Derek Lunsford and different Olympic contenders showcase their low season crowd visitor poses on the 2023 Pittsburgh Professional
This year’s Pittsburgh Pro felt like another fitting preview of the Olympia.
It is now understood by many in the bodybuilding community that the annual Pittsburgh Pro is more than just a major qualifying event on the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Pro League calendar. In recent years, some of the most popular Mr. Olympia contenders in the men’s open division have turned up at the annual May competition to pose as guests and give a preview of their training progress in anticipation of the flagship Olympia later in the year Autumn. The 2023 iteration was no different.
On May 12-13, 2023, during the official Pittsburgh Pro Champions such as Michael Daboul (Classic Physique), Derek Lunsford, Nick Walker, Samson Dauda, Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay, Hunter Labrada and Shaun Clarida were crowned all posing as guests during the competition. The only notable absence, particularly in the current Men’s Open pantheon, was defending Mr. Olympia champion Hadi Choopan. With nothing officially at stake for the list of elite competitors, these six men nonetheless took the stage to show off their superb physiques for the 2023 Mr. Olympia in Orlando, Florida in early November.
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Among guest posers at the 2023 Pittsburgh Pro, Lunsford could be the likely biggest contender for Choopan’s title. Lunsford is in the middle of training to improve on his second result in his first-ever appearance in the men’s open division at the 2022 Mr. Olympia. One of Lunsford’s main rivals, Nick Walker, believes the former 212 (2021) champion should be the favorite to win the 2023 Mr. Olympia. Bodybuilding legend Ronnie Coleman has also expressed his confidence in Lunsford, naming him one of the sport’s next big talents following a recent training session together.
Walker’s confidence in Lunsford is remarkable given his status as one of bodybuilding’s most modern stars. Walker placed third at the 2022 Mr. Olympia and placed second at the 2023 Arnold Classic (AC). If anyone finally seems poised to break out of this field, it could be Walker.
Meanwhile, 2023 AC winner Samson Dauda is generating hype as a legitimate Olympic titan. Icons like Jay Cutler have expressed that Dauda could be one of the next big stars in bodybuilding. It’s a label of high expectations that Dauda didn’t take lightly. There’s also Elssbiay, who finishes a disappointing sixth place at the 2022 Mr. Olympia after struggling for a historic hat-trick. The former two-time Olympic gold medalist (2021, 2022) had previously refrained from guest poses at the 2022 Pittsburgh Pro and now appeared to be trying to build momentum for another Olympic win in November.
Labrada is in a similar situation to Elssbiay, although he doesn’t have a record of previous Olympic wins to draw from. The athlete expressed his deep disappointment with his performance at the 2022 Olympics and vowed to have a slimmer physique in 2023 in hopes of a tremendous recovery.
To round out this visiting group, Clarida, a two-time 212 champion (2020, 2022), will not compete in the men’s open division at the 2023 Olympia. The athlete hopes to eventually break James “Flex” Lewis’ record of seven 212 Olympic titles (2012-2018) and will focus his efforts solely on that mission going forward.
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Determining the exact favorites for the 2023 Mr. Olympia might be impossible based on a single guest appearance. Nonetheless, some of the top contenders for the tentpole competition have made it their mission to show up in Pittsburgh and show what they have to offer in November.
With that, one of the unofficial first significant steps on the way to this year’s Olympics is now in the rearview mirror.
Featured image: dereklunsford_ on Instagram
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