Numbers don't lie, or do they? Mark Twain once said:
There are lies, damned lies and statistics.
Let it be known that I wrote this article free of prejudice. I wanted to see what the numbers revealed, and just who was the greatest Mr. Olympia competitor of all-time.
This year we mark the 50th anniversary of the Mr. Olympia competition. What follows is an analysis of the results from the previous 49 competitions. Points will be awarded as follows:
- 1st place finish = 25 points
- 2nd place finish = 20 points
- 3rd place finish = 15 points
- 4th place finish = 10 points
- 5th place finish = 7 points
- 6th place finish = 6 points
- 7th place finish = 5 points
- 8th place finish = 4 points
- 9th place finish = 3 points
- 10th place finish = 2 points
- 11th place and lower = 1 point
With this system in place, I proceeded to add up the points for every Olympia competitor in the history of the contest. What follows are the results.
Before we begin though, let's take a look at a bit of Mr. Olympia trivia.
- The first 10 Mr. Olympia competitions never featured more than 5 competitors per contest.
- Sergio Oliva's 1968 Mr. Olympia victory was uncontested.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger entered his first Mr. Olympia in 1969, but was defeated by Sergio Oliva.
- In 1971, three out of the four Mr. Olympia competitors were disqualified. Arnold Schwarzenegger won his second Olympia this year against no competition.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger's first 6 Olympia victories were against a cumulative total of 12 other competitors.
- During 1974 we saw the first instance of weight classes. Arnold Schwarzenegger won the over 200lb weight class and Franco Columbu won the under 200lb class.
- Franco Columbu become the first under 200lb class bodybuilder to win an overall Mr. Olympia title. He defeated Ken Waller, the top finisher in the over 200lb class.
- The total prize money awarded for the 1977 Mr. Olympia was $13,000. By 1979 the total prize money had jumped to $50,000.
- 1979 was the last Mr. Olympia competition that featured weight divisions.
- In the 1980 Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger entered at the last minute. He took home a victory, but this competition remains one of the most controversial in the history of bodybuilding.
- Because of the previous year's controversy, 3 top competitors boycotted the 1981 Mr. Olympia: Frank Zane, Mike Mentzer and Boyer Coe.
- In 1982 Chris Dickerson became the oldest competitor to win an Olympian crown. He was 43. Chris did not compete in 1983, and placed only 11th when he returned to the Olympia stage in 1984.
- By 1984 the total Mr. Olympia prize money had jumped to $100,000.
- 1990 marked the first Mr. Olympia contest to feature a drug test. Lee Haney won his 7th consecutive title, with future Olympia champ Dorian Yates placing second.
- The 1992 Mr. Olympia competition featured 2 firsts: Dorian Yates' first victory, and Ronnie Coleman's first Olympia competition.
- Dorian Yates won the 1994 Mr. Olympia despite having a torn and visually deformed bicep.
- 1996 featured another controversial competition. Many thought Nasser El Sonbaty had defeated Dorian Yates. After judging, Nasser finished third behind Yates and Shawn Ray. Nasser was later disqualified for using a banned diuretic.
- Flex Wheeler withdrew from the 1997 Mr.Olympia due to a car-jacking that left him bruised and battered.
- In 1998 Ronnie Coleman surprised the field by winning his first Olympia.
- Jay Cutler failed his 2001 Mr. Olympia drug test, testing positive for a banned diuretic. This result was later reversed due to the fact that the lab was not officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee.
- In 2002 the Bodyonics Pinnacle supplement company donated a Cadillac to the Olympia winner.
- The 2003 Mr. Olympia saw a jump in the total prize money to $404,000.
- A challenge round was introduced at the 2004 Mr. Olympia. All scores were discarded after the third round, making the final round the only one that mattered.
- Jay Cutler took home the 2006 Mr. Olympia title after finishing 2nd the previous 4 years.
- In 2009 Jay Cutler became the first ever Mr. Olympia winner to reclaim his title after a previous defeat.
The 30 Greatest Mr. Olympia Competitors of All Time
The greatest Mr. Olympia of all-time is...
