Flex, Nov, 2003 by Jim Schmaltz
The foundational laws of physics were in stark evidence at Gold's Gym, Fullerton, California, in late July during an unprecedented FLEX photo shoot with Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler and Gunter Schlierkamp, the three most talked about names in the countdown to the Big 0 on October 25. It's been decades since top challengers to an impending Mr. Olympia contest gathered in a gym to compare biceps and boasts. And they weren't alone. Also making a cameo appearance was Eugen Sandow, in statuette form, straight from Coleman's mantel.
The great ones come in threes--tenors, amigos, wise men, stooges--but they usually don't weigh a combined 935 pounds. Ronnie was 315, Gunter 330 and Jay 290--and that was before lunch. Besides bodyweight totals, the three wide men shared glares, chides, passive-aggressive quips and guarded forecasts. Like planets suddenly sprung from their gravitational tethers, Coleman, Cutler and Schlierkamp warily orbited each other. The gamesmanship might have been subtle, but the tension was obvious.
Gunter Schlierkamp is eager to set the tone. The first of the principals to arrive, the toothy German does his best to establish an authentically intense demeanor and undermine his nice-guy image.
"When I get angry, I go home and chew a two-by-four," he snarls, unconvincingly. Then, staring at yours truly, Schlierkamp snap: "Maybe I'll get so mad, I'll spit in your face."
The only moisture likely to result From Schlierkamp's shtick is tears of Laugher. Yes, the tone is set, but it's more comic than manic.
That will soon change. Schlierkamp's garrulousness is about the be tested by the arrival of glowering Ronnie Coleman and stoically passive Jay Cutler. Both wander in accompanied by Chris Lund--who's already perspiring before the first click of his camera.
"I don't think he likes me," offers Schlierkamp. "He doesn't like that I beat him [at the 2002 GNC Show of Strength]. But it's not my fault that I was better than him."
Says Cutler: "From my perspective, there's no tension between any of us. Right now, they're building the Olympia around the three of us, because we're the two guys who've had the best success against Ronnie in the past couple of years. This photo shoot is the first time that people will be able to see the three of us together. But the three of us keep pretty close tabs on each other."
The unveilings begin.
"I hope Ronnie and Jay are fat," Schlierkamp says, cheerfully.
Coleman's icy stare remains as he removes his shirt, revealing a tank top stuffed with mounds of hard veiny muscle. Schlierkamp's eyes widen. "He looks good, but he's lying if he says he hasn't started his diet yet."
Cutler agrees. "He says he hasn't started yet, but he must have." Asked if Coleman's monstrous physique gives him pause, Iron Jay replies, "Not at all. I'm going to win the Mr. Olympia this year. I'm sure of it."
Schlierkamp stresses that he's unimpressed with Coleman. "Ronnie has already started his diet, so his conditioning is better than mine or Jay's," he says. "But that doesn't mean anything."
Cutler does think Coleman is impressive. "He's really taking his training seriously this year--he always does," Iron Jay says. "This year, he's really focused on being the best his body can be. That doesn't take away anything from how I feel about the contest, but Ronnie's still the champion."
While the three withhold compliments from each other, Iron Jay praises Lund.
"You've lost weight, haven't you?" Cutler says.
Lund shakes his head. "Mind your own business."
Coleman has brought a Sandow statuette for the occasion. Schlierkamp eyes it and says, "You brought my trophy early. Thank you."
"This is the first one I won," Coleman says, referring to his 1998 Olympia title. Asked if there was a special reason he chose that particular trophy for the photo shoot, he answers, "Not really. I've got five of them sitting on the shelf. I just picked one up before I left." He says this loud enough for Cutler and Schlierkamp to hear.
Coleman then admits to Cutler that the trophy is indeed special. "Nothing's better than the first one," he says, again pointing out he's a multiple winner of the sort's most prestigious title. "Didn't you feel that way about the Arnold?" he asks, referring to Cutler's 2002 win at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic, the first of two for Jay.
"No, I think the second one was better," Iron Jay replies, "And I'm going for a third straight Arnold. Nobody's ever done that before."
Schlierkamp's face hardens. "Yes, I want that."
Cutler: "I'll soon have that."
Coleman holds it tight, but he doesn't look worried.
Cutler: "What's the matter, Coleman. Is it too heavy for you?"
Schlierkamp points at the Sandow statuette. "That's what you two will look like next to me onstage," he quips.
Cutler asks, "What's that trophy worth anyway?"
Coleman: "I don't know. I guess about 50 bucks."
"That sounds about right," Cutler replies.
Coleman begins to lighten up. A smile creeps over his face. "Everybody wants it. But they ain't gonna get it."
Lund instructs Coleman to grab a dumbbell, a 45-pounder.
"Come on, Coleman, can't you do more than that?" Cutler teases. "I thought you did 150 for 25 reps." Cutler always refers to Ronnie by his last name.
Schlierkamp: "His arm is weak from carrying his trophy."
Lund agrees the weight is too low, Coleman is handed a 60-pounder. "How come I have to do all the work?" he asks.
Schlierkamp: "Because you're Mr. Olympia."
"For now," Cutler says softly.
"That's a girly-man weight," says Schlierkamp, aping Hans and Franz.
