger generation coming to the fore, but also a greater global presence. When the lineup was announced, there were twice as many non-USA bodybuilders (12) as Americans (6) in this Mr. Olympia, but travel issues are complicating that. Dexter Jackson competed in every Olympia but one from the ’90s until last December—a record 21. He’s now retired. Phil Heath won seven consecutive Olympias, but it’s been four years since his last victory. Is he now retired? Then we have the buzz surrounding 27-year-old Nick Walker, who, due to the rescheduling of contests, won the Arnold Classic a mere two weeks before this year’s O. Meanwhile, new Mr. O, Big Ramy, the fourth different champ over the last four years, is trying to repeat and remain on top. Will there be a fifth champ this year, or are things not that different? We preview the qualified Mr. Olympia competitors, their strengths, their weaknesses, and a question that each can answer with his physique in Orlando on October 8-9.

Update: VLAD SUHORUCHKO announced on October 1 that he was unable to attain a travel visa. We’ve removed him from our preview. We look forward to seeing the 25-year-old Ukrainian phenom make his Olympia debut next year.

Update: NATHAN DE ASHA, who won the inaugural Arnold UK on October 2, will not be competing in the Mr. Olympia, reportedly because his legal issues prevented him from attaining a travel visa. We’ve removed him from our preview. That leaves us with 16 competitors, the same as last year.

  

WILLIAM BONAC (Netherlands)

William Bonac before 2021 Olympia
Bonac, Sept. 1, 2021 / Instagram

Age: 39

2020 Olympia Finish: 5th

Best Olympia Finish: 2nd in 2019

Strengths: thickness, conditioning, most muscular pose

Weaknesses: narrow shoulders, relaxed poses

Question: A two-time Arnold winner, Bonac was this year’s Arnold favorite but missed the show because of travel restrictions. We’d love to see him standing next to the new Arnold-winner in the first callout, answering this: Can he beat Nick Walker at the Olympia?

HADI CHOOPAN (Iran)

Age: 35

2020 Olympia Finish: 4th

Best Olympia Finish: 3rd in 2019

Strengths: quads, shoulder width

Weaknesses: waist width, triceps

Question: Choopan has been in California for a month, prepping for first place. Can he pack even more muscle on his 5’7” frame and challenge Big Ramy for the title?

BRANDON CURRY (USA)

Brandon Curry before 2021 Olympia
Curry, Aug. 30, 2021 / Instagram

Age: 38

2020 Olympia Finish: 2nd

Best Olympia Finish: winner in 2019

Strengths: arms, back

Weaknesses: legs, inconsistent conditioning

Question: Curry’s upper body could be the show’s best, especially in the front double biceps. But there will surely be some monster truck wheels in the first callout. Can the 15th Mr. O bring enough lower body size, as well as enough cuts, to reclaim the title?

Related: Brandon Curry: 5 Things to Know

MAMDOUH “BIG RAMY” ELSSBIAY (Egypt)

Age: 37

2020 Olympia Finish: winner

Best Olympia Finish: winner in 2020

Strengths: quads, back and shoulder width

Weaknesses: calves, inconsistent conditioning

Question: Despite finishing third in last year’s Arnold Classic and sixth in his previous Olympia (2018), Big Ramy roared back to win last year’s Olympia convincingly, becoming bodybuilding’s 16th Mr. O. Those disappointing placings were because of muddled definition. Can he bring enough fine detailing to his colossal physique (the rear double biceps will be crucial) to repeat as champ?

Related: Big Ramy: 5 Things to Know

REGAN GRIMES (Canada)

Age: 28

2020 Olympia Finish: 15th

Best Olympia Finish: 15th in 2020

Strengths: classical shape, abs

Weaknesses: arms, overall size

Question: Will he ever have enough muscle for an Olympia first or even second callout, or should Grimes return to the classic physique division?

JAMES HOLLINGSHEAD (UK)

James Hollingshead before 2021 Olympia
Hollingshead, Sept. 28, 2021 / Instagram

Age: 32

2020 Olympia Finish: none

Best Olympia Finish: none

Strengths: proportions, density

Weaknesses: abs, inexperience

Question: “The Shed” hasn’t competed in a year (he won two pro shows last year) as he put everything into his Olympia debut, and recent Instagram photos prove he’s continued to fill out. Even a top 10 finish would be a successful first Olympia, but he’s the hardest competitor to predict. Simple question: How high can he go?

