|In the latest interview from David Robson, Nasser gives his views on his historic 1999 Arnold Classic win. This interview was held on January 27, 2010.|
Pre-Arnold Classic 2010 Interview
By: David Robson
Nasser El Sonbaty will go down in history as the man who pioneered extreme size while maintaining an aesthetic quality to his physique, a combination few have been able to replicate to this day. As an outspoken champion Nasser may have been denied greater success, and indeed many feel he should have won the Mr. Olympia title several times. One title he does hold dear, however, is his 1999 Arnold Classic victory. A clear winner at this contest Nasser was considered in a class of his own. His melding of gargantuan size and perfect symmetry made him one of the more popular bodybuilders of his day.
- David Robson
Q: Nasser, how does your Arnold win compare to all of your other victories?
On paper the Arnold Classic is the second most important show right after the Olympia. The third “toughest” ranked show was the “Night of Champions”(NOC) in NY City, which I had won also before (in 1995). But the NOC does not exist anymore since the great promoter Mr. Wayne DeMilia is out of the IFBB circus. Yes circus, not circuit. The successor show of the NOC is Mr. Steve Weinberger’s “New York Pro” which he has run for a couple of years. He, however, as a former newspaper truck driver, has rage and behavioural issues. Not a good show and definitely a bad promoter who needs to undergo serious anger management and should use way fewer swearwords and threats.
I finally won the Arnold Classic, promoted by Mr. Jim Lorimer – a very good man – in 1999 after I came each time in second place behind Mr. Flex Wheeler in 1998 and 1997. Finally the judges – let’s say the judging clique – let me win in 1999. In between, I was almost bleeding out of energy and also motivation because I did all the Olympia contests (from 1994) and also most of the post-Olympia shows in Europe. It is good to have this important pro win (the Arnold Classic) on your resume in order to be ranked and recognised as one of the greatest bodybuilders ever. Another very interesting fact is that I am basically the only one who had won the Arnold Classic (1989 – 2009, staged so far each year for the last 21 years) who is European born and not a former NPC competitor. Now you can build the thesis that either former NPC amateurs (who then turned pro) are of better caliber than non-NPC/non USA pro bodybuilders or you can say that it is not really easy to win the Arnold Classic as non-US pro.
Q: Were you at your best when you won your Arnold title, Nasser?
No, I do not feel that my Arnold Classic look in 1999 represented my best ever showing. Yes definitely one of my heaviest competition weights but definitely not my best appearance. I think that I looked better in numerous European post-Olympia pro shows over many years compared to the Arnold in 1999. I competed at the 1999 Arnold at over 290 pounds. However, many people in general but even more so in bodybuilding have a very short attention span. Therefore they do not remember my great showings in contents held outside of the US. Also, many think that only US-based pro shows are “important”. And others are too young, too indoctrinated, too manipulated and too dumb to realize that. I was there (Columbus, Ohio) in 1999 for the third year in row to compete and to claim the Arnold Classic title, which is equivalent to the title of Professional World Champion. I did not see back then or now anybody else other than myself in 1999 as the clear winner. I think the judges couldn’t deny any longer my absolute superiority over all competitors on that day of that show. What I did not like is the fact that Most Muscular trophy was withheld from me. How could a Levrone receive the Most Muscular trophy that day? And how could Flex Wheeler receive the previous year’s Most Muscular trophy as well – Wheeler at almost the same height as I am but over 50 pounds (22 kilos) lighter and being not more, but rather less muscular than I or others were. Wheeler was harder in the back area. Nobody can deny that. However, he is very narrow and has super soft hams and carries significantly less muscle for his height. And his arms were over-proportioned compared to his “chest”, “shoulders” and lat spread “width”. Not trying to rag on Mr. Symmetry and a multiple Arnold champion but please realize that everyone has good and less desirable body parts. And I am talking here about world-class level body parts. Wheeler or approximately 10 other world-class bodybuilders would have to be reborn in a couple of centuries from now before any “expert” with a garbage bag body from a “bodybuilding” board can say anything negative about them. Most of these guys who try to discredit world-class bodybuilders’ physiques are simpletons and delusionites with a huge lack of common sense, a distorted proportion of themselves’ and great physical and psychological inferiority complexes, which they like to hide by acting immature and insecure. It should be noted that Wheeler and Levrone are former NPC Champions and the judges do judge according to the recommendation of the head judge who is always from the US – at least in the US. But I bet you the head judge for the upcoming Oz pro show of Tony D will be most likely, an US judge. I assume it will be John Tuman. Just another vassal of Manion ( and before of DeMilia ).So Levrone had to be compensated – by not winning the AC in 1999 – but with the Most Muscular trophy (in 99). It would have been a too big of an affront to him that I also received/obtained that trophy. Normally losing to a non US bodybuilder at a top show however is regarded by the domestic IFBB as a sacrilege.
