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The Road to Mr. Olympia (III) – The Legacy

To read the first chapter of The Road to Mr. Olympia trilogy, click here.

To read the second chapter of the trilogy, click here.

Mr. Olympia 1994

1994 was the year everyone chased the already two times Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates.

If in 1993 the mass that Dorian came in with was a surprise to all, by 1994 everyone knew what they had to fight against, and they all did their best to surpass him, come contest time.

For the 1994 Mr. Olympia Dorian came in even bigger, making everybody wonder how is it possible for him to get bigger year after year.

Even though his left bicep had torn 6 weeks prior to the contest, he made no attempt to hide it. He powered on regardless of the small atrophy that was visible. This year, his routine was more refined, introducing some new poses.

He walked around confident, like he owned the stage. He had owned it the previous two years, and he was confident he would again this time.

The 1994 Olympia posing routine and award ceremony

The prejudging left only two people in the final – Dorian Yates and Shawn Ray. They were two completely different types of bodybuilders, both excellent in their own way, with Shawn Ray arguably at his peak.

On the one hand, you had the mass thickness and density of Dorian Yates, on the other you had the shape symmetry and aesthetics of Shawn Ray.

In the front lat spread, nobody could hold a candle to Dorian – not even Levrone, who matched him in height.

Even though Levrone had big shoulders, Dorian outclassed him in mass. Front double biceps was a tough round especially because of Dorian’s injury, but the side chest was definitely Dorian’s, dwarfing Shawn in size and fullness and even in lower body conditioning.

Yates was more conditioned and Shawn was a little more diluted.  The back double biceps round also went to Dorian, as his arms were still the biggest in the game and his back was unmatched with an almost perfect “Christmas tree” in his lower back.p

Rear double lats pose also went to Dorian, the only challenger being Levrone who had reasonable width, but not nearly enough thickness to match the champion.

In the side triceps pose, even though Ray had great definition, he just looked small in comparison to Yates, which was one of the all-time best to hit this pose.

The Ab and Thigh round was probably where Ray shined the most, as his smaller thigh was well conditioned and the muscles were well separated, symmetrical, and aesthetic. But even in this department, the level of mass, thickness, and fullness in the abs Dorian was able to achieve was unforgettable.

After the rounds were judged, Dorian came up on top, securing his 3rd consecutive win. Shawn Ray came second and Levrone third, which left him visibly disappointed.

Dorian Yates going toe-to-toe with Shawn Ray for the title of Mr. Olympia 1994.

A lot of people were surprised Dorian was still able to win with an injury, and quite a few thought he might not be able to come back next year. They would be wrong.

Mr. Olympia 1995

Back in Atlanta Civic Center, the 1995 Mr. Olympia was one of the most competitive shows in the history of the sport.

Everyone wanted to see how Dorian Yates evolved from his bicep injury. Shawn Ray had been so close to number one and wanted to take the crown this year.

Dorian Yates posing on the stage for the title of Mr. Olympia 1995. He won the competition even while having injuries. The mass monster wasn't able to stop wining.

Kevin Levrone, having already had a number 2 in 1992 and a number 3 in 1994, was eager to claim the throne for himself.

The prejudging brought the battle down to the final four: Yates, Levrone, Ray, and El Sonbaty.

Sonbaty replaced Ray in the top 3 after a few comparisons between him and Ray, with the other two.  From this trio, Levrone and Yates battled for number one.

The front double bicep was hotly contested between them as Yates had half a bicep smaller, and Levrone always had his A game when it came to arms.

The front lats spread was hands down won by Dorian. Nobody even got close to his massive lats. His chest looked good as well, while his upper body looked like he was born to stand this way.

The side chest pose was again a really close one, Dorian’s rock solid conditioning and detailing giving him the edge.

The back double bicep made Dorian shine and he managed to hide his torn bicep surprisingly well, with a thick wide back and a strong lower body, he took this round too.

The Shadow also used Glutamine in order to speed up the process of recuperation. This being one of the main motives why The Glutamine is highly recommended by Dorian.

It is said Mr. Olympias are won from the back, and in this department Yates was unmatched, taking the rear lat spread round too.

Dorian's biggest advantage was his back, especially the lats spread which could have won Mr. Olympia alone.

The side triceps round was again tight, as Levrone’s arm size went against the conditioning, detail and perfect pose of Dorian, which took the round by a narrow margin.

The Ab and Thigh pose put Levrone’s slimmer waist against Dorian’s stronger, more developed muscular abdomen, the judges preferring the latter.

All in all, the Shadow triumphed once again, to take home his 4th Mr. Olympia. Now everybody was beginning to ask themselves if Dorian was going for the record.

Mr. Olympia 1996

In1996, Dorian didn’t have the problem he had training the year before of the recuperating bicep injury so he was able to go full throttle in the gym.

He expected to be in the best condition with an extra 4 pounds of quality muscle added to his already imposing physique. 