HUNTER LABRADA (USA)

Age: 29

2020 Olympia Finish: 8th

Best Olympia Finish: 8th in 2020

Strengths: legs, side shots

Weaknesses: chest, back shots

Question: This will only be Labrada’s fourth pro contest, and he’s won two of out of three, so far. Can he move up from last year’s Olympia debut into the top six and establish himself as a future contender?

PATRICK MOORE (USA)

Age: 37

2020 Olympia Finish: none

Best Olympia Finish: 10th in 2019

Strengths: proportions, classical shape

Weaknesses: hamstrings, size

Question: Moore has enough symmetrical mass to win small shows but not enough to contend for the Olympia or Arnold. Still, he has room to move up if he goes high-def. Can he better his 10th place finish and land in single digits?

HASSAN MOSTAFA (Egypt)

Hassan Mostafa before 2021 Olympia
Mostafa, Sept. 29, 2021 / Instagram

Age: 29

2020 Olympia Finish: none

Best Olympia Finish: none

Strengths: legs, overall size

Weaknesses: conditioning, inexperience

Question: Throughout the year, we’ve seen Mostafa display a huge but smooth physique. (He qualified for the O via points, not a victory.) Can he bring better definition to the Olympia stage?

ANDREA PRESTI (Italy)

Age: 33

2020 Olympia Finish: none

Best Olympia Finish: none

Strengths: shoulder width

Weaknesses: overall size

Question: Presti is going to be dwarfed by the big names. Can he bring his best conditioning and avoid the cellar?

JUSTIN RODRIGUEZ (USA)

Age: 31

2020 Olympia Finish: 10th

Best Olympia Finish: 10th in 2020

Strengths: width, arms

Weaknesses: legs, abs

Question: Coming off a so-so fourth-place finish at the Arnold, Rodriguez is a big question mark for the Olympia. Can he bring his best and crack the top six or will he be somewhere around 10th again?

MOHAMED SHAABAN (Egypt)

Age: 36

2020 Olympia Finish: none

Best Olympia Finish: none

Strengths: quads, rear lat spread

Weaknesses: calves, conditioning

Question: The third Egyptian in the O is kind of shorter version of Ramy with giant quads, lagging calves, and a hang glider rear lat spread. He even does the same hands-on-hips most muscular. But can he bring enough cuts to get noticed in his Olympia debut?

IAIN VALLIERE (Canada)

Age: 30

2020 Olympia Finish: 7th

Best Olympia Finish: 7th in 2020

Strengths: shoulder width, front lat spread

Weaknesses: chest, calves

Question: Since we just saw Valliere at the Arnold, we know he just doesn’t have enough muscle yet to contend for the Sandow. But, after a strong seventh last year, can he move into the top six?

NICK WALKER (USA)

Nick Walker side chest at 2021 Arnold Classic
Walker, Sept. 25, 2021 / Arnold Sports

Age: 27

2020 Olympia Finish: none

Best Olympia Finish: none

Strengths: quad cuts, abs, conditioning

Weaknesses: chest, width

Question: Let’s put the future Mr. O talk aside, for now. Until proven otherwise, these guys are in front of “The Mutant”: Ramy, Curry, Choopan, Bonac. Prognosticators are already penciling him in for fifth. That would be a successful debut. But can bodybuilding’s newest phenom knock off at least one legend he’s yet to beat and crack the top four?

AKIM WILLIAMS (USA)

Age: 37

2020 Olympia Finish: 6th

Best Olympia Finish: 6th in 2020

Strengths: shoulder width, front double biceps

Weaknesses: lower lats, inconsistent conditioning

Question: Williams nailed it at last year’s Olympia with his best-ever shape, finishing an eye-opening sixth. But then, with none of the five who beat him at the O in the contest, he was smooth-ish and a disappointing seventh at the recent Arnold. Can he repeat or better last year’s finish?

ROELLY WINKLAAR (Curacao)

Age: 44

2020 Olympia Finish: none

Best Olympia Finish: 3rd in 2018

Strengths: arms, shoulders, most muscular

Weaknesses: rear double biceps, conditioning

Question: Despite his great size and popularity, “The Beast” has disappointed in bodybuilding’s biggest events. In a combined 14 Olympias and (American) Arnold Classics, only once has he cracked the top three (third, 2018 O). As the only 40-something competing, can Winklaar dial in the cuts and do it a second time, or are his best days behind him?