Mr. Olympia 1984: Shirley Haney, Lee Haney, Joe Weider

The 1984 Mr. Olympia captured bodybuilding at a crossroads. It was a clash of its past and its future. The past was best represented by the legendary Sergio Oliva, one of three previous Mr. Olympias in the lineup. Bu t the past was also the venue. Bodybuilding’s ultimate contest was back, after 10 years away, in New York City, where the first six Mr. Olympias were staged, and back in the Felt Forum of Madison Square Garden, its home in 1974. The future was clear from the moment he appeared at center stage. It was 24-year-old Lee Haney, who won his first of a record-breaking eight Olympia titles on November 3, 1984.

mr olympia 1984
Legends: Lee Haney and Sergio Oliva in 1984

Let’s journey now to the year of “Purple Rain,” Valley girls, and The Terminator, and relive the 1984 Mr. Olympia, one of the greatest bodybuilding contests of all time.

mr olympia 1984
Way behind-the-scenes at the 1984 Mr. Olympia: Tony Pearson hits a pose, Bill Grant pumps up against the bathroom wall, Sergio Oliva curls in the background. / Mike Neveux

MR. OLYMPIA 1984 LINEUP

There were 20 competitors in the 1984 Mr. Olympia.

mr olympia 1984 lineup
The competitors line up for prejudging at the 1984 Mr. Olympia.

Let’s breakdown the 10 that mattered most in the order they appeared onstage.

SERGIO OLIVA

The audience of 5000 wouldn’t have to wait to see “The Myth” in person. When competitors drew numbers at the Doral Inn, Sergio Oliva got #1. It was the first-time Oliva, winner of three straight Mr. Olympias (1966-69) had appeared at an Olympia since the 1972 contest, when he controversially lost to Arnold Schwarzenegger even though The Myth was at his lifetime best. Twelve years. For twelve long years, while he quarreled with the IFBB, Oliva dominated lesser contests in lesser federations and worked as a Chicago policeman. His legend grew even as his prime slipped away. In his absence, Olympia standards had changed. The fuller, smoother look of the late ’60s and early ’70s was out; the drier, leaner look was in.

Sergio Oliva 1984
The Myth returns: 1966-69 Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the greatest-ever Mr. Olympia. Our first contestant is the one and only Sergio Oliva!” promoter and emcee Wayne DeMilia bellowed at prejudging. The Myth at 43, not as mythical as before, sauntered to the Felt Forum’s center stage. As he struck poses, the crowd roared its approval as if it was ’72 all over again, but by modern standards Oliva was smooth-ish and his middle-aged wheels were somewhat deflated. Still, when competitor #1 hit his trademark, arms-over-head victory pose, it still wowed all lucky enough to witness it. And that’s what the New York audience had come to experience. They’d come to see The Myth, of those black-and-white magazine photos, in person, and they roared ever louder.

SAMIR BANNOUT

The 5’7″ Samir Bannout was 4 days shy of 29. Largely on the basis of his crisp conditioning and stupendous back, “The Lebanese Lion” had won the Mr. Olympia, his first pro victory, the year before, defeating rookie Lee Haney. That was then. This time his recurring problems with water retention again blurred him. Bannout wasn’t sharp enough to defend his title, and Haney neutralized his strength and eclipsed him in the back poses.

Samir Bannout 1984 Olympia
The reigning champ: Samir Bannout / YouTube

TOM PLATZ

Tom Platz caused a sensation at the 1981 Mr. Olympia when his already-stupendous legs exploded to mind-blowingly colossal and zippered dimensions and his upper body was transformed, as well. After a controversial third that year, he was the early favorite in 1982, but a severe biceps tear and delayed surgery effectively ended his career. Sixth at the 1982 Mr. Olympia and off stages in 1983, Platz was making something of a comeback in ’84.

Tom Platz 1984 Olympia
Abs and thigh: Always a great pose for Tom Platz.

But, as much as he tried to hide it in poses, you couldn’t overlook his depleted right arm, and his conditioning was hazy. He competed three more times the next three years, but by the 1984 Mr. Olympia, Tom Platz, once heralded as the Mr. O heir apparent and still only 29, was washed.

