MR. OLYMPIA PHIL ‘THE GIFT’ HEATH (Photo by Rossano P. Stewart)
Two-time Mr. Olympia champion Phil “The Gift” Heath and eight of the top ten IFBB Professional bodybuilders in the world was in attendance at the Muscle Tech 2013 NPC Pittsburgh Championships Saturday night at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.
Some were expecting thrown chairs, verbal abuse—a nasty stage brawl of Jerry Springer-like proportions. Instead, Heath, Kai Green, Shawn Rhoden, Dexter Jackson, Branch Warren, Dennis Wolf, Jay Cutler and James Flex Lewis signed autographs, took pictures with the fans and showed respect for one another.
This is the only show in the world where the top-six from Mr. Olympia all come together to guest pose,” said Heath, the number one ranked bodybuilder in the world. “We come here every year because of Jim Manion,” Heath said.
Yes, we can put a man on the moon, map the human genome and weave a toupee for William Shatner, but nobody can figure out a way to beat “The Gift”.
Heath is huge, he’s hungry and his greatest gift of all is remaining the King of the Hill. That’s the only thing on his mind.
Heath said that his outstanding conditioning and small waist is the reason he spanked the big boys, some of whom has far more experience.
“Winning the Mr. Olympia, the Super Bowl of Bodybuilding and doing it back-to-back years, is like no other experience,” said Heath. “I’m only 33 years old. The best is yet to come.”
In recent years, we’ve been amazed when a bodybuilder manages to turn pro in his mid-20s, because for a while it definitely seemed as if guys were getting their pro cards’ later and later – sometimes at nearly 40 years old. But “The Gift” earned IFBB Pro status well before he hit 30.
Heath grew up in Seattle, and he tried several sports, but by junior high school it was clear that basketball was where he shined.
“I always loved basketball but I didn’t have any brothers or sisters to play with and one day I came home from school and my step dad put up a basketball hoop over the garage,” said Heath. “Basketball is a sport that you don’t need anyone else. All you need is a hoop and a ball. I developed a great 3-point jump shot.”
He attended Rainer Beach High School and led them to a state basketball title. One of his former teammates, Jamal Crawford, currently plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. Heath attended the University of Denver on a full athletic scholarship.
“My senior year in high school we were ranked No. 21 in the country by USA Today,” said Heath. “I was the first basketball player in my high school to receive a division I scholarship and Jamal Crawford was the second. Nate Robinson and Terrence Williams were after us.”
It was not until 2002 that Heath pursued bodybuilding and turned Pro in 2005.
“I played college basketball for four years at the University of Denver and began to lift weights with some bodybuilders,” said Heath. “I won every amateur contest that I entered and earned my Pro card after competing for only two years.”
Bodybuilding has a strange relationship with the mainstream. Everybody in America know—or thinks they know—what bodybuilding is, but only true fans really understand the sport and know who the top bodybuilders are. As professional athletes, bodybuilders receive very little exposure outside of contests, personal appearances and the magazines that support their sport.
“I wasn’t an amateur for very long, but part of the reason for my early success was my balancing act. I have things outside of bodybuilding that make me miss it to various degrees. I will never tire of bodybuilding, because I will never let it consume me. I’m exceptionally cultured in terms of music, stimulating friends and family ties, and I read to get a full assessment of what’s going on in the world. My wife also helps keep me balanced, because she’s in a field outside of bodybuilding.
At the same time, I’m a bodybuilding historian. I know who my predecessors were, where they came from, some of what their motivations were. It’s good to see the past, so you can study journey, know where it’s leading and have a firmer hand in directing it destination.
Don’t be a one-dimensional bodybuilder. Look beyond the protein bars and the weights, as well as beyond the competition. Make sure you have a life in concert with the physical aspect. Stimulate your mind, so your body can grow. We see so many guys limit themselves. As a result, they wind up bitter about the sport, broke because of the sport, and alone because of relationships they cannot maintain. Bodybuilding is fun, but at the end of the day, it’s a responsibility for leading a journey of exploration that can take you to the lowest lows or the highest highs.
“My basketball coach use to tell us to “cut their head off” and that’s what I plan to do to my opponents everytime I step on the stage. I think I can do this for ten more years. So my gift to all of you will be all of my competitor heads. One-by-one.”