Qualifying for the Olympia just became a bigger challenge.
While previous Mr. Olympia winners, including current titleholder Hadi Choopan and 2019 champion Brandon Curry don’t have to worry, other Olympia hopefuls suddenly face a steeper climb to secure a spot in the most prestigious bodybuilding show in the world.
With the 2023 Mr. Olympia contest scheduled for Nov. 3-5, there’s now even more pressure on the competitors’ sculpted shoulders to impress the judges with their physiques and posing routines. In a move that could have career-altering implications, the Olympia Qualifying System (OQS) will only grant the top three finishers in the Mr. Olympia an automatic berth in the following year’s contest.
On Oct. 23, 2023, Olympia owner Jake Wood shared an Instagram post detailing the rationale behind the groundbreaking decision:
“In recent years, the top 5 finishers in the Mr. Olympia division have received an automatic qualification to the following year’s Olympia, but after consulting with the IFBB Pro League we have decided to make a change.
Starting with this year’s event, only the top 3 in the Mr. Olympia will automatically qualify for the following year’s Olympia. We are making this change in an effort to add some additional star power to the various regional events held worldwide. This change is being made with the full support of the IFBB Pro League as we all share an interest in maintaining a system that strengthens events at all levels.”
The new rule applies not only to the Men’s Open division, but also to the other 10 divisions — 212, Men’s Physique, Classic Physique, Wheelchair, Women’s Bodybuilding, Women’s Physique, Figure, Fitness, Wellness, and Bikini.
Most importantly, the change will be effective immediately, which should make the upcoming show in Orlando, FL that much more competitive. Finishing among the top five at the sport’s most recognizable contest has always been seen a serious achievement. However, athletes in this year’s lineup may be that much more hungry for a higher placing and more likely to consider a result outside of the top three a significant disappointment.
Of course, this is just the latest shift in the Olympia qualification setup. In December 2022, the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) decided to do away with the point system that gave competitors a chance to qualify for the Olympia. Previously, the athletes who finished with the three highest point totals over the course of the season automatically punched their ticket to the biggest show of the year.
But with the point system no longer in play, that has placed even more emphasis on performing well when it matters most. With the qualification period running from Nov. 21, 2022 until Oct. 9, 2023, here’s the path athletes from all divisions (except Wheelchair Bodybuilding) faced to earn a spot in this year’s Mr. Olympia show:
- Top five from the Men’s Open 2022 Mr. Olympia
- Top three from other 2022 Olympia divisions
- Winner of each Open contest held during the qualification period
That benefitted someone like Samson Dauda, who fell just short of a top-five finish at the 2022 Olympia with a sixth place finish in his Olympia debut. However, by taking home the title at the 2023 Arnold Classic, “The Nigerian Lion” earned a $300,000 prize and a spot in the 2023 Mr. Olympia Men’s Open lineup.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the rule change impacts the competitive landscape. Reducing the number of automatic bids from five to three undoubtedly ramps up the importance of the other qualifying shows on the schedule.
With two fewer spots up for grabs at the Olympia, some athletes may need to shift their priorities and attack their training more aggressively to come out on top in other key contests.
Dauda did exactly that by getting in prime shape for the Arnold Classic and capturing top honors for his efforts. Ditto for Justin Shier, who made the most of his IFBB Pro show debut in July by winning the 2023 Chicago Pro and securing his own spot in the Men’s Open lineup for the 2023 Olympia.
Most recently, Charles Griffen accomplished his goal of getting a chance to compete against the best of the best at the Orange County Convention Center. Despite suffering a torn pec back in April, the determined bodybuilder completed his comeback in championship fashion by winning the title at the 2023 Legion Sports Fest Pro on Oct. 8, 2023. Griffen may face an uphill battle to finish high amongst a crowded group of accomplished competitors, but he certainly deserves credit for grabbing the final qualifying spot.
Ultimately, allowing only the top three finishers at the Olympia to qualify for the following year’s contest could be viewed as both a positive and a negative. On one hand, it raises the stakes significantly when everyone steps on stage for the most anticipated show of the year. On the other hand, it could leave a few competitors on the outside looking in if they don’t emerge victorious at one of the qualifying contests on the calendar for 2024.
Featured Image: @mrolympiallc / Instagram