The pressures of being number one.
There are always pressures of being labeled number two in the world. It’s perhaps a position that is at the same time both a blessing and a curse. Athletes always strive to be considered number one in their respective sports and falling short can be devastating for some, yet it always gives them something to strive for. But what about the athlete that stands at the top of the mountain, the one looking down summit at the foes that he’s risen above, the one who has tasted ultimate glory. What keeps them on top?
Phil Heath is a four time Mr. Olympia champion who has risen to the challenge time and again with no clear end in sight for his title reign. What keeps Heath in the top spot? One answer would be his level of confidence. Many observers would down right call Heath an ego maniac obsessed with his own greatness. That’s a matter of opinion for sure, but one thing is positive, he wouldn’t be winning these competitions if he had a lack of faith in himself. His confidence, or ego, has given him an aura of that his competitors hope to overcome and his supporters believe gives him the ultimate edge. The word ego had also been thrown around in reference to another great Olympia champion. Arnold Schwarzenegger. His belief in his physique and abilities carried him to being the youngest man to win a Mr. Olympia title in 1970. To retain the title you have to have a self confidence so unwavering, so unshakable that not even your opponents believe they’ll be able to topple you. Like Schwarzenegger before him, Heath has adopted this same sense of bravado.
Another answer to be considered is his drive to attain all time greatness. Heath isn’t battling the current competition. Men like Kai Greene, Dennis Wolf, and Shawn Rhoden aren’t his biggest rivals. It’s men like Schwarzenegger, Ronnie Coleman, and Lee Haney that concern him. Their achievements in the sport, both during their title reigns and after the end of their careers are goals that all bodybuilders wish to achieve or surpass. The idea of winning ten straight Mr. Olympia competitions is a goal that Heath has in his sights. More than defeating his rival Greene, Heath wishes to be known as the one, the man who captured the most Bronze Sandows, an athlete that will go down in the history books for breaking the all time record held by Haney and Coleman.
Despite the obvious accolades, it’s not easy being the king. The argument can be made that being number one comes with a different kind of pressure. For one there’s dealing with the constant battle for the crown. The opposition is gunning for the top spot and it’s the champs duty to battle back with an even more impressive physique with every passing year. Another hurdle is that with being champion and reaching near perfection – you’re constantly being scrutinized. The judges remember what you brought to the table during the last competition and they expect to see improvements. If you’re not putting the work in during the off season the judges will know. The idea of the champ looking worse or even on par with the last competition weighs heavily against them. A true professional uses as fuel to add to the competitive fire and pushes themselves to go beyond what’s expected.
In the fight game there’s a saying: you’re not considered the champ until you defend your belt. Another is that winning the belt is the easy part, it’s holding onto it that’s the true challenge. Phil Heath has not only proved he can win the title of Mr. Olympia, but also defend that title against elite opposition. His aura of greatness is like armor. It makes him charismatic and gives a feeling of true championship quality. As long as that armor of confidence remains unscathed it’ll be an uphill battle for anyone who wishes to challenge the throne.