Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
For the first time since 2010, a bodybuilder not named Phil Heath has been crowned Mr. Olympia.
Shawn Rhoden stunned the seven-time defending champion to capture the 2018 title on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
In addition to breaking Heath’s run of dominance, Rhoden earned a $ 675,000 payout, the largest in the 53-year history of the Mr. Olympia competition.
Heath was chasing his record-tying eighth consecutive win in the competition. Lee Haney (1984-91) and Ronnie Coleman (1998-2005) remain the only bodybuilders to reach that mark. The 38-year-old did tie Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career mark of seven straight titles, so he is still keeping good company.
Appearing in his eighth Mr. Olympia competition, Rhoden earned his first victory. The Jamaican did have one runner-up finish in 2016, but he was finally able to capture the Eugen Sandow Trophy in one of the most memorable bodybuilding competitions in recent history.
Muscle Phone™ @MusclePhone
The $ 400k winning pose. Shawn Rhoden you 2018 Mr. #Olympia #bodybuilding champion https://t.co/Laa4Y3opgB
This is also a redemptive win for Rhoden, who was forced to withdraw from the Arnold Classic in March after announcing on Instagram he had been admitted to intensive care:
“Not only did I have the horrible flu going around but my hemoglobin level was at 4 (should be around 14). I lost A LOT of blood due to two ulcers bleeding into my intestine over a period of time. I was given 6 blood transfusions that brought my body back to levels where my body could reproduce enough blood on its own to normal levels. Since it is so close to the Arnold, I am disappointed that I must announce that I will not be competing in this years Arnold Classic 2018.”
Given the physical state Rhoden was in at that point seven months ago, being able to get back into prime shape and dethrone the most dominant Mr. Olympia competitor of the past decade speaks to his impressive condition.
Ms. Olympia contestant Sheila Bleck highlighted Rhoden’s conditioning as one of the reasons why he was victorious:
IFBB Sheila Bleck @bleckrocks
@RXMuscledotcom Shawn Rhoden not only his conditioning on point but his symmetry is beautiful blows Phil’s lines away. As a matter of fact. Moment they line up your eyes quickly fall onto Shawn. Didn’t matter what they do your eyes go back to Shawn
At the age of 43, Rhoden tied the record for the oldest Mr. Olympia winner. Chris Dickerson was the same age when he came out on top in 1982.
Based on Rhoden’s conditioning and impeccable symmetry with his perfect lines, there’s no reason to think he can’t repeat as champion when next year’s competition rolls around. He’s been steadily building to this moment for the past eight years, and that hard work paid off.