Mr. Olympia 1969: A Rivalry Is Born - Old School Labs
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Home » OSL Blog » Mr. Olympia 1969: A Rivalry Is Born

Mr. Olympia 1969: A Rivalry Is Born

November 28, 2019

Key Takeaways

  1. This year's Mr. Olympia competition was the start of a wonderful rivalry between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Oliva.
  2. After last year's uncontested win, this year's fantastic competition reinvigorated the Mr. Olympia's growing reputation as a must-see event in the bodybuilding world.
  3. The competition was extremely close, and, when the results were given, Arnold displayed a truly amazing moment in professional sportsmanship was witnessed by all in attendance.

The 1969 Mr. Olympia was the fifth annual event of a contest that was heralded in Muscle Builder magazine as the most prestigious contest in the world.

Missed the recap of the 1968 Mr. Olympia contest? You can find it right here

The Weider organization was proudly toting their relatively new competition as the best of the best.

Brooklyn Academy of Music

However, the NABBA Mr. Universe contest, held every fall in London, England, was widely regarded as the biggest bodybuilding event of the year.

In 1969, the annual event was again held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. It was a fun-filled night of muscle and beauty which included not only the quickly becoming famous Mr. Olympia contest but also:

  • The IFBB Mr. America 
  • Mr. Universe 
  • Ms. Americana beauty contest 

The fans packed the auditorium in anticipation of seeing the best Weider Superstars live and in the flesh on stage. 

A Look Back to the 1968 Mr. Olympia

One year earlier, the reigning Mr. Olympia Sergio Oliva was disappointed to discover that no other competitors had dared to show up in New York to challenge him for the title.

Sergio looked absolutely stupendous in 1968. The confident king of bodybuilding was expecting some competition from the best bodybuilders in the world. 

Sergio Oliva Posing
Sergio Oliva

Where was Dave Draper, Chuck Sipes, Harold Poole, and all the other top contenders? A disappointed Sergio had to be content with displaying his rapidly improving physique to a sold-out crowd and no one to challenge him for the title. 

Was Sergio that good that no one would dare try to take him on for fear of being embarrassed? 

A New Contender for the 1969 Mr. Olympia

In 1969, the Mr. Olympia scenario was decidedly different. A new bodybuilding superstar was on the horizon and ready to challenge Oliva for the title.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the young and cocky bodybuilding phenomenon from Austria, was plastered all over the Weider magazines during the last 12 months and promoted as the future of bodybuilding.

Young Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Standing 6’2” and weighing 240 pounds, Schwarzenegger was bigger than any other bodybuilder on the planet and his ego was even larger. 

Arnold truly believed that he was better than anyone in the world and the 22-year-old 2x Mr. Universe winner was out to conquer America. 

He would start by showing everyone that it was he, and not Sergio, who was the true king of bodybuilding. 

The crowd of bodybuilding fans was looking forward to this clash of the titans. Sergio had his biggest fan base packed into the Brooklyn Academy of Music that night.

Sergio Oliva and Arnold Posing On Beach
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Oliva

The ethnically diverse crowd of blacks, Puerto Ricans and whites were all behind Sergio and his mythical physique. 

No other bodybuilder in the world had the tiny waist combined with supersize mass in the arms, chest, back, and legs that Sergio had. Sergio was not only a two time and reigning Mr. Olympia, but he was also “The Myth”. 

However, the crowd was also anxiously anticipating the arrival of Schwarzenegger onstage.

Featured extensively in Muscle Builder and Mr. America magazines for the last year, Arnold had the hype and the momentum behind him.

Weider was pushing for Arnold to take Sergio down and become the new Mr. Olympia. 

Not since the days when Scott and Poole brought down the house in ’65 had the audience looked forward to such a climatic posedown of the two giants of bodybuilding.

The IFBB Mr. America Contest Begins 

Before that historic battle took place, however, the IFBB Mr. America contest was held first.

The Short Class division was won by the incredible physique of Warren Frederick. Warren displayed the freaky muscle density and definition that would be in vogue in the upcoming decades.

Warren Frederick Posing
Warren Frederick

In 1969, Warren was way ahead of his time. 

The medium class saw John DeCola take first place. John had excellent proportions and balance in his physique and these qualities allowed him to win over top bodybuilders like Pete Caputo and Charles Fautz.

John DeCola Posing
John DeCola

DeCola had taken second place to Frank Zane last year but he was feeling confident that this was his year. 

Popular Don Peters won the tall class over rising star Mike Katz and Tony Carroll. Don had movie-star good looks and was featured in Weider’s magazines very frequently so he was very well received by the sold-out crowd. 

Don Peters Posing
Don Peters

In the overall comparison, John DeCola was the easy winner. DeCola had no weaknesses and his outstanding balance won the show for him. 

The Mr. Universe Contest is Next

Next up was the big Mr. Universe contest featuring the best amateur bodybuilders from all over the world.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was back after suffering a crushing defeat from Frank Zane in Miami Beach, Florida one year earlier.

