You all know by now that Jay Cutler’s successful defense of his Mr. O crown will go down as one of the most controversial wins in the history of the event (check out “The Experts” prejudging and finals wrap ups on the Iron Man site). Despite being “off,” as in way smooth in his upper body, Cutler was still able to hold a two-point lead after the prejudging and, looking better at the Saturday night finals, escaped with a four-point victory over Victor Martinez.
The two polls I’ve seen did not have Jay winning; I just checked our site and Martinez had 46% of the votes, Cutler 32%. On the Bodybuilding.com Fan’s Choice Award, the big, bad Dennis Wolf, who finished fifth, captured 32% of the votes, Martinez 27%. Most of the people I talked to at the event felt Cutler was going to lose his crown; even Jay said, two days later on Pro Bodybuilding Weekly, that he was lucky the fans didn’t vote. Shawn Ray, who co-emceed the contest with Bob Cicherillo, told me he had Jay in fourth, behind Martinez, Wolf and Dexter Jackson (third place finisher).
However, I eventually found out that Cutler suffered from an infection, and was terribly sick by the time he stepped on stage for the prejudging. According to very reliable sources, Jay was only 260 pounds by game day, about 15 less than the year before. And, that he got worse through the night and was actually thinking about pulling out of the contest by mid morning the next day.
I know Cutler way too well to know that could not have been a serious choice; the man is too much of a warrior to not defend his crown on stage, win or lose, rather than forfeit the title. And, of course, he is $155,000 richer today after making the right decision regarding “to pull out or not pull out.” Ironically, this was the second year in a row Jay got sick prior to the contest and I’m sure many folks are going to say “again?”. Well, it does happen, especially in this industry, when pre-contest regimes are so tough they knock many a competitor into bed prior to a show.
A week after the contest I flew up to Northern Cal to emcee the NPC San Francisco Bodybuilding and Figure Championships; AMI’s Robin Chang, promoter of the Olympia Weekend, was on the flight, on his way visiting a friend, and we had the opportunity to have a long chat about the event.
First of all, congrats to Robin for a job well done (and wisely using John Balik as part of the “lighting” team). Secondly, as I told Chang, he had to be the happiest person leaving town after the Olympia–the controversy surrounding this wild affair only makes the hype for 2008 that much greater. Can Jay win a third time? Will Martinez finally get the crown a lot of people felt was his this year? Is Wolf ready to take home the Sandow?
The highlight of the contest was seeing the interaction between eight-time Mr. O Ronnie Coleman and the fans. Ronnie, 43, announced this was his final Olympia–I hope it’s his final contest, period–and was brought to tears when the large throng of fans honored him with the first standing ovation of his career.
Coleman was in better shape than last year, when Cutler broke his string of victories, and I may be one of the few who felt he actually might have deserved a little better fate than fourth. But, having the opportunity to see just how much the fans love him made Ronnie’s finish a side show to the real highlight of his career.