There is only one bodybuilder that the GOAT, Arnold Schwartzennegger, has named as the greatest bodybuilder he’s ever seen, and that man does not hold an Olympia title- Kenneth Flex Wheeler. In a professional career that spanned 24 years, a near miss with death, and kidney disease, Flex Wheeler cemented himself as one of the greatest of all time. Flex, who has described himself as “a martial artist first, bodybuilder second,” left an indelible mark on the bodybuilding world with both his physique and his remarkable tenacity, and regardless of Olympia titles must be considered as one of the best of all time.
After a childhood in poverty, Flex began weight training to supplement his martial arts training. He quickly realized a serious aptitude for the weights and turned his attention to them more fully. Flex began competing at age 16 and won his pro card a mere five years later, boasting what would become one of the most complete physiques ever seen onstage. Flex’s full, round, almost cartoonish muscle bellies, impeccable presentation, tiny waist, perfect conditioning, and quality mass (5’10” and 240lbs) became a beacon to every lifter on the planet, as to what physical perfection actually looked like.
Clearly a phenom in the sport, Flex entered and won his first pro show a year after getting his pro card, the illustrious (but now defunct) Ironman Pro, followed by a win at the Arnold Classic that same year. Placing a close second to Dorian Yates at the Olympia in his freshman year as an IFBB pro, Flex Wheeler appeared to be destined for serious greatness.
Tragically, Wheeler was involved in a near fatal car accident that resulted in temporary partial paralysis, but he bounced back like a true competitor and took the runner-up at the Arnold Classic in 1995. Over the course of the next eight years, Flex narrowly missed wins at the Olympia in 1998 and 1999 (and finished in the top five twice more), won another four Ironman Pros, an additional three Arnold Classics, and a variety of other shows. After retiring from competition in 2003, Flex once more returned to the stage as a Classic Physique competitor in 2017, at the age of 52, but finished a disappointing 15th.
Further tragedy befell Flex in the last month, as he underwent emergency surgery to partially amputate his right leg. A long-time sufferer of kidney disease, Flex had concomitant vascular issues that resulted in the amputation. Though he might be down to one kidney and one whole leg, Wheeler will remain as one of the most impressive physiques to ever grace the Olympia stage.
Image Source: Muscle & Fitness