Gary Strydom: Over the years, bodybuilding has had some serious “golden boys”- guys who didn’t have to be the best bodybuilder on Earth, just the most beloved. A pretty boy with a brutal physique who were the dude that other guys wanted to be and most women wanted to be with (assuming traditional gender and sexuality in this figure of speech). Guys like “The Blonde Bomber” Dave Draper, the 1990’s cover phenom Dennis Newmann, or Mike O’Hearn, or the early oughts’ Chris Cook- they grabbed peoples’ attention, but never the crown.
One such bodybuilder was Gary Strydom, though the reasoning behind his inability to capture the Olympia crown is a bit more complex than just “he fizzled.” Gary Strydom was an up-and-coming bodybuilder in the late 1980s who stormed into the fray in the IFBB with a win at the Night of Champions in his first pro competition and a podium finish in his first Olympia. Packing 250-285 pounds on his 6’2” frame in an era when the bigger guys usually didn’t break the 255lb park, Strydom had some insane good looks to go with his reipped and massive physique.
After his fifth place finish in the Olympia, Gary Strydom managed a top three finish in 13 of his next fifteen contest, placing fourth twice in that time. With that, Strydom seemed poised to take the top spot, as his bulk and aesthetics were proving nearly impossible for his other competitors to top. That is, until Vince McMahon’s short-lived and disastrous foray into bodybuilding. Handing the IFBB’s biggest stars massive amounts of cash to jump ship, the most colorful personalities and best physiques the IFBB had to offer moved themselves to the bodybuilding brother to the then WWF- the WBF.
After two years, in which Strydom won the WBF Championship twice, the WBF folded, leaving the bodybuilders who’d made the move at the mercy of the IFBB, which handed down a four year ban to the competitors. Upon their return to the fold, however, their punishment seemed to continue, and none of the former WBF athletes were considered for the top six for the ensuing years- a bias that remains in place in Weider publications, which have all but stricken their WBF men from their history. Gary Strydom, however, remained in the minds and on the lips of the press and fans as one of the greatest bodybuilders to never wear the crown, because the heir apparent to the thrown ended up under the bus rather than atop the Olympia field.