1980 Mr. Olympia: Should Arnold Have Won?

The 1980 Mr. Olympia competition was one of the most Arnold controversial bodybuilding shows of all-time.

The date was October 4th, 1980. The place was Sydney, Australia. This is the spot where one of the most heavily debated bodybuilding shows of all-time took place. In case you aren’t aware of what I’m referring to, let me fill you in on what happened.

In 1975, Arnold Schwarzenegger retired from bodybuilding to further pursue his acting career. In 1976, Arnold’s best friend Franco Colombia won the Mr. Olympia. The year after that, Frank Zane took the crown, and then won both the 1978 and 1979 Mr. Olympia competitions.

During that same time, Mike Mentzer started to take the bodybuilding world by storm. He was one of the most conditioned bodybuilders of the era, and was the one who started HIT training. Prior to the 1980 Mr. Olympia, Mentzer scored a perfect 300 at the Mr. Universe competition.

Earlier in 1980, Frank Zane cut his urethra while training outside which lead to massive internal bleeding. He recovered in time for the 1980 Mr. Olympia, but he had lost much of the muscle mass that he had obtained from the previous three years of training.

And then there was Chris Dickerson. He had the most complete developed physique out of all the competitors. However, he was only 5’6” in height, and had weak biceps compared to the others.

The controversy started the day before the competition. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his girlfriend Maria Shriver had flown to Australia to cover the show for CBS. The day before the show, Arnold announced that he was coming out of retirement, and was going to compete in the 1980 Mr. Olympia competition. Arnold had only been training for eight weeks, and he looked much smaller, especially in his legs, than the last time he had won the Mr. Olympia title in 1975.

Unlike the other competitors, Arnold didn’t let anyone know that he was planning to compete. All the other competitors had to register for the Mr. Olympia competition a month before the show. This was just the beginning of the controversy.

As the show progressed, it was clear that Arnold was not at his best. However, it didn’t stop the judges from giving him 99 out of a possible 100 points in the first round. For the second round, Arnold received a perfect 100 score. Arnold had a substantial lead going into the night show.

Back in 1980, the free posing night round counted for one third of the total score. Most of the competitors looked better for the night round, including Arnold. However, he finished third in the night round with a score of 96, behind Chris Dickerson’s 99 and Frank Zane’s 97.

After three rounds of judging, Arnold was in first place with a score of 295. Zane was second with a score of 291, and Dickerson was third with a total of 290. Boyer Coe and Mike Mentzer both had a score of 280. At this point, each judge could give one point to the person that they though deserved to be the winner. Five of the seven judges gave Arnold a point, giving him a perfect score of 300. Dickerson was given two points, and was moved up to second place over Zane.

After it was announced that Arnold won, many people in the audience booed. Zane, who had won the Olympia the previous three years, threw his trophy against a wall backstage. Zane, Mentzer, and Coe all boycotted the 1981 Mr. Olympia competition. In fact, Mike Mentzer never competed in another bodybuilding show again. CBS spent a ton of money traveling to Australia to record the show. After the controversial decision, CBS decided not to air the show because of its unpopular outcome. It should also be noted that Arnold was friends with several of the judges.

Now, almost 40 years after the controversial show took place, it is still widely talked about in bodybuilding forums across the world. So, did Arnold deserve to win his seventh Mr. Olympia title in 1980? Many people in the bodybuilding world don’t think so.

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