Written by Peter McGough
01 September 2016


Kai & Arnold - Their Broken Relationship?




Last March at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio and at the Arnold Classic Australia, in Melbourne, the contest’s namesake, Mr. Schwarzenegger, made some controversial comments onstage to Kai Greene when presenting him with the first-place trophy. In Columbus, Arnold told Kai that Cedric McMillan (who led after the prejudging) had the better muscle development but he, Kai, had the better posing and that’s why he won. It seemed to be somewhat diluting Kai’s victory by saying McMillan had the better physique. And in Melbourne, Arnold asked Kai to hit a double biceps shot complete with a vacuum shot. Again, this could be interpreted as a dig at Kai’s midsection, which had been distended during the prejudging in Columbus. Regarding the Cedric comment, Kai ignored it and gave general thanks for his win. In Melbourne, he did hit the pose and looked good in it.

So the obvious question, what are his thoughts on those interactions with Arnold and how is their relationship?

The question elicits prolonged, raucous laughter from the three-time Arnold Classic champ. He eventually responds to tell a fascinating story, but in true Kai style, it takes a while.

“Arnold has achieved so much in different spheres, that he can say whatever the hell he likes. What do I think of him? Listen to this. I faced a bunch of challenges in my childhood. When I was 16, back in 1991, I was in an institutional facility for problem kids. I got into a series of altercations and on occasion, had to be removed from classes for fighting and stuff. I was really taking the defensive posture of sending out the message, ‘You can’t victimize me! You’re not gonna beat me up, or rape me!’ I was really doing the peacock stuff.  



“One day, one of the teachers put a video on. The video immediately caught my attention, and caused me to start thinking about the past choices I had made and the choices I would make in the future. The movie was ‘Pumping Iron,’ and of course Arnold was the dominating figure in the movie. Before the movie I felt unempowered, but viewing this iconic film, I started to realize that the way out of the existence I had was down to me— I had to start making the right choices. The teacher had a gym, and he told me I had a pretty good physique. I’d been around and seen all sorts of situations as a kid. I thought this is probably where this guy’s gonna make his move— which gives you an indication of my mindset at that time. But the teacher was for real, and I started to train in his gym and he said I had the potential to compete.

“So, you ask about Arnold? I can honestly say that bodybuilding saved my life, and that the gateway to bodybuilding for me was ‘Pumping Iron’ and in effect, Arnold. And there’s more. The teacher gave me this massive book— bigger than the Bible. I was 16 and couldn’t read or write at the time. But the book gave me a reason to learn to read, because I really wanted to absorb the information contained within it. And so by studying the book and analyzing its contents, I was eventually able to read. Being able to read opened vast new horizons for me and was an enormous step in helping change my life. The book was the Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold would never know how those two significant episodes— seeing ‘Pumping Iron’ and reading his book— changed my life. In fact, I believe they probably saved my life.

“So I started training, and my ambition was to be on the cover of a bodybuilding magazine. I used to cut pictures out of magazines and put them on my wall. And the reason other inmates didn’t tear them down was because I was getting bigger and stronger, and was getting respect from my peers. That induction into bodybuilding was the first step of my journey of self-improvement, of developing all aspects of myself. It wasn’t just about the physique, it was overhauling my thinking process, learning to visualize goals, plan to achieve them and then executing the plan to fruition. It was a lifesaver. If you look at the statistics of recidivism among juveniles, their return rate to institutions is very high. I was determined not to be one of those statistics.”



“And so in 2009, nearly 20 years after that turning point in the institution, I’m standing onstage at the Arnold Classic receiving the first-place award from the catalyst of those 1991 life-changing events— it was surreal. As regards to what Arnold said onstage this year, there’s really nothing that he could say that would really upset me or derail me. We now have a 25-year special relationship he knows nothing about. The fact that we both ended up onstage together at the 2009 Classic represents a monumental achievement for both of us. His achievement was being so successful in other arenas, while still remaining true to his roots by developing the Arnold Classic franchise globally. My achievement was that of following my journey that started when I was 16. And the journey of that 16-year-old kid doing push-ups, learning to read and developing a structure and a point to his life all fused together and came to fruition when we stood onstage together.

“Those 10-second sound bites by him weren’t enough for me to lose sight of the fact that this man achieved so much in bodybuilding and outside bodybuilding. His accomplishments are a result of hard work and application over decades. He overcame huge obstacles to get where he is. At the 2009 Classic, I had enjoyed a relationship with Arnold for all those years, even though he didn’t even know my name. Like I said, he’s earned the right to say whatever the hell he wants to anyone.”