Kamal El-Gargni will compete for the open Masters Olympia at 51. / Instagram
For only the second time in two decades, there will be a Masters Olympia this year, and for the first time it will be more than just a men’s open contest—much more, a whopping 10 divisions. The Masters Olympia was held every year from 1994 to 2003, came back in 2012, but then vanished again. On August 25-27, the Masters O returns in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, with a total of $229,000 in prize money spread across the 10 contests: a total of $40,000 for the men’s open, $29,000 for each of the other nine divisions. In addition, each of the 10 division winners will qualify for the 2023 Olympia in Orlando, Florida, on November 2-5.
Competitors must be 40 or over. For men, the divisions are: open, 212, physique, and classic physique. For women, the divisions are: bodybuilding, physique, figure, fitness, bikini, and wellness.
Prospective competitors submitted requests, and invitations were extended today to the selected competitors in all 10 Masters Olympia divisions. What follows are the lists for open men, 212 men, and men’s classic physique and our preview of the biggest names and prospective favorites.
For the invited competitors in the other seven divisions, go here.
2023 MASTERS OLYMPIA MEN’S OPEN
There are 19 competitors in the men’s open division. On paper, the favorite for the $20,000 first place prize is 51-year-old Kamal El-Gargni, who finished third in the 2022 212 Olympia and ninth in the 2023 (open) Arnold Classic. Can the ageless El-Gargni win his first open contest? Two others who have placed relatively high recently are 43-year-old Maxx Charles, fifth in the Boston Pro last year and 48-year-old Philip Clahar, sixth in that same contest.
There’s also a gaggle of guys making comebacks whom we haven’t seen on stages for years, including Josh Lenartowicz (last competed: 2020), Fred Smalls (last competed: 2018), and Robert Burneika (last competed: 2014). What will they look like after long layoffs? Lenartowicz, who finished third in the 2016 Arnold Classic and won an open pro show four years ago, could certainly take this title if he can regain something near his top shape. But masters shows always bring up a lot of ifs.
The Masters O is always good for a wildcard that we’re looking forward to seeing, regardless of his finish. In this case, it’s the classical poser Rusty Jeffers, who will be 59 on contest day, but, judging by recent photos, is still jacked.
2023 MASTERS OLYMPIA COMPETITORS
2023 MASTERS OLYMPIA MEN’S 212
There are 18 competitors in this division, in which entrants much weigh-in at 212 pounds or less. David Henry is a bodybuilding legend. He placed 10th (out of 24) in the open 2007 Mr. Olympia and won the 2008 202 Olympia (the precursor to the 212 Olympia) and numerous 212 pro shows. He was last seen winning the 212 Masters over-40 at the 2021 Legion Pro. At 48, can Henry dial in enough cuts to collect yet another trophy in Romania? Hide Yamagishi, who won two 212 pro shows in 2019, will be 50 and retains his proportionate physique. As always, conditioning will be paramount in this division where size is limited. The 212 Masters O may allow a lesser-known bodybuilder to make a name for himself, collect the $10,000 for first place, and qualify for the 212 Olympia.
2023 MASTERS OLYMPIA MEN’S 212 COMPETITORS
Anwar Darwish Ali
Fernando Noronha De Almeida
Ricardo Plata Duran
Milton A. Martinez
2023 MASTERS OLYMPIA CLASSIC PHYSIQUE
There is one clear favorite for the $10,000 top prize among the 19 bodybuilders in this division. Alex Cambronero, who will be 41, is a major force in open classic physique. He’s coming off a third place finish in the 2023 Arnold Classic Physique in March, a contest he won in 2020. The ultimate veteran in any division is Darrem Charles, who will be 55. Charles made his pro debut way back in 1992 (so did Ronnie Coleman!), won eight open pro shows between 2002 and 2007, and finished seventh in the last last Masters Olympia, held in 2012. He’s entered more than 90 pro contests, a record which may never be broken. Wherever he places, Darrem Charles represents the true spirit of the Masters O.
2023 MASTERS OLYMPIA CLASSIC PHYSIQUE COMPETITORS
Luis Garcia Martinez