“The Sandow” is the most prestigious title in bodybuilding and is only won by the best of the best. These are the men that get the most of the fame, the money, the fans and they are true champions. But this doesn’t mean we can just forget about the other Olympia competitors and especially about the runner-ups who were really close to the title.
Today we’ll take a look at some of the most popular bodybuilders of all time, that had a lot of fans and some amazing physiques...but who simply didn’t had that edge needed to win the supreme title of Mr. Olympia.
1. Lou Ferigno
We all remember “Big Lou” as one of the main characters in the “Pumping Iron” movie and the runner-up contender at the 1974 Mr. Olympia. He did manage to win important contests such as the IFBB Mr. America and Mr. Universe in ’73, the Mr. International and Mr. Universe in ’74 but he simply wasn’t able to beat the legendary Arnold at the Olympia. Yet he remains in history as a great bodybuilder, an actor, a fitness trainer and an iconic figure of this sport.
2. Rich Gaspari
Rich is a popular bodybuilder of the 80’s and 90’s and he is also known for his supplements company. He won a lot of important contests including the NPC Nationals and many European Grand Prix and was the runner-up at the Olympia in 1985, ’86 and ’87. Although he had a great physique, he simply couldn’t beat the record holder of eight consecutive wins – Lee Haney.
Shawn was very popular in the 90’s and appeared on more Flex Magazine covers than any other bodybuilder in history. He was featured in movies, documentaries and had always been a representative figure of this sport. He won important contests including the Arnold Classic but never managed to get his hands on The Sandow. He finished second in ’94 and ’96 and third in ’93 and ’97 and was simply not a match for the legendary Dorian Yates that won six titles in a row.
4. Flex Wheeler
As Arnold himself used to say, Flex is one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time and had one of the most aesthetic and proportional physiques. He won the Arnold Classic a record of four times and was second at the Olympia in ’93, ’98 and ’99. Despite all of these qualities, he had the misfortune of competing against the unbeatable Dorian Yates (in ’93) and the indestructible Ronnie Coleman (in ’98 and ’99). Yet he will remain in history as one of the best physiques of all time and a bodybuilder who lost it all in a near-fatal car accident and then started from scratch and got back to the top.
5. Kevin Levrone
Kevin is not just a popular bodybuilder of the 90-s, but also a musician, actor, blogger and health club owner. Over his career he won 22 IFBB titles, including the Arnold Classic in ’94 and ’96. He was also very close to get the Sandow and came second at the Olympia in ’92, ’95, 2000 and 2002. But just as Flex Wheeler, he had two BIG problems: Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman.
6. Victor Martinez
Victor is the second Dominican bodybuilder to ever turn pro and he began his career in 2001. His best results include the first place at the 2003 Night of Champions, 2007 Arnold Classic, 2011 Arnold Classic Madrid and 2013 Toronto Pro. His best standing at the Olympia was the second place in 2007 when he was just 4 points behind the winner, Jay Cutler. Victor still remains one of the most popular bodybuilders in the world, with a solid base of loyal fans.
7. Branch Warren
He is also a popular contemporary bodybuilder, best known for his victories at the 2011 and 2012 Arnold Classic. At Mr. Olympia he was second in 2009 and third in 2010, and even though he got on stage in a great shape he just couldn’t match Jay Cutler and Phil Heath.
8. Kai Greene
While the previous mentioned bodybuilders will never have the chance to comeback and ever win the Olympia, Kai still has this opportunity. He is very popular among fans and widely known for his unusual style and his spectacular posing routines. He won important contests such as the Arnold Classic and the New York Pro, and since 2012 he is the runner-up at the Olympia with very big chances of winning the supreme title very soon.How soon will it happen? We'll just have to wait and find out...
*Update* Other popular bodybuilders suggested by our readers are: Lee Labrada, Serge Nubret, Nasser El Sonbaty, Mike Mentzer, Markus Ruhl, Lee Priest, Bob Paris, Ed Corney, Dennis Wolf, Günter Schlierkamp, Tom Platz and Dennis James.