BALLYMONEY bodybuilder Stephen Graham is still pinching himself this week after being crowned Mr Olympia.
Stephen won the title in England last week and said it is without doubt the pinnacle of his career.
The British Grand Prix and Expo, for IFBB Professional Bodybuilding and Strength Sports, was held on 19th and 20th March in London’s Excel Convention Centre.
The IFBB’s Mr Olympia is the highest competition for professional bodybuilders and this year was the first year that the IFBB Amateur Mr Olympia was held in conjunction with the British Grand Prix.
The competition has the same status as the IFBB World Championships.
Stephen told Times Sport: “I had prepared to compete in the U80kg category and left for London on Friday morning.
“I weighed-in at 78.7kg on the Friday evening.
“On Saturday morning I arrived at the venue to compete, only to be told that there weren’t enough competitors in my class to make the competition legitimate.
“Therefore i had to make the choice to move up a weight division and compete alongside the U85kg competitors. There were seven competitors in this class.
“The prejudging went well and I knew that I was better conditioned than anyone on the stage.
“After the judging was over, the top six was announced to progress into the finals which were being held at 2pm.
“I was happy to see my name on the list, I had made top six.
“We came back onstage to battle it out in the finals at 2pm and when the placings were being announced, I couldn’t believe my ears when my name was at the top spot, and I had just won the U85kg Amateur Mr Olympia! To beat the top international physiques while giving away 5kg to them was mind-blowing.”
The winners from all weight classes then battled it out in a pose-down for the overall title.
The winner of this automatically gets his IFBB Pro-card and stands onstage with the professionals later that evening. Stephen continued: “To stand among the very top athletes from all weight classes in the world was an awesome feeling, and one that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
“This is by far the biggest title i have ever won, and to have the title of Mr Olympia is unbelievable, it doesn’t get any better than that.
“Although the overall champion gets his pro-card automatically, I have been told that I can apply to the IFBB Professional Committee for my pro-card now.
“Although it’s something I’ll have to think about very seriously, at the moment I think I wouldn’t be competitive against the top guys in the U202lb pro class, therefore I may not go for it and decide to stay amateur.
“But I’ll take my time to make that decision.
“I am so proud to be the first winner of the Amateur Mr Olympia from the United Kingdom and to bring the title home to wee Ballymoney makes all the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile.
“Complete Gyms have been instrumental as usual in my progression to this point and their help is much appreciated! I just want to thank my brother Sammy, and all the guys from Sam’s Gym who have supported me through it all, to have a fantastic team of guys behind you makes it so much easier! Thanks guys!”