Actually there were a few different things. Firstly I found it funny that Levrone, while onstage competing, had his posing trunks on inside out. Then he was already in the process of delivering his victory speech towards Mr. Schwarzenegger, telling of his “truckloads of consumed fish” contest prep story to the Governor of California. Then I only realized during the pose-down that the blocky Mr. Jay Cutler was also competing. I hadn’t seen him during the entire contest – or let’s say better: “I did not consciously see “Little Red Riding Hood”. That is what I also call Mr. Cutler because his face is almost the only “body part” where he displays some sort of blood flow and vascularity. I am talking here about his (sometimes) reddish chubby cheeks. I viewed potential competition at the 1999 Arnold Classic only in form of Mr. Cormier and Mr. Levrone. Not only because of their great look but also because of the fact that they are US competitors on US ground with mostly US judges and a US head judge. Another thing was that I saw – from the stage when looking to the judges in the panel – was that they were cracking jokes and laughing hysterically in between citing competitors like Roland Kickinger and Jeff Long.
If you compete in the pro ranks long enough you can often see what some judges are doing. From the stage I saw also how the judges were looking long – way too long – at each other’s score sheets. I went into the show with the goal of winning – despite the concerns I had regarding other factors deciding the outcome. At the time I also already had the reputation of speaking my mind. Shawn Ray was the only guy whose fast tongue the judges feared and they actually rewarded him often even for his punitive words because in his case they wanted to demonstrate there were no repercussions in receiving bad placements after he had directed his negative words towards them. But, otherwise, people in “ruling positions” in bodybuilding do not like that at all – speaking out. They like to make you pay for that. I said to myself:” If they let me win this time, it is a sign that they will not let me ever win the Olympia.”
If you really think about it, how many guys at that time had won the Arnold and the Olympia as well? Nobody. In retrospect, I can only say that only Cutler, Dexter Jackson and Ronnie Coleman were able to do this later. So, I had mixed feelings going into the Arnold show. Then the other thing was that mostly all the Arnold competitors/Miss International contestants – I would say 95% – had taken diuretics in preparing for that show. They had used diuretics that were just off of the given official banned diuretics list with the goal of pretending that this second highest show is really “diuretic tested”. On a more positive note I remember the guy who I liked personally personality-wise the best in the line up was uncrowned Mr. Olympia Vince Taylor. Not only was his physique is one of the best ever but he is also mature, helpful to many and easy going. Vince is a smart man who was – despite his many victories (almost 25 pro wins!) – many times robbed because he is not a brown-noser. ”
In the ‘90s your goal as a serious pro competitor was to win the NOC (Night of Champions). The NOC had great winners before me, like Benaziza, Yates and Levrone. Then the next step would be either to try to win the Olympia or the Arnold Classic. But “they” let Yates maintain a stronghold on the Olympia, so in order to make money, more money and get more glory you could try to win the Arnold. This way you could compensate for a loss at the Olympia, at least money wise, because again it looked back then like there was no way of dismantling the reigning Mr. Olympia champion as long as he was competing. In Yates’s case people said that he could come in a wheelchair and still win the Olympia with a perfect score. This was pretty much true. The corrupt judging clique allowed that. And if someone like me says something then they try to make me look bad. Once again Levrone, Shawn Ray and I were robbed from winning the Olympia. Wheeler, however, was never robbed of any Olympia win. This is fact. If Yates had come up the ranks slowly, as I did, then he would most likely have never become Mr. Olympia. And so many others in the process of competing would have beaten him. But the goal was to install ultimate superiority from the beginning on – a big white Anglo myth – as the unbeatable, invincible force. But Yates with his Anglo name, Peter McGough – who is a great guy – as his ultimate promoter and “propaganda minister” at Joe Weider’s office and Yates being the “white hope”, the “white messiah”, was at the right time at the right place. Manion and company did not want to have another black guy like Mr. Haney as eight times Mr. Olympia after Yates, dominating the bodybuilding world. Manion was almost in trance and more than enthusiastic to have a “Yates”. For the industry blacks generate less money compared to white bodybuilders. And I was not even really on the radar.
Winning the Arnold Classic would normally bring you – theoretically – closer to the Olympia title but actually at my time it brought you further away from it. Levrone, Wheeler and I realized that. Winning the Arnold Classic was basically like the corrupt judging corps were saying to you: “Good bye Olympia, bye, bye.” It later changed with Cutler – the new white US hope. And then “they” had to do the same with Dexter Jackson so that it did not look just like a “white person concept”.