ALBERT BECKLES

Like Albert Beckles himself, the emcee claimed the ageless Barbadian was “54 years old.” In fact, he was 46, which still made him the oldest competitor. And he was still one of the best, finishing fourth. Beckles won two pro shows in 1984. And the next year he won another, and, at 47, placed second in the Mr. Olympia! He did it all on the strength of his superb conditioning. In the rear double biceps, his back was a relief map of peaks and valleys, and his pointy biceps sported two of bodybuilding’s all-time highest peaks.

Albert Beckles 1984 Olympia
Ageless Al Beckles hits a front double biceps. / YouTube

BOB PARIS

After dominating amateur bodybuilding the year before, winning both the NPC Nationals and the heavyweight World title, Bob Paris was making his much-anticipated pro debut. And, like Lee Haney, he was only 24. Was he the future? Coming into the Olympia, it seemed very possible that the aesthetically flawless Paris would be contending for bodybuilding’s ultimate prize for years to come. The 5’11” and 235-pound Paris had all an ideal structure and all the right muscle in all the right places, but he lacked the high-def look of competitors like Beckles. He competed in four more Mr. Olympias in his eight-year career, but his seventh this year was Paris’ highest Olympia placing.

mr olympia 1984 Bob Paris
Rookie Bob Paris strikes an appropriately classical pose. / YouTube

CHRIS DICKERSON

After winning the 1982 Mr. Olympia, Chris Dickerson stayed off stages for two years before making this ill-advised comeback at 45. Frequently out-sized, Dickerson was significantly smaller than before and suffered a humbling placing out of the top 10—far and away the lowest of his storied career.

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1982 Mr. Olympia Chris Dickerson was far from his best. / YouTube

JUSUP WILKOSZ

On the other hand, German, 36-year-old Jusup Wilkosz never looked better. His 6′ and 230-pound physique was Herculean, with especially thick pecs, delts, and abs; and his grainy conditioning was on-point. Wilcosz displayed it all with appropriately classical poses, and was justly rewarded with a bronze medal finish, his highest Olympia placing. Wilcosz competed only once more.

mr olympia 1984
Jusup Wilcosz was at his best. / YouTube

ROY CALLENDER

Roy Callender or Tom Platz should’ve won the 1981 Mr. Olympia. But Callender was too low (fourth) then and too high (fifth) this time. 1984 was something of a comeback, but Father Time finally caught the 44-year-old from Barbados, as he had lost much of the thickness that won him pro shows a few years prior. Callender retired afterwards, only to comeback again, briefly and unsuccessfully, in 1987.

Mr Olympia 1984
Roy Callender was dry but downsized. / YouTube

LEE HANEY

Lee Haney had been a rookie sensation the year before at only 23, winning his pro debut and finishing third in his first Mr. Olympia. But competing seven times, he was always dieting in 1983, and, at 5’11 and 228 pounds, he felt deflated at the Olympia, finishing behind 205-pound Samir Bannout and 160-pound Mohammed Makkawy. So, he stayed off stages in 1984 until the Olympia, training with skyrocketing, 21-year-old Rich Gaspari (who won his class at the Nationals and World Championships that year), growing, maturing, transforming.

Rich Gaspari Lee Haney
Rich Gaspari encourages Lee Haney, 1984.

In one of the most dramatic one-year transformations in bodybuilding history, 24-year-old Lee Haney showed up at the Mr. Olympia with a new physique: 243 lean pounds on an X-frame and an unbeatable combination of size and aesthetics. Mass with class. Haney easily won his first of a record-setting eight Mr. Olympias.

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The future is here: Lee Haney crunches a most-muscular.
1984 Lee Haney
Mass with class: Haney on his way to becoming Mr. Olympia.

MOHAMED MAKKAWY

It’s remarkable that Mohamed Makkawy was runner-up in two consecutive Mr. Olympias when you consider he was only 5’2″ and 160 pounds. But that’s why he was nicknamed “The Magic Egyptian.” Through his masterful posing, Makkawy displayed his symmetrical physique so as to cast a spell, making spectators forget his small stature. He was second in the 1983 Mr. Olympia, just ahead of rookie Lee Haney, and second again this year, just behind Haney. Though only 31, Makkawy then retired, at very near the top of bodybuilding, though he did make a comeback in the late ’90s.

