Since winning his first in 1998, there has been one constant, undeniable and irrepressible force on the Olympia stage: Ronnie Coleman. Even last year, one year after Coleman's streak of eight consecutive wins was broken by long-time runner-up Jay Cutler in 2006, the enormous shadow of Coleman's legend loomed over the rest of the field. During his reign, which lasted longer than any other aside from Lee Haney's, it was impossible to mention the Olympia without immediately mentioning Coleman's name.
So even though the story lines are aplenty heading into this year's contest, you'll have to excuse us for feeling a bit nostalgic as the end of September approaches. With that in mind, we caught up with perhaps the greatest bodybuilder who ever lived a week before the 2008 Mr. Olympia to get his thoughts on retirement, this year's lineup and, yes, a possible return to the competitive stage.
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SITTING DOWN WITH ... RONNIE COLEMAN
FLEX: It's been a year since we've seen your emotional send off at the 2007 Olympia. What have you been up to?
Ronnie Coleman: Not a whole lot as far as how I normally do stuff. I've still been working out every day, eating the same way as if I'm getting ready for a show or something. Been doing a lot of traveling, a whole lot of traveling lately. Because number one I'm not getting ready for the show this year and now I got more time. I'm doing a lot of guest posings and signings. I was in Aruba last weekend. I've been places like Brazil, been to Chile, Canada, Germany, Serbia. I'm still staying real busy these days. So nothing's really changed, except the traveling. Because normally around this time of year I don't go anywhere. I stay at home and just eat and train and get ready for the show.
FLEX: I know man, I was there watching Smallville with you.
Coleman: (Laughs) Yeah. Yeah I'm still watching that too.
FLEX: Are you still training at home or are you back at Metroflex?
Coleman: Oh, Metroflex. I been training at Metroflex a lot lately. I trained at home all last year mostly. I only went to Metroflex maybe a couple of times. So I'm just trying to switch it up.
FLEX: What's your weight at right now?
Coleman: I normally keep my weight between 295 and 300. I always stay right around there. I try to keep it there on purpose. That's why I diet and eat and stuff like that.
FLEX: How's the body feeling? After competing for so long, are you feeling like you needed some time off in order to recover?
Coleman: Well (Laughs) ... to me I don't really need that. What a lot of people don't realize is training is my hobby, so what I'm doing is my hobby. It's never been like a distraction or something that I don't want to do. This is stuff I enjoy doing all the time, so I'm really not trying to get no break or nothing because I'm doing what I want to do.
FLEX: Is it a little weird for you now, not getting ready to compete at the Olympia?
Coleman: Not really. It's not weird because, number one, I'm still training like I normally do when I get ready for the Olympia, I'm still kind of dieting a little bit. Only thing that's kind of weird to me is the traveling, because normally I'm not traveling this time of year ... so it really doesn't feel like I'm not getting ready for the Olympia. Because when I am getting ready for the Olympia, I'm doing my normal every-day routine, stuff that I enjoy doing.
FLEX: So when you were winning Olympia after Olympia, you really paid no attention to the hype and the buildup leading up to the contest?
Coleman: I paid no attention to that. I've always been focused on what I was doing.
FLEX: Jay Cutler recently said that with no Ronnie Coleman, it feels like something is missing from this year's Olympia. Now that you've been away from the competitive scene, what does that rivarly mean to you?
Coleman: Well, it's kind of hard for me to say anything about a rivalry because I would be going against what I just told you a minute ago if I told you I was thinking about a rivalry. I was always just so involved with me and what I was doing that I never really gave any thought to anything else (laughs). Because I was always Number One, and to me that's what I was always gonna be. I never even thought about a rivalry. I was so involved in my preparation and getting ready and doing what I had to do to win that I never thought about anything else. I can see where Jay is coming from because if I was him I'd probably be thinking that way too. On my end of it, it was a little bit different.
FLEX: You had some great moments on the Olympia stage over the years. Are you able to pick a few that stand out above everything else?
