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Late Additions To Arnold Classic Change the Landscape Drastically

Joe Pietaro

Joe Pietaro

Joe Pietaro Contributer
May 30, 2014
When the list of invitees to the 2023 Arnold Sports Festival was first released, it was not only short but also not a deep lineup at all. Sure, there were some very interesting storylines that could be made, but that has improved tenfold with just a few additions. First, 2021 Arnold Classic champion Nick Walker threw his name in the proverbial hat and it seemed as if a big payday was a pretty good incentive. He was coming off an impressive third-place finish at the Olympia in December and basically has nothing to prove as far as Columbus goes. But when Mamdouh "Big Ramy" Elssbiay announced that he, too, would be headed to Ohio, his reasons are multiple and the most vital one is more than likely to quiet the nay-sayers who criticized - rightfully so, mind you - his physique in Las Vegas.

The two-time defending Olympia champion not only failed to win a third time but slid all the way down to fifth place... with some feeling that in itself was a gift of sorts. Elssbiay was not in great condition and had a few 'ppockmarkslumps' on his body that surely had much to do with his scorecard results. So he has a lot hanging in the balance at the Arnold. If he shows up in top shape and places high, then that may quell some of the negativity surrounding him. Even if he doesn't win the show, Elssbiay can still leave town with his head held high and put him right back in the Olympia conversation.

But if Elssbiay is off again, he will be hearing more than just whispers that he is basically finished as far as being a top contender goes... that his days as a top champion are over. And that may have some merit to it; not every bodybuilder can be a Dexter Jackson and compete at a high level for decades. As far as previous Arnold Classics go, Elssbiay has victories in Europe in 2017 and Brazil in 2015. His best placing in Ohio was third back in 2020. So he has some work to do to erase the bad memories from Planet Hollywood.

Walker also needs to place high here to justify entering in the first place. The two competitors he finished behind at the Olympia - Hadi Choopan and Derek Lunsford - will not compete at the Arnold. So "The Mutant" should be the favorite to win... on paper, at least. But that means little once the posing trunks are donned. Being a recent champion of the show, Walker cannot fall flat on his face and place anywhere out of the top three without this decision being second-guessed. But he must feel confident that he can peak twice in a four-month period and walk away with the $300,000 top prize.

But the likes of William Bonac (the 2018 and 2020 Arnold Classic USA champion), Samson Dauda, Andrew Jacked, and Shaun Clarida will have something to say about that. Those names were on the lips of everyone making some early predictions and still should be. But having Walker and Elssbiay part of the conversation makes it that much more interesting.
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