The bodybuilding world lost one of its biggest stars over the weekend. Former Mr. Olympia Shawn “Flexatron” Rhoden died at the age of 46; according to multiple reports, the cause of death was a heart attack.
Rhoden was the first Jamaican ever to claim bodybuilding’s top honor when he won Mr. Olympia in 2018. With the win, he dethroned then 7x champion Phil “The Gift” Heath.
The Unlikely Champion
Also, winning the title at 43 years old made him the oldest bodybuilder to take home the crown.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in the Washington metropolitan area, or DMV, Flexatron entered a sport that many from his home country were unaware of, as soccer and cricket dominated the Jamaican sports scene. Although Black men rule the sport of bodybuilding, they are not as widely recognized in the culture outside of bodybuilding circles.
However, once Rhoden hit high school and found the weight room, bodybuilding became his passion. But what was once his love ended up becoming an afterthought when tragedy struck, starting a downward spiral for the promising athlete.
Tragedy Before Triumph
After his father died in 2002, Rhoden spiraled into a bout of depression, which led to alcoholism. Rhoden became extremely out of shape, but he defeated his demons and began to train again with perseverance.
In 2010, Rhoden won his International Fitness and Bodybuilding Pro card and came in 11th at the 2011 Mr. Olympia, his debut at the Super Bowl of bodybuilding. Before 2012, you might not have heard of Shawn Rhoden, but when he started his successful world tour in 2012, culminating in a third-place finish in the Mr. Olympia competition, fans of the sport took note.
However, he ascended rapidly, taking fourth at the 2013 Mr. Olympia. In 2014 and 2015, Rhoden took third at the contest; however, in 2016, he came in second to Phil Heath.
Rhoden served notice that he had arrived in the sport that he once abandoned, and that he was here to stay. It led to his eventual 2018 Mr. Olympia win and global recognition.
The Shadow League produced a documentary that chronicled his lead up to the 2018 Mr. Olympia win titled Flexatron: Becoming Shawn Rhoden. Diving into what drove his passion for the sport and the rigors it takes to train for professional bodybuilding, the film was released in 2019.
However, Rhoden’s career was not controversy-free.
In July 2019, Utah formally charged Rhoden with rape, object rape and sexual abuse. He was accused by a female protégé of sexual assault while visiting Salt Lake City in October 2018, shortly after his Mr. Olympia win.
This is getting so big now that the media *cannot* ignore it. We're at a tipping point.
— STOPCOMMONPASS ❌ (@org_scp) November 6, 2021
According to reports, Rhoden allegedly invited a married woman he had been mentoring in the sport to his hotel room in Salt Lake. However, the accuser claimed that is where the misconduct took place.
Subsequently, American Media LLC, which runs the Mr. Olympia competition, released a statement in July 2019, banning Rhoden from competing at the 2019 contest and future competitions.
The death of Shawn Rhoden hurts me so much but one thing is I’m glad he had a great bond with his daughter in his final moments . These moments she’ll cherish forever. RIP champ ! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Q71NxznDDq
— Delasi🎖 (@JayDelasi) November 6, 2021
Additionally, the IFBB, the governing bodybuilding and fitness organization, released a statement in July 2019 confirming no further action against Rhoden while the investigation was ongoing.
Shawn Rhoden made history as the oldest bodybuilder to win the Mr. Olympia title, but left the world too early. His body of work will stand for generations as a testament to never giving up despite the odds.