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The Road to Mr. Olympia (I)

Prologue

To get on the Mr. Olympia stage, you need to know one thing: the race is long – and in the end, it’s only with yourself. The road you’re traveling on is paved with pain and sweat, crushed bodies and dreams, anguish and torment. Many have tried, very few have succeeded. And this is a whole different level of success, the one you can’t summarize in an Instagram quote.

There are many things wrong with the current values of our society. In recent times, one of the most pestering issues is people’s fascination with success. The digital revolution and its social media sidekicks further amplified the idea that you can do whatever you want and be successful.

This worldview argues that achieving success is easy, cheerful, and pleasant. But ours is a different, more fundamental, and true story about success. This success that we’re talking about takes discipline, guts, incredible hard work, and unmatched dedication. This is Dorian Yates’ story.

Childhood Years

Some call it the entrepreneur’s wound, others say it is a blessing in disguise. In any case, childhood drama damages some and makes others rise above. For Dorian Yates, fortunately, it was the latter.

Tragedy struck when, at 13, he lost his father due to a heart attack. This shocked the young boy, and even though all the family structure and the comfortable life disappeared overnight, he didn’t want to let other children at school see him suffer.

He learned early on to control his emotions. This trait would become a hallmark of his later persona.

After his father’s passing, Dorian stopped caring about school.  Having no father figure around as a teen, the young boy started hanging out with the wrong crowd, mods, and skinheads, and even went to jail in 1981, after being arrested for vandalism.

A young Dorian Yates in his early life, not thinking about competiing in Mr. Olympia

He faced detention regime for youngsters designed to discipline and scare them into never coming back. Unlike others, Dorian quickly decided he never wanted to be in that situation again. 

Comparing his physique to the 300 other jail inmates he trained with, he realized he had more potential than all of them. Even the guards said that he got a talent for sport, and that he should cultivate it.

On A Mission

Upon being released from jail, Dorian moved into a council flat in Castle Vale, Birmingham and set his focus on the one thing he felt he could be great at, bodybuilding.

Starting training and getting good results, he began thinking about competing professionally and maybe becoming British Champion one day.  He was on a mission. 

He began reading and studying everything he could get his hands on about exercising and nutrition.  By his own admission, he probably had every bodybuilding magazine that was ever published between 1980 and 1985.

Dorian absorbed all the information he could find and then started testing what worked and what didn’t, tracking his performance, writing everything down.

Dedication. Motivation. The need to strive for better. The 3 main atributes  that Dorian Yates used throught his bodybuilding career from the very begining until the end when he stopped competing for the Mr. Olympia title.

From 1983 to 1997: every exercise, every rep, every weight, all his diets, everything was logged down in a stack of journals. Dorian approached his routine in a scientific way.

He changed only one thing at a time in his routine to see if it was working or not.

Every month he could see his body evolving as he adapted his routine. His goal was to increase his capacity progressively. For example, ten pounds more on the bench press from one month to the other would be a massive 120 pounds by the end of the year.

He weighed his food and counted all the calories holding on to a strict diet, exercise and sleep pattern.  Breaking down his program into achievable goals, Dorian turned his body into a laboratory dedicated to finding the best formula for mass. He used the knowledge he has gathered during the years to develop the Mass Gainer – Game Changer Mass.

It was all down to him, no coaches, no team-mates, no family, no one to let him down, just him, win or lose. Psychologically, he was the perfect fit for it.

They say don’t put all your eggs in one basket… well, Dorian only had one egg, and he was watching it carefully.

During his experimentation, he developed his own training method known as Blood and Guts, a special adaptation of the HIT workout.

The Shadow Rises

On July 20, 1985, in Morecambe, after just 18 months of training, Dorian walked on stage of England’s West Coast Championship and blew all his competitors away to win the first place.

Dorian Yate during the West Coast Championship. His first bodybuilding competition, but he won't stop until wining 6 Mr. Olympia titles.

Upon stepping down, a bewildered Ron Davies, the head of the British Bodybuilding Federation and one of the judges on Mr. Olympia, quickly intercepted Dorian:


”Who are you?  Where do you come from? Why are you even in this contest ?” 

”I’m from Birmingham,” Dorian replied.

“This is my first contest.” 

“You should be in the heavyweights!” Davies declared.

Dorian didn’t think he was good enough yet, but to his astonishment, Davies informed him

“You’re probably the best heavyweight we have in the country right now!”

Peter McGough, the famed bodybuilding journalist, and the one who later coined the famous “The Shadow” nickname was also a witness to this episode.

He described his first impression of Dorian as resembling “a walking statue, and his 210-pound blend of mass, shape, and hardness had quality written all over it”.

Dorian’s fans started using the moniker The Shadow ever since. Fast forward to today, Dorian Yates use this nickname in his own line of supplements called the Shadow Line.

After Morecambe, Davies invited Dorian to compete in the World Games, which followed next weekend. Dorian accepted, and finished 7 out of the top 13 amateurs in the world! Next, he would go on to become British Champion in the heavyweight division in 1986 and 1988  overall. 

Having gotten his pro card and having had won everything domestically, it was time for Dorian to go World Class.

Night of Champions

At his first Night of Champions, people were asking themselves who this newbie guy was. But not long into the competition, they started chanting his name: ”Dorian, Dorian!”

That’s when all his worries about being badly received faded away. It was 1990, and Dorian was competing in New York for the first time, against some of the best athletes America had to offer.

Many questioned him, as he was an unknown, but Dorian decided to let his work do the introductions. He told himself he needed to place in the first 5, or he would give up the sport.

Dorian Yates posing in the Night of Champions. One of his first pro bodybuilding competitions, but defenently not his last as he won 6 Mr. Olympia titles.

He came in second behind only after the late Mohammed Benazziza, making it clear to anyone watching that he meant business.

The next year, Dorian came back in even better shape, avoiding his previous year’s mistake of over dieting, and won the Night of Champions, placing first in a pack of five that would qualify for Mr. Olympia.

Challenging Mr. Olympia

To Dorian Yates, Lee Haney was a personal hero. Lee was already Mr. Olympia when Yates started training, and by the time they shared a stage, Haney had already won 7 Mr. Olympia‘s and was going for a record 8.

Having to battle his icon, Dorian switched perceptions, turning a hero into just another competitor that was standing in his way. 

Haney had the advantage though, he was more experienced and more polished in his presentation, coming out of an era with the likes of Arnold, Frank Zane, Robbie Robbinson or Sergio Oliva. But he instantly recognized the threat from Dorian:

“When I saw him for the first time, he was a monster! Something that I’ve never seen before! I knew I had the ups on him, but I didn’t want to fight him again”.

The first ever Mr. Olympia competition that Dorian took part in was against his own idol.

The clash between Dorian and Haney at Mr. Olympia, in 1991, was one of the biggest battles ever fought in bodybuilding.

They were so far ahead of anybody else, that the judges only kept the two of them on stage for the title fight. Even though Dorian won the muscularity round, Haney topped him in posing and symmetry and went on to win his record-breaking 8th Mr. Olympia title.

To Dorian, this was not a defeat. He was honored to beat Haney in one of the rounds and to come in second to the greatest bodybuilder of all time, up until then. But next year, that would all change.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Posted by Adrien Hunt