People thought it was just mass that got him the titles but at this point, he realized it was unrealistic to hope for another 15 pounds of muscle.

Dorian Yates used the knowledge he acquired from his career as an athlete in order to create The Shadow Line

The premium range of supplements is packed with every supplement that an athlete needs in order to achieve his full potential such as the Blood and Guts pre-workout, the most powerful pre-workout.

Dorian Yates posing with for front pecs in 1996. The mass monster was dominating the competition.

The package was the key, conditioning, symmetry and just a few extra pounds of muscle in the right places would make all the difference.

The 1996 Mr. Olympia was in many ways a replay of 1994.

The final two to go to battle were Dorian and Shawn, and as always size, mass, and conditioning were preferred over symmetry and aesthetics combined with a smaller size.

When it was all said and done, nobody could compete with Dorian’s back which helped win 3 rounds front lat spread, back lat spread and back double bicep, the side chest and triceps also going to Dorian.

Dorian Yates, the Shadow, posing for front lats spread in 1996. Bigger and rounder than in 1994. Training to failure was the key for Dorian to overcome his limitations.

Even though Shawn was more aesthetic, muscles neatly separated and had a better ab and thigh pose, it just wasn’t enough to challenge the title holder.

In an interview, Ray admitted that he hated Yates for winning every time they came against one another, especially when he tore his bicep.

Later on, when Dorian would tare his triceps, Shawn jokingly said:

This guy could come in a wheelchair and he would still win. 

Shawn Ray

1996 was again Dorian’s year, for his 5th title, the podium being occupied in the same order as in 1994 by Shawn Ray at number two and Kevin Levrone at three.

  Mr. Olympia 1997.

Training all year round in preparation for the contest, Dorian’s triceps as giving him a lot of pain.

Because of his personality and his drive and the fact that he was at the apex of his game with everybody chasing him,  he refused to take a break to get it fixed. 

He soldiered on,  training around it and managing the pain the best way he could. Every time he worked the triceps he felt pain, he had to ice it, to take anti-inflammatory drugs.

 Listening to some unfortunate advice, he used cortisol injections to take the inflammation and pain down.

The “cure” proved to be an illusory one.  Its effect was catabolic and destructive, furthermore removing the pain signal away from a slightly torn muscle allowing for more pressure to be put on it without immediate negative consequences. 

3 weeks before the contest, Dorian’s triceps tore almost completely leaving him unable to train at all.

He resorted to doing cardio and continuing his diet, hoping that the 3 weeks of not training wouldn’t take much away from the prior 15 years of hard work and dedication.

1997 would be his most challenging year competing for The Shadow. Dorian didn’t actually know if he was going to be able to compete up until 3 days prior to the contest.

He had a lot of therapy done to his arm to get the swelling and the bruising out. The night before the contest his physio even took 20 ml of the blood and fluid that was swelling up around the elbow.

Walking on the stage the day of the contest, Dorian felt weak and vulnerable. Usually, people could feel his energetic presence, but not this time.

This was his worst Olympia. His triceps tendon was 95% detached, holding on by a thread.

A clash of elbows in a pose down could have caused him massive problems so he was hitting the poses carefully, gingerly and not in his usual aggressive dominant way. His body filled with painkillers, he was now just hoping to get through the contest.

The prejudging for 1997 had put in the top positions Dorian’s traditional competitors Levron and Ray and Nasser El Sonbaty who had been disqualified from3rd place the year prior after drug testing.

Now, El Sonbaty was coming back with a vengeance, vying for the top place. From the top 4, the final showdown came down to El Sonbaty and Dorian. Nasser was at the top of his career, looking great, even outclassing an injured Dorian in some of the poses.

Dorian thought Nasser “looked great from the front because he had these really good square abs and good legs, he looked really great in that pose and the double biceps as well “. 

Even though Nasser looked better from the front, Dorian was still top dog in the back and side poses: “from the side, I still had more thickness because I got quite a lot of depth, and from the back, Nasser was pretty weak, at least in the upper body”.

Nasser was never known for his back, and as the saying goes, Mr. Olympias are won from the back. 

   The hard work and dedication Dorian had put into the sport all of his life proved once again how valuable ethic was.

The Shadow, despite two injuries prior, and his weakest condition yet, was still able to score above everyone else in the eyes of the judges, claiming his 6th Mr. Olympia in a row.

    After the show, he had surgery and was confronted with the possibility of trying to compete again or retire as an undefeated champion.

Realizing it would be almost impossible to give it his all and bring the same well developed and conditioned package in front of the audience, he decided to retire as a champion.

To this day “TheShadow” remains the best physique bodybuilding has ever seen.

He managed to combine mass that took the whole sport to another level with conditioning that made him look like he was made of granite, a look that no other competitor managed to achieve after him.

Much of the sport to this day owes its development to Dorian, and the 1990s that he dominated are still regarded as the golden age in bodybuilding.

Posted by Adrien Hunt

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