Lee Haney – A New King Arrives – Part Three
After the 1983 Mr. Olympia ended, most of the bodybuilding competitors packed their bags and moved on to the European Grand Prix, a series of professional contests that would take place in parts of Europe immediately after the Mr. Olympia. There were three European Grand Prix contests scheduled for 1983 and most of the competitors were planning on competing.
The first stop in the Pro Grand Prix was the Switzerland Grand Prix. Mr. Olympia winner Samir Bannout decided not to compete after winning the biggest prize in bodybuilding. The runner-up in the Mr. Olympia, Mohammed Makkawy, was the favorite to win and he did indeed take first place, displaying a ripped and perfectly sculpted physique. Surprisingly, Lee Haney, who took third place behind Samir and Makkawy at the Olympia, placed third at the Switzerland Grand Prix behind popular Bertil Fox, who was only placed fifth at the Mr. O. No one could deny the incredible muscle mass and thickness displayed by Fox and the judges rewarded him at this contest for his best shape to date.
At the next Grand Prix contest, the Sweden Grand Prix, Lee Haney looked even sharper than he was at both the Mr. Olympia and the Switzerland Grand Prix. Big Bertil Fox lost some muscle definition and he dropped down to fourth place, behind the front runners Makkawy and Haney as well as the German Giant Jusup Wilkosz. As the top three competitors were compared at the prejudging, many fans in the audience wondered if the huge physique of Lee Haney could overcome the smaller but perfectly sculpted Mohammed Makkawy. Unfortunately for Lee, Makkawy won his second Grand Prix victory and was crowned the Sweden Grand Prix champion.
The last stop on the Grand Prix tour was the London Grand Prix. Promoted by IFBB Head Judge Oscar State, nine professional bodybuilders gathered onstage to the delight of the English fans. After three consecutive competitions, Lee Haney was now leaner than ever. His massive structure and full muscle bellies were accentuated by extremely low body fat. Lee’s ripped, muscular physique truly pushed the smaller but equally shredded Makkawy. “The Magical Egyptian”, similar to Haney, was ripped to the bone by the final show of the tour. Many fans watching wondered if the much bigger Haney would finally upset the tremendous momentum of Makkawy.
After the posedown, the top five bodybuilders stood onstage and waited to hear the results. Albert Beckles was announced in fifth place followed by a very ripped Tony Pearson in fourth. Jusup Wilkosz, who was also more defined than he was at the Mr. Olympia, took third place. As Lee Haney and Mohammed Makkawy waited for the final decision from the emcee, they both smiled broadly to the audience. The 5’11” Haney towered over the diminutive 5’2” Makkawy. Both bodybuilders were ripped and the much bigger Haney looked like he finally had the edge over the perfectly defined Makkawy. Unfortunately for Lee, his dramatic improvements over the last three contests were not enough to derail the Magical Egyptian train as he heard Makkawy’s name announced as the winner of the contest.
In a classic move that will be remembered for decades, the rookie pro Haney wrapped his arms around the veteran champion Makkawy and hoisted him in the air to the delight of the fans and photographers in attendance. Flashbulbs exploded at the surprise reaction from Haney as Makkawy laughed in delight while his hulking adversary picked him up like a small child. Haney’s act of good sportsmanship brought an air of joy and happiness to the event. Instead of being understandably upset over losing to the much smaller Makkawy, Haney reacted like a true gentleman, not only conceding the victory to his smaller competitor but celebrating it as well.
As 1983 came to a close, one more historic event was about to take place. Due to the popularity of Women’s Bodybuilding, the producers of the famous “Pumping Iron” movie decided to make a sequel, this time focusing on the female side of the sport. As in the original film, the makers of “Pumping Iron 2: The Women” needed a contest in which the storyline would be centered around. For some reason, they did not focus on the Ms. Olympia contest but, instead, created a new contest specifically for the movie. The contest was called the Las Vegas Grand Prix and it took place in Sin City at the end of 1983. Along with the women’s bodybuilding event, the weekend would also feature a Pro Men’s Bodybuilding contest.
Thirteen professional bodybuilders showed up to compete at the Las Vegas Grand Prix. Realizing that this event was tied to the film “Pumping Iron 2”, many bodybuilders may have been hoping to be featured in some way in the sequel to the famous “Pumping Iron” movie. However, if that was the hope of any of the professional bodybuilders, they were sadly disappointed. Not only was the men’s pro bodybuilding event completely excluded from the film, but the movie “Pumping Iron 2: The Women” was not nearly as well received as the original masterpiece.
