Generation Iron Phil Heath SandowWe cover the history behind one of the most iconic emblems of Mr. Olympia – The Sandow Trophy.

It happens every year. The top qualifying Olympian bodybuilders take to the stage and battle for the #1 spot – and the title of best bodybuilder of the year. And then you see it, the Sandow trophy. That bronze statue that represents victory and awards literal years of hard work and pumping iron.

But what is the Sandow trophy. How did it become the ultimate prize that all bodybuilders aspire to? In honor of the 50 years of Mr. Olympia – we trace back the story of the Sandow trophy.

It all starts with Eugen Sandow. During the late 1800’s, Sandow was an extraordinary and coveted bodybuilder and strongman. He was selling out shows all over the world with displays of amazing muscular feats – such as massive weight lifting and chain snapping. He published books about strength and bodybuilding. He even had official merchandise – health drinks, energy pills, and tonics.

Generation Iron Eugen SandowPhoto Courtesy of Express.

Through his amazing feats and popularity, he eventually caught the eye of a sculptor who was on the rise. This was Frederick W. Pomeroy and in 1891, Pomeroy and Sandow came together to devise a statue. A statue that would one day become the Sandow trophy.

On September 14, 1901, Eugen Sandow held an event called “The Great Competition” – which was the first major competition that focused on the judging of not only strength, but physique as well. The top three winners of this competition were awarded, you guessed it, the statue of Eugen Sandow. Gold, Silver, and Bronze for the respective 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

This was the first the world had ever seen the statue. A graceful but muscular man grasping a globe barbell. It perfectly depicted the qualities that Sandow possessed and wanted to inspire. A perfect representation of “The Great Competition” and what it stood for.

It became very popular amongst athletes and was quickly copied and sold to admirers for years. It became a calling card for gyms and all things related to muscular physique and strength.

Generation Iron Sandow trophyPhoto courtesy of Physique Bodyware.

While popular, the statues always remained in private hands and kept to the shadows. This was not a mass produced statue – but something special that were only found by an underground group of people.

It wasn’t until the 1950 Mr. Universe competition that the Sandow statue returned to the spotlight. The organizers of the event were certain that Reg Park would take the #1 spot at the competition and decided to award a very special trophy. The Sandow statue – modeled after the bronze 3rd place trophy from “The Great Competition.” To many people’s surprise, Steve Reeves ended up winning the trophy and brought the statue back home to USA. Before he left, a photo shoot was put together where Reeves posed with the Sandow trophy. This left a long lasting impression for bodybuilding fans.

So it only made sense that in 1977 the Mr. Olympia competition decided to honor the #1 bodybuilding athletes with something fitting to their master strength – the Sandow trophy. For the first twelve years of the competition, the trophies were tall and massive towers of brass – nothing memorable. But the Sandow trophy was now a thing of legend and known by most bodybuilders across the world. This would be the perfect award. This would be the best way to honor their athletes.

Rumor has it that the original mold for the 1977 Mr. Olympia Sandow trophy was found in an antique shop by Joe Weider’s wife. She immediately knew what it was and how important it was bodybuilding – so she purchased it.

So while Joe Weider should always be honored as the father of modern bodybuilding – perhaps we should give a respectful nod to his wife as well – whom without we would never have the Sandow Trophy as it stands now. An icon and legendary statue that represents greatness, strength, and athletic excellence above all else.


Frank Zane was the first to win the coveted statue and was featured on the cover of Muscle Builder and Power magazine. Who do you think will win the Sandow this year? Phil? Kai? A wild card surprise? Let us know in the comments below or on our official Facebook and Twitter pages.

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