"He's getting pumped up just sitting there," Cutler says. "Come on, Coleman. Aren't you supposed to be the hardest trainer in the sport?"
Coleman knocks out a few dumbbell curls, as the two blond behemoths behind him mug for the camera. His biceps heads are almost the size of an average man's noggin.
"Is that all you can do, Coleman?" Cutler taunts.
Coleman gives him an exasperated look. "I'm not going to injure myself during a photo shoot, no way."
Schlierkamp quietly tells a bystander: "He will be hurting more onstage at the Mr. Olympia."
Schlierkamp grabs a 50-pound dumbbell for a side lateral.
Cutler: "Give him 75 at least. I don't want him swinging it up and hitting me in the face."
"Maybe it'll make you prettier," Schlierkamp retorts.
"Jay, you should do your hair like Kenny Jones," says Lund, carrying a box to the set. "Now, stand on this."
Cutler complies. Ronnie can now look eye to eye with Jay. "How tall are you anyway, 5'7"?"
Cutler: "Try 5'9.""
Coleman: "Could have fooled me."
Schlierkamp easily throws around the weight. "I can do 175 pounds. I just don't want to right now," he remarks.
"Be careful, Gunter," Cutler mocks. "Those aren't the fake weights you're used to."
Cutler has yet to pick up a weight and Gunter notices. "Maybe Jay is going to do the Ms. Olympia this year," Schlierkamp cracks.
"Stop squinting, Ronnie. Open your eyes." Coleman: "They are open."
Lund: "No, you're squinting."
Coleman: "Tell Gunter to stop smiling."
Lund walks over with a pair of sunglasses and puts them on Coleman. Then he finishes the shot as Schlierkamp smiles widely.
LATS MAN STANDING
Time for dumbbell rows. Coleman grabs a 100-pounder. "Why am I always the one lifting it? Can't these guys do any work?"
"I'm very weak," Schlierkamp says. "I can only lift baby weights."
"Guess I'm the only one in shape," Coleman retorts as he gives Cutler and Schlierkamp a quick glance. "Sure looks that way."
Lund asks for a few reps. Cutler counts them out as Coleman pumps away. "One, one, one," Iron Jay counts. After Ronnie finishes, Cutler cracks, "What's wrong, Coleman? Can you only do one?"
Lund's assistants then quietly lug a 200-pound dumbbell to the bench.
"Oh, no, I ain't gonna lift that," Coleman protests.
"Mr. Olympia is afraid," taunts Schlierkamp.
Coleman: "All right, but this is the last exercise."
He easily lifts the weight and holds it on Lund's command. Then the photographer says: "Hold it into your side."
Coleman angrily drops the weight. "I can't."
Lund: "Why not?"
Coleman: "Because I've got lats. Big lats. I can't do that move because my lats get in the way."
Coleman looks over at Cutler and Schlierkamp and says, "Have one of these two do it. They'll be able to hold it into their sides."
Schlierkamp notes that Arnold Schwarzenegger was still contemplating his run for governor. "I'm going to run for governor, too," he jokes. "Then I can be Mr. Olympia and governor of California."
When asked if this photo shoot will help revive the golden age of bodybuilding from the '70s when Arnold and other top pros regularly trained together, Cutler says, "Not really. We all live in different states. The business has changed."
For one thing, no one used to refer to bodybuilding as a business.
"Don't you mean my Hummers?" Cutler replies, stressing the plural.
Shawn Ray and Richard Jones, 2003 light-heavyweight and overall USA champ, invade the gym and exchange greetings. The veteran warriors congratulate Jones, who reacts with shy humility, on winning his pro card. Lund recruits Sarcev for a group shot with Coleman's spoils of victory. As the reigning Mr. Olympia holds the Sandow aloft, the others reach for it. They don't need much prompting.
In professional hockey, there's a longstanding tradition that players don't touch the Stanley Cup until they've won it for themselves. The entire time that Coleman and the others are fondling the trophy at the photo shoot, Cutler doesn't lay a finger on it--not even during the final shot with Ray, Sarcev and Jones. When reminded of the hockey superstition, Iron Jay smiles and says, "It doesn't matter. I'll be holding it onstage in October."
It hasn't been as rowdy as The Jerry Springer Show, considering all three bodybuilders are class acts. But they did have a few final thoughts.
Coleman: "Last year at the Mr. O, I made a big mistake. I was way too light. I'm not going to make any mistakes this time around. I'll be bigger, harder and ready to defend my title. There ain't no way I'm losing."
Schlierkamp: "I look thicker on top. My back is improved--fuller and thicker. [Trainer] Charles [Glass] couldn't believe how much I had improved. I know I have to do my homework, but I want to make it clear. I'm not afraid."
Cutler: "There is nothing I've seen here today that makes me think that I won't win the Mr. Olympia this year. I believe that my best will be better than everyone else's best."
The shoot ends and the three go their separate ways. Cutler, the focused entrepreneur, heads for a business appointment. Coleman, as if signifying it's lonely at the top, is off to a steakhouse by himself. The gregarious Schlierkamp and his wife, Carmen, agree to join Sarcev and his family at a sushi restaurant. They won't meet again until October. Sandow will be there, too--the only one of our illustrious quartet who is guaranteed to be dry, hard and in the winner's circle.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Weider Publications
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