Lee Haney dominated the competition as soon as all the competitors lined up onstage. Mohammed Makkawy, his closest rival, was well into his off season this late in the year and took a dismal eighth place, displaying little of the sharp muscularity that was so prominent at the Mr. Olympia and the European Grand Prix. Greg DeFerro, second to Haney at the Night of the Champions earlier in the year, was also slightly off his best condition and took fourth place. The surprise competitor in the contest was Australian John Terilli.
Displaying a symmetrical and ripped physique in the tradition of Frank Zane, Terilli used this end of the year event to showcase his excellent condition and ended up defeating many of the top IFBB pros in the process. He was compared directly to Lee Haney at the prejudging. Haney had too much size and thickness for the leaner Terilli to overcome but the rookie pro from Australia still succeeded in making this show a major coming out party and served notice to the bodybuilding media and fans that he was a force to be reckoned with in the future.
As 1984 arrived, Lee Haney had to feel very happy with his first year as an IFBB pro. He won two professional events, took third place in his first Mr. Olympia contest and pushed Mohammed Makkawy very hard on the succeeding European Grand Prix. In addition, Lee had won the last contest of the year, creating great momentum going into the following year. His game plan was to train hard all year and prepare only for the 1984 Mr. Olympia contest, to be held in New York City.
Training in Southern California, Lee noticed a young Italian bodybuilder working out at the Redondo Beach Gold’s Gym. He was only in his early 20’s but this thick, massive bodybuilder was training with extreme intensity, squatting over 700 pounds and out lifting some of the biggest and best IFBB professional bodybuilders in the world. Lee introduced himself to the young hungry bodybuilder and found out his name was Rich Gaspari. At only 20 years old, Gaspari had just moved to California in the hopes of becoming an IFBB professional bodybuilder.
He had won the 1983 Jr. Nationals and took fifth place at the very competitive NPC Nationals only months earlier. Rich was training like an animal to win the NPC Nationals and the IFBB World Championships later that year. Lee Haney quickly surmised that this is exactly the type of training partner he would need to help take him to Mr. Olympia glory and he proposed the idea to Gaspari who quickly jumped at the chance to train with an IFBB Pro.
Their partnership paid off for both of them. Lee showed Rich how to feel the muscles working during the exercise instead of just throwing around the heaviest weights possible. He also advised Gaspari to stop eating so much to bulk up, calling him a “fat pig”. When Rich complained that he needed the extra calories to gain size, Haney told him “that’s a bunch of crap!”.
Gaspari returned the favor by pushing his new training partner to levels of intensity that he was not used to. Not intimidated by training with a professional bodybuilder who placed in the top three of the last Mr. Olympia, Rich motivated Haney to use heavier weights and train harder than he ever did before. Gaspari’s zeal for training was sometimes frightening and the cocky young bodybuilder was not afraid to yell at other gym members to stay away from his weights or get off a bench that he was planning on using. The more easygoing Haney often had to step in to calm his partner down and keep the peace.
As the 1984 Mr. Olympia got closer, the big news was that Sergio Oliva, “The Myth”, was planning to return to the IFBB. Sergio, a three time Mr. Olympia winner and one of the legends in the sport, had not competed in the biggest contest in bodybuilding since 1972. After three consecutive defeats at the hands of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sergio became disgusted with the IFBB, insisting that Joe Weider was fixing the contests so his “Golden Boy” could remain on top. For the following decade, Sergio contented himself with competing in smaller organizations such as the WBBG and WABBA where he was treated with such reverence that he didn’t even have to show up in top condition to win first place.
Lee Haney was worried about the prospect of facing the legendary Sergio as the contest got closer. This was a man he admired since he began bodybuilding at the young age of 13. Lee knew that if Sergio was to compete in the same condition that he showed at the 1972 Mr. Olympia, he could very well win the competition. Oliva’s combination of superior genetics and incredible muscle mass and proportions was truly one of a kind.
