From world records to shocking deaths to contests-during-Covid, we look back at the year that was in muscles, strength, and fitness.
Unfortunately, the biggest stories of 2021 were dismal.
🦠 The first was the persistence of the COVID-19 PANDEMIC, which continued to impact the fitness world. It was reported in August that 22% of U.S. health clubs and gyms had permanently closed during the pandemic, with a collective revenue loss of nearly $30 billion. Bodybuilding and lifting events were cancelled, moved, rescheduled, and/or downsized. For example, the Arnold Classic was held in September (not March), with only a few events and no expo. And, speaking of Arnold, the muscle world’s greatest icon suffered a backlash for his “Screw your freedom” comments regarding anti-vaxers and anti-makers. Some in our community lost their lives to Covid. Some, including bodybuilding legend Flex Wheeler, were hospitalized but pulled through.
⚰️ The other biggest story is also, sadly, a repeat: the HEART-RELATED DEATHS of bodybuilders way too young. This was brought home when 37-year-old 212 Olympia top competitor George Peterson and 46-year-old 2018 Mr. Olympia Shawn Rhoden died a month apart. Somethings need to be done (ideas include a heart health education program and blood test and blood pressure contest requirements) or this story will, sadly, keep getting retold with different names. (Story on pro bodybuilder mortality)
Mr. Olympia 🏆 Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay wasn’t at his best, but he won his second Sandow in a lackluster Mr. O. 🥈2nd: Brandon Curry 🥉3rd: Hadi Choopan (Full story)
212 🏆 Derek Lunsford / Classic 🏆 Chris Bumstead / Men’s Physique 🏆 Brandon Hendrickson / Wheelchair 🏆 Harold Kelley / Ms. Olympia 🏆 Andrea Shaw / Women’s Physique 🏆 Sarah Villegas / Figure 🏆 Cydney Gillon / Fitness 🏆 Whitney Jones / Bikini 🏆 Jennifer Dorie / Wellness 🏆 Francielle Mattos
💪 ARNOLD CLASSIC
🏆 Nick Walker, 27, won the A.C. with two-time and defending champ William Bonac unable to compete. 🥈2nd: Iain Villaire 🥉3rd: Steve Kuclo (Full story)
🏋️ WORLD’S STRONGEST MAN
🏋️ WORLD’S STRONGEST WOMAN
🏆 Rebecca Roberts of Wales won her first WSW title.
🏋️ SUMMER OLYMPICS
🥇China dominated weightlifting once again, winning seven gold medals. Americans performed well with two women medaling 🥈🥇and a 21-year-old man finishing fourth (no American guy has medaled since 1984). 🥇Georgian super-heavyweight Lasha Talakhadze continued to break his own records with literally no competition. Full story here. (Full story)
🌎 DEADLIFTS 7 of the 12 men’s divisions saw new world deadlift records, including 986.5 lbs. (447.5 kg.) in the 242 class by Poland’s Krzysztof Wierzbicki. And 5 of the 10 women’s divisions also saw new world records, including, repeatedly, by three women in the unlimited division. Ultimately, Tamara Walcott pulled the biggest women’s deadlift ever: 636 lbs. (288.5 kg.).
🌎 POWERLIFTING TOTAL Weighing 396, super-heavyweight Daniel Bell broke the 2600 barrier, totaling 2607 lbs. (1182.5 kg.), raw with wraps.
🌎 WEIGHTLIFTING The Georgian GOAT, Lasha Talakhadze, set and broke his best-ever marks three times this year, upping the record total from 485 to 488 to 492 kg. His record snatch is now 225 kg. (496 lbs.) and record clean-and-jerk is now 267 kg. (588.6 lbs.).
🎬 Super muscles and super strength continued to rule at the box office. SUPERHEROES occupied five of the top six spots with Spider-Man: No Way Home running away with the title. The only non-Marvel movie in the top six was F9: The Last Saga with John Cena, whose stock is rapidly rising, providing the muscle previously supplied by The Rock.
🎬📺📱🎤 Speaking of DWAYNE JOHNSON, he was everywhere from Jungle Cruise in cineplexes to Young Rock and Red Notice on TVs to the world’s second most popular Instagram account to his lines in the Tech N9ne song “Face Off” that became a ubiquitous meme: “It’s about drive, it’s about power.” No one since Arnold has done more to mainstream massive muscles than The Rock.
📷 JIMMY CARUSO, 95, photographer, took iconic Arnold photos in the ’60s & ’70s
💪🤼♂️ MELISSA COATES, 50, bodybuilder, won a pro bodybuilding title, pro wrestler (Tribute)
🏋️🌎 ERNIE FRANTZ, 86, powerlifter, won 1974 World Championships 181-lb. class, 9 master’s world records, co-founded American Powerlifting Federation
💪🏆 JENNY LYNN-POWELL, 49, figure competitor, 2006 & 2007 Ms. Figure Olympia, won 12 pro figure titles (Tribute)
💪 JOHN MEADOWS, 49, bodybuilder, popular trainer/nutritionist
💪 MATT MENDENHALL, 61, bodybuilder, perhaps best amateur to not go pro (Tribute)
🤼♂️ PAUL ORNDORFF, 71, pro wrestler, “Mr. Wonderful” in ’80s
💪 GEORGE PETERSON, 37, bodybuilder, won 2 classic pro shows and a 212 pro show
🏋️🥇🌎 YURY VLASOV, 85, weightlifter, 1960 heavyweight Olympic champ, 4-time World Champ, 34 world records
THE YEAR AHEAD
Five questions for 2022:
❓ Will Brandon Curry or William Bonac win the Arnold Classic again?
❓ Can Julius Maddox become the first human to bench 800 raw?
❓ Can Lasha Talakhadze become the first human to total 500kg. in weightlifting?
❓ Will Big Ramy secure his dynasty with a Mr. Olympia three-peat?
❓ Will the world, and the fitness world, return to something like normal?