Arnold Posing
Arnold Schwarzenegger

However, this was not the same bulky and pale bodybuilder that had lost the title to someone fifty pounds lighter than him.

The new version of Arnold was impressive, having spent the last 12 months training and refining his massive physique.

Now, he was at least 15 pounds lighter, displaying a hard, ripped, and tan physique that was the closest thing to unbeatable that night.

Franco Columbu
Franco Columbu

Arnold’s best friend Franco Columbu, had just moved to the United States from Italy only a few months earlier. Surprisingly, he took first place in the Short Class over popular IFBB bodybuilders Johnny Maldonado and Elliot Gilchrist

Franco displayed a very thick and muscular physique and would be seen as one of the rising stars of bodybuilding in the IFBB. 

Rick Wayne
Rick Wayne

The incredible Rick Wayne was the winner in the Medium Height Class. Rick was one of the best bodybuilders in the world with his outstanding arm development and ripped abs.

Second place went to Serge Jacobs from Belgium with Fred Garrett in third. 

Arnold with awards
Arnold Schwarzenegger with Joe Weider

The aforementioned Arnold Schwarzenegger rolled over the competition to win first place in the Tall Class over Conrad Laframboise and Vic Downs.

Arnold was so dominating, he won the Tall Class and Overall title in the Mr. Universe contests. He also cleaned up in the body parts awards winning best:

  • Arms
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Legs

Franco won the Best Abdominals and Most Muscular awards and Rick Wayne won Best Poser. 

The Main Event: Sergio vs. Arnold

Now the audience was ready for the much anticipated main show! The Mr. Olympia only featured two competitors in 1969 – Sergio Oliva and Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Arnold vs Sergio

There was no other bodybuilder in the world who could match Sergio when it came to sheer muscle mass and incredible aesthetics and symmetry. 

He was bigger and better than ever. His freakish proportions put his head and shoulders above the competition.

The New York audience shouted encouragement to their hero as Sergio went through his posing routine, displaying the best physique on the planet.

Sergio Oliva Posing With Dumbbell
Sergio Oliva

Sergio was a blue-collar bodybuilder, an immigrant from Cuba who had relocated to Chicago.

He worked as a butcher all day before going to the Duncan YMCA in Chicago to train for three hours every night. 

Many of the East Coast bodybuilders who were packed into the Brooklyn Academy of Music were excited about seeing the California bodybuilders.

Up until that day, they had only read about them in the muscle magazines. That didn’t matter though, it was Sergio that they had come to see and support. 

Arnold Flexing
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped on stage next to a resounding ovation. Standing 6’2” tall and weighing 235 pounds, Arnold was in the best shape of life at this point.

Arnold had learned a lot from the one year he had spent in California. Time spent refining his massive bulk to include more definition and separation between the muscle groups. 

As Arnold hit his soon-to-be-famous signature poses (front double biceps, three-quarter back, side chest), the audience lapped it up and gave him a reception to rival Sergio’s.  

Who Would End Up the Winner?

Never before had Sergio faced such a formidable opponent. Although Oliva had proportions and muscle mass that was unmatched by anyone on the planet, Arnold was a taller and bigger bodybuilder.

Arnold’s massive chest and incredible arms gave the audience a new rival to consider. 

Could Arnold be the new Mr. Olympia tonight?

When Sergio and Arnold were brought out together onstage, the judges asked the two competitors to hit their best poses so they could decide a winner in such a close contest.

This was the beginning of the Posedown in bodybuilding. 

Arnold Vs Sergio Posing

Sergio hit a frightening most muscular pose while Arnold glided into a magnificent three quarterback pose.

The audience was on their feet as the two biggest and most incredible bodybuilders in the world were giving it everything they had to win the coveted title of Mr. Olympia. 

After several non-stop minutes of intense posing, the judges reconvened backstage to try to pick a winner. Sergio was so dominating with his tiny waist combined with such incredible muscle mass and fullness.

Arnold, however, also looked like a winner with his high peaked biceps, huge chest and startling definition. 

After taking a poll of all the judges, it was decided by a narrow one-point vote that Sergio Oliva would be crowned Mr. Olympia for the third year in a row.

Arnold Kissing Sergio
Arnold Kissing Sergio Upon Hearing Results

The two competitors stood on stage anxiously awaiting the decision. Sergio was announced as the winner and he raised his arms up in the air in victory. 

Although Arnold’s face registered obvious disappointment, he quickly regained his composure and wrapped his massive arms around Sergio’s shoulders and gave him a kiss on the cheek. 

Arnold’s Famous Words: A Glimpse into Next Year?

Arnold respected Sergio as an incredible bodybuilder and he showed that respect onstage by praising the current Mr. Olympia for his outstanding physique and work ethic. 

However, there was no doubt in Arnold’s mind that (to quote a line that Arnold would one day make famous), he would be back in 1970 to take the title and be recognized as the greatest bodybuilder in the world. 

What moment do you wish you could have seen from the 1969 Mr. Olympia? Do you think Arnold should have won, or was Sergio’s win justified? 

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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