Makkawy 1984 Olympia
The Magic Egyptian Mohamed Makkawy casts a spell. / YouTube

MR. OLYMPIA 1984 EYEWITNESS REPORTS

Rick Wayne, then the editor-in-chief of Flex magazine, attended the 1984 Mr. Olympia and wrote about it in his book Muscle Wars. These are excerpts from that book:

At the sound of [Sergio’s] name, the house exploded. New York had given birth to the Olympia. The city had also made Oliva. The rousing cheer inevitably had a tone of self-satisfaction, the crowd honoring what it smugly deemed its own creations. Sergio got his first standing ovation before he’d even made it to the stage.

Mr Olympia 1984
Mohamed Makkawy, Tom Platz, and Sergio Oliva hit front doubles. Background left to right: Robby Robinson, Bob Paris, Chris Dickerson, Tony Pearson, Chuck Williams.

So right now you’re probably asking yourself, “Was the ’84 Olympia truly the greatest ever?” After all, it boasted three former Mr. Olympia winners: Oliva, Dickerson, and Bannout. Alas, none was in the shape that had previously won him special distinction.

Sergio may have underestimated the competition. But then, who could have anticipated a transformed Lee Haney? Never before had a physique contestant so easily outclassed his opposition. Not only were Lee’s best bodyparts—back, chest, waist, thighs—better than ever, but previously weak areas were now in harmony with the rest of his incredible development. From the moment Haney stepped onstage you knew that Dickerson’s ambition—and Samir Bannout’s—to win the Big O more than once would remain a pipe dream, in 1984, at any rate.

Lee Haney Sergio Oliva
The Future and the Past: Haney vs. Oliva.

Lee thanked the audience for its support. “It’s been a wonderful night for Shirley [his wife] and me,” he said. “I have achieved my dream. But I also want to say that meeting Sergio Oliva will always be one of the highlights of my life.” Attaboy. Throughout the contest Lee had treated Oliva with reverence. Sergio was hardly a threat on this occasion, and Lee saw no reason to parade over him, unlike some who ended up losers anyway.

Lee Haney 1984 Olympia
A unique pose in Haney’s routine highlights his shoulder size. / YouTube

The late Shawn Perine also attended the 1984 Mr. Olympia when only a young fan, and he wrote about it in Flex magazine in 2007:

Precontest, Sergio Oliva’s return to the Olympia stage was all the talk; postcontest, the name Lee Haney was on everyone’s lips. Oliva’s “comeback” into the IFBB fray had been magazine fodder for much of the year leading up to the 20th installation of the Olympia. Certainly, the legend, even at 43, had size aplenty left, but whether he could achieve the level of definition necessary to compete in the ’80s was open to speculation. Oliva did a respectable job of matching the conditioning requirements of the era, but it didn’t matter much in the end. Nor did the efforts of the other 18 competitors not named Haney. At 243 pounds, with the greatest back ever seen atop such a miniscule hip structure, Haney simply blew his competition out of the arena and onto Eight Avenue. The moment the 24-year-old took the Madison Square Garden stage, it was game over. Immediately, fans began to wonder aloud whether this was the man who could break Schwarzenegger’s record of seven O victories—Haney would eventually win eight.

mr olympia 1984
Left to right: Mohamed Makkawy (2nd), Ben Weider, Shirley Haney, Lee Haney (1st) with the Sandow trophy, Joe Weider, Jusup Wilcosz (3rd).

MR. OLYMPIA 1984 RESULTS

November 3, 1984 / Madison Square Garden, New York City

1. Lee Haney ($50,000)

2. Mohamed Makkawy ($25,000)

3.  Jusup Wilkcosz ($10,000)

4. Albert Beckles ($6000)

5. Roy Callender ($4000)

6. Samir Bannout ($2500)

7. Bob Paris ($2000)

8.  Sergio Oliva ($2000)

9.  Tom Platz ($1000)

10.  Bob Birdsong ($1000)

11.  Chris Dickerson

12.  Tony Pearson

13.  Boyer Coe

14.  Chuck Williams

15. Bill Grant

16.  Charles Glass

17. Robby Robinson

18. Hubert Metz

19. James Gaubert

20. Appie Steenbeek