Written by Peter McGough
12 December 2012


Outstanding memories from the Masters Olympia Weekend

By Peter McGough

The battle for this year’s Masters Olympia, staged in Miami last weekend by Jarka Lorie Schneider, is covered comprehensively elsewhere on this website, but here are a few personal highlights from a memorable event.


On the Saturday afternoon (December 8) of the Masters Weekend, Jarka brought together in seminar form a gathering of past legends. The Hall of Fame line-up was: Lee Haney, Ronnie Coleman, Dorian Yates, Lenda Murray, Samir Bannout, Lou Ferrigno, Shawn Ray, Flex Wheeler, Lee Labrada, Vince Taylor and Rich Gaspari. The stories and banter that ensued during this event was one of the most enjoyable bodybuilding experiences of my 40 years plus involvement in this sport. Just for starters we heard a hysterical Ronnie Coleman telling us how Flex Wheeler gave him the winning secret of the correct “vitamins” to take. Also how he came up with his signature sayings like, “Ain't nuthin’ but a peanut.” Lee Haney talked about his 1984 training partnership with Rich Gaspari who was so intense he would tell fellow gym members, “Hey! Get the hell away from that machine.” Haney said, “I’d never known anyone as intense and as hungry as Rich: I thought he’d have a heart attack in the gym.” The eight-time Mr. Olympia confided, “That’s why I called him Rich The Itch -- he was all over you.” Throughout all this Rich giggled like a naughty schoolboy.

The occasion expertly hosted by MD’s Bob Cicherillo (it needed someone with his knowledge to ask the right questions) was loaded with gems and everyone present said it was the best seminar they had ever seen. A DVD should soon be available: check out masterolympia.com for release dates etc.


One of bodybuilding’s most enigmatic competitors, whose heyday was the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and who made a 2006 comeback to take sixth at the Australian Grand Prix, was guest poser at the Masters. The 55 year old Francis Benfatto was in great shape and unleashed a phenomenal routine. It was completed throughout in slow-mo style to the stirring and dramatic music of A Loop In Time by Buddha Bar. Each move and transition was expertly executed by the 6th place finisher at the 1990 Olympia. Renowned for his spectacular lines (which were still in evidence) the Frenchman played to his strengths and hit every pose on the button and then held it for a few seconds. It was like watching a moving statue. He brought the house down.


I asked him why he didn’t compete at the Masters? He replied, “It’s not about competition for me now, it’s about art.” Well, truth is, it always has been for the cultured Francis, and always will be as he proved last Saturday December 8.


Ronnie Coleman did a guest spot at the Saturday evening finals and came out in a tank top and shorts. Now his physique is some distance away from the one that won eight Sandows and with any other bodybuilder we’d be feeling, “You shouldn’t be doing this stuff anymore – think of your legacy.” But with the Big Nasty’s happy-go-lucky onstage attitude he obviously doesn’t care and so beguiles you into thinking the same. At one point he started to rip the tank top off and eventually after much struggling did so. Truth be told he had more trouble with that tank top that he did in winning eight Mr. O titles.

THE MIGHT-HE QUINN: Mike Quinn was scheduled to compete at the Masters, but had to pull out after sustaining a quad tear. Still he insists he’ll enter the New York Pro in May saying, “I can’t wait another year for the Masters. It’s not about winning, it’s about proving to myself I can still get back onstage. Time to rock ‘n’ roll, baby!” Mike, now 51, whose best placing was 6th at the 1988 Olympia was his usual candid self at the Legends Seminar when he short circuited a discussion about present-day women’s bodybuilding by declaring, “Let’s face it, they all look like guys.” With his piercing eyes, gravelly voice and sharp dress Mike would be a shoo-in for Goodfellas II.

STILL GOING SONG: 1982 Mr. Olympia Chris Dickerson, now 73, opened the Saturday Finals by, without accompaniment, singing in his rich baritone voice a rousing rendition of the National Anthem. Chris is a trained opera singer and he’s sang the anthem at many bodybuilding events, and even at age 73, he gave as good a performance as he has in previous years. Bravo!


Speaking of Dexter Jackson’s Masters Olympia win, five-time Masters Olympia champ Vince Taylor said, “The Blade was so sharp we had to put band aids on after shaking his hand.” Look Vince, you stop with the one-liners and I won’t start doing a Terminator posing routine.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: At the seminar Shawn Ray said, “When I review my career Lee Haney was Mr. Olympia when I began as a pro, then Dorian Yates came along, then he was succeeded by Ronnie Coleman. These three were the Mr. Olympias I competed against, so with my ambition being to be Mr. Olympia I was born at absolutely the wrong time.”

Peter will be back next week and every Wednesday with a new topic looking at the world of bodybuilding like only Peter McGough can do.

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