Olympia Storyline Three: Can Victor Martinez Bounce Back?
One of the most compelling storylines in this year's Olympia doesn't have to do with a head-to-head matchup or a repeat victory or comeback attempt. This story is about a warrior besieged by the slings and arrows of fate. It's a story of pain - physical and emotional - and perseverance; of heartache and heroism. It's the story of one of the greatest bodybuilders on the planet, but a man whose true greatness can't be measured on a scale or bodyfat percentage come Olympia day, but by the very fact that he will be onstage at the Orleans Arena at all. Because no one would fault Victor Martinez one bit if he did not compete this year.
On July 7th of this year Martinez's 46-year-old sister, Eridania Rodriguez, was murdered while working the night shift as she cleaned an office building in downtown Manhattan. She was one of his biggest supporters, often helping to prepare his pre-contest meals and providing him the unconditional love only a big sister can give. Bravely, Martinez identified his sister's body at the coroner's office and acted as family representative for the news crews covering the well-publicized story. While lesser men might have folded like a tipped house of cards under the weight of such grief, a steely Martinez collected himself and resolved to bring his all-time best physique to bear in Las Vegas on September 25th-26th, in the hopes of dedicating an Olympia win to Eridania.
His sister's murder marks the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have seemingly conspired to keep the gifted Martinez from the destiny so many feel is surely his. A knee injury in late 2007, following a win at that year's Arnold Classic and a controversial second place finish at the Olympia, kept Martinez out of competition for all of '08. Shortly before the '07 Olympia, his mother passed away, making his Olympia experience that year as emotional as it was disappointing.
After a second place finish to rising star Kai Greene at this year's Arnold Classic, a show in which Martinez fell shy of the high water mark he'd reached at the '07 Olympia, the question needs to be asked: Can he ever regain the form that supported fans' claims that his was the best physique on the planet?
In Columbus this past March Martinez looked good, but paled in comparison with his best self. His legs were down in size and detail - possibly a result of his knee injury. His conditioning wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. Even the back, which was second only to Ronnie Coleman's in recent years, didn't impress as it once had.
To be fair, the Arnold was his comeback from what could just as easily have been a career-ending injury. And yet, despite the severity of that injury, he did manage to place second. That's how good he is. Now, however, fans wonder whether the Arnold was a prelude to a return to form for Martinez, or a post-injury ceiling he may never surpass.
At 38, Martinez isn't too old to show his best stuff, and there's no question he has ample motivation for putting it all together and taking home bodybuilding's Holy Grail. Whether or not his knee is able to withstand the kind of stresses required of a Mr. Olympia is something only he knows. One thing is for certain though - come Olympia day Martinez will be standing strong on the Orleans stage, for his mom and his sister, for his family and friends, for all those who have stood by him throughout his setbacks, and in the end for himself.
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