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The First Relay Race Olympia Era

Joe Pietaro

Joe Pietaro

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After Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his retirement from competitive bodybuilding in 1975, but set off a an eight-year period where there were a few one-offs and some non-consecutive multiple Olympia winners, one which was Schwarzenegger. His announcement was made famous for its inclusion in the 1977 documentary "Pumping Iron," in which The Austrian Oak was the star. He had just won his sixth consecutive Mr. Olympia contest (pre Sandow Award days included) and told the folks in attendance in Pretoria, South Africa and the movie cameras that he was stepping down and would continue to be a bodybuilder, just not one on the stage. This, if course, ended up not being the case a few years later, but first things first.

The 1976 Olympia was won by Franco Columbu, Schwarzenegger's buddy and winner of the 'lightweight'' previously. During that offseason, the Italian wield suffer a horrific leg injury during a competition called The Battle of the Stars, something that was popular on television in that decade where celebrities from all industries would perform ridiculous stunts against one another. So he was unable to compete in 1977 (and a number of years after that) and Frank Zane, who possessed a much thinner but completely shredded physique, stood in the winner's circle and successfully defended his title the next two years.

That set up the 1980 Mr. Olympia in Sydney, Australia and Schwarzenegger was on hand as a television analyst. He was also training for a n movie role and at the 11th hour, decided that the he would don the poising trunks again; as a previous winner, he automatically qualified. Being the face of the sport and obviously having major influence in it, Schwarzenegger was given a non-deserved victory. There were a number of competitors who should have beeb considered over him, Zane being one of them. Mike Mentzer was also sandbagged and he and Schwarzenegger exchanged words backstage. Chris Dickerson was the runner-up, but many pundits of The Iron Game felt that Mentzer and Zane both bested him. Boyer Coe placed fourth, one spot behind Zane and one ahead of Mentzer, who was so disgusted by the events that he never competed again.

In 1981, another controversial Olympia took place when Columbu returned with his now-healed leg looking much different than his other. But he was the winner and Dickerson once again was the bridesmaid. Tom Platz placed next and many felt that he should have been the champion. A year later, Dickerson finally took home the top trophy and then in 1983, Samnir Bannout had his biggest moment.

All of this was merely the set-up for what is still tied as the best run in Olympia history when Lee Haney won in 1984 and was successful defending his title seven more times without any controversy before retiring after the 1991 show, bowing out gracefully and passing the baton to Dorian Yates. Haney's eight consecutive Olympia wins is the most impressive in the game, even when factoring in Ronnie Coleman duplicating that feat but placing second to Jay Cutler in 2006.
 

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