by Andrew Michalak
Men’s athletes comprise of 57% of the total number of 572 competitors nominated by 14 National Federations to compete at the upcoming Arnold Classic Brazil in Rio. Among them are, from Brazil: Marco Cortez, Francisco De Assis, Isaquiel Balbi, Antonio Inácio Santiago, Jorlan Vieira, Emerson Pereira De Almeida, James Bondi, Luiz Carlos Sarmento (all of bodybuilding) and Ivo Toledo and Renato Neto (men’s physique); from Paraguay: and Jesus Britos (bodybuilding) and Luis Fernando Rios (men’s physique); from Argentina: Gonzalo Arrúa, Franco Domínguez and Rodrigo Cortez (bodybuilding); from Bolivia: Ivonne Gutierrez (bodyfitness); from Venezuela: Tibis Araque (bodyfitness); from Colombia: Fabricio Arana and Ricardo Plata Duran (bodybuilding), from Curacao: William Sanchez (bodybuilding), from Canada: Regan Grimes (bodybuilding) to mention the most successful ones.
Whom will we see on the stage?
Men’s Bodybuilding up to 70 kg:
In a group of 18 competitors the best-known names are: 2014 Arnold Brazil champion and 2015 Arnold USA 4th place winner Welinton Aragão (Brazil), last year’s finalists: Victor Porto (Brazil) and Soepe Koese (Suriname) as well as 2014 South American Championships bronze medal winner Duvan Rodriguez (Colombia). Will Aragão regain the throne? He is the most experienced one but Koese, if in peak condition, may be a dark horse, while Porto is also progressing and may leave them all behind. And Costa Rican star Evaristo Cortes (7th place at the 2914 Worlds) may want to show his peak condition once again.
Men’s Bodybuilding up to 75 kg:
The same number of competitors (18) and two last year’s Arnold Brazil champions: Francisco De Assis (from 70 kg class) and Marco Cortez (both of Brazil). De Assis is a legend, winning his first South American title in 2008. Also won the latest two editions of Arnold Brazil. In March went to Columbus, Ohio, taking 6th position, what was below his expectations and possibility, so may want to rebuild his reputation and fight for the third consecutive title in Rio. Cortez is a demanding and much younger but less experienced opponent while Jesus Britos (Paraguay) placed in Columbus just behind De Assis, so may also dream about his first victory in Rio.
Men’s Bodybuilding up to 80 kg:
A bit shorter line-up, exactly a dozen of bodybuilders and three big stars: Isaquiel Balbi and Antonio Inácio Santiago (both of Brazil) are famous stars with long and full of successes sport career. Balbi won in Rio 2 years ago, taking also 2nd and 3rd places in Columbus at Arnold USA, confirming his top quality. Santiago placed 2nd at the latest two Arnold Brazil editions and 5th at the 2014 Arnold USA. For sure, will not be satisfied with his third “2nd place”, so the battle will be tough. And the next top player: Felipe Fierro (Chile) who finished 4th few weeks go in Columbus, just 1 point behind famous Ariel Guong of Kuwait. His potential is good enough to think about the top trophy.
Men’s Bodybuilding up to 85 kg:
The next category with 18 competitors and the top two from last year: Fabricio Arana (Colombia) and Jorlan Vieira (Brazil). Vieira won 2014 Arnold Brazil but the 90 kg class. Arana had an impressive beginning of this season taking 4th place in Columbus at Arnold USA, behind Gerald Pangan of Kuwait. The result of their next meet is an open matter. Maybe last year’s 3rd place winner Lucas Coelho (Brazil) will try to make them troubles?
Men’s Bodybuilding up to 90 kg:
And once again 18 competitors in the list! The biggest stars are two masters who took the top two places last year: Emerson Pereira De Almeida (Brazil) and Ricardo Plata Duran (Colombia). Duran was more active in the recent months, placing 3rd at the 2015 Arnold Europe, 7th at the World Championships and 3rd at this year’s Arnold USA. But Pereira will be more fresh. William Sanchez (Curacao) who placed just behind Duran in Columbus, will also have a chance to enter this battle.
Men’s Bodybuilding up to 100 kg:
Full semifinal of 15 athletes, with six bodybuilders from Argentina among them and they seem to be the most serious pretenders to the top trophies. Rodrigo Cortez finished 2nd last year but in +100 kg class. Later on won this category at the South American Championships. But has been nominated in this class. Maybe it is a mistake or, maybe, he decided to show sharper definition this time. He will meet former South American overall winner and his team-mate Gonzalo Arrúa who returns after two-year break and last year’s finalist José Ponce.
Men’s Bodybuilding over 100 kg:
One of the biggest sensations: 2016 Arnold USA runner-up Regan Grimes (Canada) comes to grasp the title but there also will be 4th place winner from Columbus Franco Domínguez (Argentina) and last year’s winner from Rio, James Bondi (Brazil). The battle will be close. Plus two good bodybuilders from Paraguay: 2015 South American Championships runner-up Walter Paiva and Oscar Zaracho who was the continental runner-up in 90 kg class (2014) and 95 kg class (2015). Now in over 100 kg category. Regular, quick progression and promising perspectives. Ready to give his opponents a surprise!
Master Men’s Bodybuilding open class:
One open category with 23 competitors and many great names! Top two from the last year: Emerson Pereira De Almeida (Brazil) and Ricardo Plata Duran (Colombia) will run a return battle but there are a couple of other great stars who may thwart their plans: former maters world champion and men’s silver medal winner Luiz Carlos Sarmento (Brazil), former South American Championships overall winner Gonzalo Arrúa (Argentina) or former masters world champion Norton Murayama (Brazil). But Sarmento and Murayama are now in the 50-59 age division. Will they be able to challenge much younger champions in this masters open class battle?
Altogether, 4 categories with 113 competitors. Most of them are newcomers at the international level but among them a couple of superstars are hidden. The biggest one is Luis Fernando Rios (Paraguay) who haven’t lost any contest last year, winning Arnold Brazil, Arnold Europe and South American Championships. At Arnold Europe he placed 2nd in the overall, being tied 9:9 with the winner, Nelson Rodrigues (Portugal). So, he is a clear favorite in the up to 178 cm category and, if wins, also in the overall.
In the short class, up to 170 cm, we can see two Brazilian finalists of the Arnold USA: Thiago Castro Piedade (2016) and Vinicius Soares (2015). Also 2015 Arnold Brazil runner-up Vitor Chaves (Brazil), South American champion Jorge Guerra (Chile) and 2016 Arnold USA 7th place winner Pedro Bione (Brazil). No clear favorite.
Up to 174 cm category: 32 athletes and one superstar: 2015 World Championships runner-up and 2016 Arnold USA 3rd place winner Ivo Toledo (Brazil). Also his team-mate Renato Neto who finished 7th this year in Columbus bur was the runner-up in 2015.
Over 178 cm category: 2016 Arnold USA 4th place winner Rômulo Rocha (Brazil) will meet his compatriot Felipe Kokudai (6th place at 2015 Arnold USA), South American champion Mario Riquelme (Chile) and last year’s finalist from Rio, Adrián Acosta (Chile).
Pictures by Igor Kopcek, Matthias Busse