But Lee Haney was not about to be psyched out by anyone as the 1984 Mr. Olympia approached. He took Arnold Schwarzenegger’s advice on the night of the 1983 Mr. Olympia. Arnold had approached Lee after his Olympia debut where he took third place. The seven time Mr. Olympia winner told Lee that he had a powerful physique but he was posing to soft music. He gave Haney the phone number for his posing coach and told Lee to give her a call when he got back home to Los Angeles. Lee followed up on Arnold’s advice and, after working extensively with Schwarzenegger’s personal posing coach, was planning on presenting a posing routine this year that would blow everyone away on the Mr. Olympia stage.
Lee also worked on his physique to be his absolute best. After depleting himself too much at the end of his contest preparation last year, Lee was disappointed to compete at the 1983 Mr. Olympia weighing only 230 pounds. He had been a full ten pounds heavier in the gym only weeks earlier but had lost valuable muscle tissue by dieting too hard as the contest got closer. A rookie mistake!
Lee knew that his toughest competition, unless Sergio was able to miraculously recreate his 1972 condition, would again be Samir Bannout and Mohammed Makkawy. Haney was much bigger than both of these excellent bodybuilders but he knew that the sport was about more than just size. Bannout and Makkawy displayed some of the most beautiful and symmetrical physiques in the world and, when they were in top condition, they were extremely difficult to defeat. However, Lee knew that he was much bigger than both of these top champions and he also had the symmetry and shape to match them at their best. After a full year of training with his high-intensity training partner Gaspari, Haney was going to be bringing more than ten pounds of muscle with him to the stage in New York. When he was asked how he was going to do against Samir and Makkawy this year, the normally reserved Haney confidently exclaimed, “I’m going crush them like a bug”.
When the competitors lined up onstage at the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden in early November, the auditorium was packed with excited bodybuilding fans. This was the first time in ten years that the Mr. Olympia had returned to New York City, the place where the contest had began in 1965. The sold out crowd was most excited to see the return of “The Myth”, the legendary Sergio Oliva. Nostalgic bodybuilding fans were visualizing the 1970’s version of the man that most had grown up admiring returning to the stage and dominating the competition.
The 1984 Mr. Olympia was a classic combination of the old school and new school bodybuilders all competing on the same stage. Veteran competitors from the 1960’s and ’70’s included Chris Dickerson, Boyer Coe, Albert Beckles, Robby Robinson, Bob Birdsong, Bill Grant, Roy Callendar and, of course, Sergio Oliva. The modern era was also represented by competitors such as Tom Platz, Tony Pearson, Samir Bannout, Jusup Wilkosz, Mohamed Makkawy and Lee Haney. There were also some rookie competitors making their debut at the Mr. Olympia that year including James Gaubert, Charles Glass, Chuck Williams and the promising Bob Paris.
As the bodybuilders went through their mandatory poses and the judges began to compare them together, it became immediately apparent to all in attendance that Lee Haney was going to dominate this contest. Dramatically improved from last year, Lee weighed 243 pounds of ripped, dense muscle. He was big, ripped, vascular and his small waist gave his physique an aesthetic, symmetrical look that could not be matched by anyone else onstage.
The great Sergio Oliva was greeted with wild enthusiasm by his adoring fans but it was clear to everyone that “The Myth” was past his peak. Although still impressive and massive, Sergio just didn’t have the muscularity and definition to compete with the best bodybuilders of this era. When he was given eighth place at the finals, he received a standing ovation from this fans who accorded him the proper farewell to a legend.
When Lee Haney stepped onstage at the evening show to present his posing routine, he confidently knew the title was his and his presentation would seal the deal. Choosing a powerful music selection from composer Richard Wagner, Lee timed his incredible poses perfectly to the music, bringing the audience along with him as the routine grew in intensity. At the conclusion of his routine, Lee dropped into a lunging position with his arms held out wide and his head bowed down. Many in the audience mistakenly thought this was conclusion of his posing routine and started to applaud.
Suddenly, the auditorium erupted with the music from the movie “Excalibur”. Rising dramatically, Lee hit an incredible front double biceps pose to the delight of the hard core bodybuilding audience in New York City. Powerfully transitioning from one pose to another, Lee had the audience on their feet as they witnessed the dominating performance from the new King of Bodybuilding. At the conclusion of his routine, Lee hit a spectacular most muscular pose, his upper body bursting with thickness and striations. The discerning bodybuilding fans knew they were witnessing something special. Not since the appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger had bodybuilding been dominated by a physique that possessed the mass, shape and symmetry shown by Lee Haney. With his spectacular posing routine, Haney had made a statement that he was the new champion of bodybuilding. A new King had arrived!