Coleman: There ain't nothing gonna ever be able to overtake wining that first one. If you want to ever ask me about the greatest moment ever in my life, it's gonna always be wining my first Olympia. Ain't nothing else gonna even come close to it. I never even think about winning Number Two or Number Three. Even though all those shows were great, they just don't compare to excitement and joy and unexplanatory feeling of winning Number One.
FLEX: The top guys everyone keeps mentioning this year are Jay, Dexter, Phil and Dennis. Are those the clear-cut top four guys to you?
Ronnie: Yeah. I mean those are they guys that always placed in the top of every shows the entire year, even though Dennis Wolf is only entering the Olympia now. I'm not there and Victor's not there, so that automatically bumps Dennis Wolf up in the top three right there. Because those guys have always done the best and the reason why they've done the best is because they are the best. They're pretty much automatically gonna be up there in the top four unless something catastrophic happens and they screw up real bad on their diet or something.
FLEX: One matchup everyone is talking about is Dennis Wolf versus Phil Heath. When they stand next to each other, who do you see winning that matchup?
Coleman: Well, it's kind of hard for me to say because they are pretty much the same as far as I'm concerned. They're both real new in the sport. They both have great physiques. I guess it boils down to basically, since they both have pretty much the same strengths and weaknesses to me, I guess it boils down to whoever comes in in the best shape on that day. So it's really gonna be a toss up between those two as far as I'm concerned. I can't put Phil over Dennis right now and I can't put Dennis over Phil. They're both equally great to me.
FLEX: Is Jay the clear favorite going in?
Coleman: Yeah. There's really no comparison between Jay and the rest of the guys because Jay's already two-time Mr. Olympia, number one. Number two is he pretty much got the most size out of those guys and clearly got the experience and everything. I don't really think any of those guy match up against Jay. It should be Jay and everybody else.
FLEX: So you think Dexter is going to be closer to placing third or fourth than he is to beating Jay?
Ronnie: Oh yeah, yeah yeah. Dexter is a great bodybuilder and all that but Jay has the size over Dexter. I mean, when you think of Mr. Olympia, you think of something grand, something big, something huge. That's pretty much what Jay represents.
FLEX: Let's take a look at one more group of guys. Out of Toney Freeman, Melvin Anthony, Silvio Samuel and Gustavo Badell, which two are the most likely to make the final posedown?
Ronnie: When you talk about bodybuilding, when you talk about Mr. Olympia, the first thing that comes to my mind is size. I think about the biggest guy on that day in the best condition. Because you got those four guys and all of them are pretty much good. Ok, I'm gonna call out Toney Freeman and Melvin Anthony first because they're the biggest two. But as we all know if you're not in shape and you don't have the right definition and the right form on that day, all that size ain't gonna do you no good. Silvio is probably one of the greatest bodybuilders of this time but he just don't have everything he needs to be in the top five. He's lacking size. He's got great symmetry, separation, cuts ... he got everything. He just don't have the size he needs. It's gonna be hard. It's gonna be a tossup.
FLEX: I know you said you can't really call it, that it's going to be a tossup this year. But if you had to pick one or the other: Who wins an Olympia first - Phil or Dennis?
Ronnie: Out of those two guys? Man, that's kind of hard to say. Dennis is tall and I think he's probably gonna be putting on more size. He still is really young. I'd probably have to say ... man it's a hard one. I'm probably gonna have to say ... man ... I guess I go with Dennis because he's taller. And he's still real young, so he has a chance to put on a lot more size. As does Phil, but I have to give the edge to Dennis because he's just a little bit taller. The taller you are and the more size you can carry, that gives you that little edge over the shorter guy.
FLEX: OK. This last question can just be a true or false, you don't have to give me any more than that if you don't want to. True or false: Ronnie Coleman will compete in an IFBB contest in 2009.
Ronnie: Ummmm ... I'll say true.
FLEX: Do you want to elaborate on that and tell us when?
Ronnie: I would just leave it as true right now. Because I don't have no idea myself.