Rhoden does what many said he couldn’t, and that was dethrone Phil Heath.
Imagine your happy life quickly spiraling downwards into a dark abyss.
Imagine drinking so much that you start to pee blood and your body shuts down. Imagine being so depressed that you basically give up and try to commit suicide twice. How many of you would be able to recover from that, turn your life around and eventually achieve your biggest goal in your chosen profession?
Shawn Rhoden is one of those who fortunately emerged from that very dark place, and last night he realized a life long goal when one simple phrase was uttered on the Olympia stage in Las Vegas:
“And….NEW Olympia champion!”
It was a journey fulfilled, complete with obstacles, challenges, death, life, hard work and promises kept. And just like his life, last night was no easy victory either as he was facing off against fellow athletes who brought some of their best conditioning and size, including the seven-time champion, Phil Heath.
In the prejudging on Friday, it was apparent that the top four was set with Phil, Shawn, Roelly Winklaar and William Bonac. Roelly was in the best shape of his career, moving up a few spots from last year’s competition. Bonac was in shape was always but all the chatter on social media was that it was coming down to two people, Phil and Shawn.
Phil was the reigning Mr. Olympia with seven consecutive victories, one short of tying legends Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman. Phil, as always, looked sharp, and was ahead on Friday evening. But fans were buzzing about Rhoden’s physique, saying it was the best they had seen, even better than 2016 when he came in second to Heath. It was also a big turnaround from last year when Shawn suffered through injuries and sickness, finishing a disappointing fifth. But last night, all of that was in the past and Shawn got to raise his first Sandow trophy and a $400,000 check to the cheers from a raucous crowd who knew they had witnessed an amazing competition.
It was an interesting weekend overall as we saw a combination of new champions and repeat victories.
Phil Heath, for the first time in eight years, took second place.
In the 212, Flex Lewis captured his seventh consecutive title and announced his retirement on stage. Angelica Teixeira defended her Ms. Bikini crown, Cydney Gillon retained her Ms. Figure title and Breon Ansley did the same in Classic Physique.
New winners included Brandon Hendrickson in Men’s Physique, Shanique Grant in Women’s Physique and Whitney Jones in Fitness. In addition, Roelly Winklaar took home the belt in a newly created award, the People’s Champion, which was decided by online fan voting. Based upon the response from those in attendance, it was much deserved.
It was another amazing Olympia weekend and an even better story for the new Mr. Olympia champion, Shawn Rhoden.