Phil Heath Names Top 2023 Olympia Contenders, Teases Potential Return

Heath knows who he expects to win the next Olympia. He also knows how he might return to competition.

Few bodybuilders will ever be able to match Phil Heath’s competitive rap sheet. With seven consecutive Mr. Olympia titles from 2011-2017, only Arnold Schwarzenegger (seven Olympia wins) and Ronnie Coleman and Lee Haney (eight Olympia wins each) are on par with the modern titan. Such a reality potentially makes Heath’s prognostication for the 2023 Mr. Olympia all the more intriguing.

On Apr. 11, 2023, Heath appeared in a YouTube interview with The Voice of Bodybuilding, Bob Cicherillo, to discuss the upcoming Olympia. In the process, Heath named some of his top contenders for the title, including defending champion Hadi Choopan. The living legend even touched upon what it would take for him to return to the stage in posing trunks.

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Before breaking down who he thinks could topple Choopan, Heath gave the athlete a wholehearted endorsement for a repeat title. It’s Choopan’s background, in addition to his elite fitness, that Heath thinks provides the champion with bodybuilder an edge over his peers.

“I think Hadi’s [Choopan] a repeat champion,” Heath said. “… You got to look at someone’s origin. Champions have a specific origin of how they got here in the first place. You think of someone that has grown up in that environment in Iran. Everything matters. This thing means everything to him and his country. There’s a lot of expectations, but he’s met those expectations in a very quick period of time. He’s never really been off.”

As for who could unseat Choopan, Heath likes the potential of Derek Lunsford and Nick Walker. Perhaps not by coincidence, Lunsford was the 2022 Olympia runner-up after transitioning from the 212 class, while Walker finished in third place.

For different reasons, this trio appears to be bodybuilding’s top Cerberus monster of sorts.

“It’s a three-headed monster at this point,” Heath explained. “It’s either Derek [Lunsford] and I can make a case for Nick [Walker]. Nick is an anomaly, he’s very different … It’s going to cancel out a lot of guys because of the density and muscle maturity, because those two [Choopan and Walker] won’t be out-conditioned. The cool thing about Derek [Lunsford] is, now he’s comfortable in that [Men’s] Open body. He’s a hard worker, got a good support system, a good coach.”

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As for his own personal competitive prospects, Heath still has no forthcoming plans to return to a bodybuilding stage. The 43-year-old icon never officially retired but hasn’t competed in nearly three years. His last competitive appearance on-stage was a third-place finish at the 2020 Mr. Olympia, when Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay captured his first title.

Heath told Cicherillo that, at the right lucrative price for one of the sport’s biggest names, he might well return to compete soon enough.

“I produce a lot of numbers,” Heath clarified. “I know my worth, it’s worth way more than $100,000 [Heath’s purse for third place at the 2020 Olympia] … There’s definitely a number, they [Olympia organizers] have to come up. It would have to make sense … We would have to have a meeting of the minds and actually figure it out.”

Featured image: @arnoldsports on Instagram

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