#1 - Ronnie Coleman: 242 Points
“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights.” - Ronnie Coleman
#2 - Jay Cutler: 231 Points
“I had the goal to be the best since day one.” - Jay Cutler
#3 - Lee Haney: 210 Points
"Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn't formed in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them." - Lee Haney
#4 - Arnold Schwarzenegger: 195 Points
"The resistance that you fight physically in the gym and the resistance that you fight in life can only build a strong character." - Arnold Schwarzenegger
#5 - Dorian Yates: 170 Points
"At the end of the day it's not a weight contest, it's a visual contest. And it doesn't matter what you say you weigh, if you don't look that big then you don't look that big." - Dorian Yates
#6 - Kevin Levrone: 168 Points
"Every bodybuilder is extraordinary and contributes something good to the sport. There is something I like about every Mr. Olympia." - Kevin Levrone
#7 - Frank Zane: 160 Points
“A lot of guys have better genes but if you work hard and consistently, you can outperform them.” - Frank Zane
#8 - Shawn Ray: 147 Points
"The key to building massive pecs will always be related to how much weight you're tossing around in the gym! You play with little weights, you wind up with little pecs it's that simple." - Shawn Ray
#9 - Dexter Jackson: 143 Points
"It's not about mass any more. It's all about symmetry, definition, conditioning. Everything has to be on point in order to win the show." - Dexter Jackson
#10 - Sergio Oliva: 134 Points
"I never expected to do bodybuilding because my country was a communist country and in a communist country back then, bodybuilding was not allowed." - Sergio Oliva
#11 - Franco Columbu: 118 Points
"I'm the strongest bodybuilding who ever lived, I think." - Franco Columbu
#12 - Phil Heath: 117 Points
"I refuse to be just average." - Phil Heath
#13 - Lee Labrada: 100 Points
"Bodybuilding is all about putting stress on a muscle. If you cannot achieve a sufficient amount of stress using straight repetitions and sets, then these advanced training techniques can help the advanced trainer push the muscle beyond the normal failure point and into that growth threshold." - Lee Labrada
#14 - Flex Wheeler: 95 Points
"I think you, and others, would be aware that the quality is not the same as it was back in the 90s when Shawn Ray, Chris Cormier, Kevin Levrone, Paul Dillett, Milos Sarcev and myself were at our finest. It hasn't been that way for some time." - Flex Wheeler
#15 - Rich Gaspari: 94 Points
"When I was a kid I used to read a lot of the Batman and Superman comic books and also the Incredible Hulk. It used to inspire me because they made the characters look so built and muscular. I would wonder, wow, can someone actually look like that." - Rich Gaspari
#16 (Tie) - Albert Beckles: 73 Points
"When you start, first you look at yourself. You`re too fat. You`re too skinny. Then you try bodybuilding, which helps you take care of yourself. You eat better; you cut out the partying, cut out the booze. And once you do it, you feel better." - Albert Beckles
#16 (Tie) - Nasser El Sonbaty: 73 Points
"I never wanted to become a pro bodybuilder and I never had the desire to look like a bodybuilder when I started out. I was 17 years of age and was playing soccer. At that time I went to a little weight room, which was located next to the soccer field. I just wanted to do some leg presses and some leg extensions in order to have stronger legs for soccer." - Nasser El Sonbaty
#18 (Tie) - Chris Dickerson: 71 Points
"I am an aesthetic body. My body does what it does and if I train in the same manner as two other people or ten other people, my body would develop the way it does regardless. And I always say this at my seminars." - Chris Dickerson
#18 (Tie) - Chris Cormier: 71 Points
"I am not that type of a person that someone could just doubt me and I will sit there and take that. I will show everyone exactly who I am and what I am made of, how hard I can work, how good a competitor I will be this year, and that I have a great body to work with." - Chris Cormier
#20 - Kai Greene: 70 Points
"Your dreams are always going to be the most important to you than they will be to anybody else. So keep dreaming, keep believing, keep pressing forward. So all those warriors out there – be encouraged." - Kai Greene
#21 - Victor Martinez: 66 Points
"I got into lifting weights as something to do after school. I started with a few weights in my bedroom, and here and there I’d pick things up for a few dollars from friends around the neighborhood. Soon I had a whole bunch of steel plates, dumbbells and bars in my bedroom in my parents’ apartment." - Victor Martinez
#22 - Serge Nubret: 60 Points
"Bodybuilding is not just about physical training with weights to change how you look. It's about mind, body and spirit together in union so that everything grows, not just your muscles." - Serge Nubret
#23 - Samir Bannout: 59 Points
"I have always enjoyed training very hard. But I have noticed that as you get older the response is not as efficient and it is not as easy - not as good and the recovery is not as fast. But you have to adapt accordingly; you have to adjust." - Samir Bannout
#24 - Robby Robinson: 57 Points
"I have always enjoyed early training it just really gets you going for the rest of your day. I train one time per day, because my whole theory is 90% of bodybuilding is nutrition timing. The right nutrition with the right nutrients at the right time, making sure you take in a lot of water. Doing the same thing religiously 24/7 365 days per year, bodybuilding is all about repetition." - Robby Robinson
#25 - Mohamed Makkawy: 56 Points
"Back home in Egypt I used to be an Olympic weightlifter, and that's where I paid my dues with endless heavy, power workouts." - Mohamed Makkawy
#26 - Harold Poole: 55 Points
"I began on the iron to get strong at the age of 12. I trained Monday, Wednesday and Friday three times a week and I never missed a workout and until the age of 19, when I won the Mr. Universe. It took eight years of hard work, three times a week." - Harold Poole
#27 - Dennis Wolf: 54 Points
"This is what I do for my living and I've always wanted to be a pro bodybuilder. I'm just living my dream and am happy that everything has gone so well." - Dennis Wolf
#28 - Boyer Coe: 52 Points
"I suppose I became interested in bodybuilding as a way to prove myself to my family and certainly to myself." - Boyer Coe
#29 (Tie) - Larry Scott: 50 Points
"We generally use an exercise until we cease to progress on it and then change to another. This generally lasts a couple of months. Thus the workout program is in a constant state of flux." - Larry Scott
#29 (Tie) - Branch Warren: 50 Points
"It took me 20 years of hard training to get the physique I have today. What you need is what I had – believe in yourself." - Branch Warren