When Shaun Clarida made the announcement that he was doing the 2023 Arnold Classic, it was like all the skeptics rushed to get in line. They all said it was a bad move. They said Reno was one thing, referring to the Reno Sports Festival where Shaun beat guys 100lbs heavier, as being somewhat of a fluke. They gave him credit for his two 212 Olympia wins, but they were just as quick to point to the fact that there was huge weight differential between the lighter class and the Open. Other critics bit their tongue when the contest was down to six guys and the only Olympia Top 6 guy in the mix was Samson Dauda. Little did they know that Dauda would even up winning it all, but I digress. As soon as Nick Walker and then Big Ramy threw their hats into the ring, many critics just couldn’t stay quiet. What was Shaun going to do? Stand next to Big Ramy? One popular commentator even said Shaun was like one of Ramy’s legs. I wonder what that critic thought after the contest.
The fact is Big Ramy was improved from the 2022 Mr. Olympia, but his lead over Shaun was far smaller than the difference between 3rd and 4th. In all reality, Shaun came in bigger and was pretty damn sharp. There’s still room for improvement for him, as with any other guy, but Clarida held his own. And if you had the chance to compare the Giant Killer to the 2x Mr. Olympia, I think Shaun looked better! The placings aside, the 2023 Arnold proved the point that there is a place for GK in the Open, if he wants it. Even still, after the Arnold, many critics were already mouthing off that Shaun had better not to do the open Olympia, that his place was in The 212. That was the sure bet for him.
It’s almost as if the commentators missed the memo. Since when does the 2x 212 Mr. Olympia look for sure bets? He’s a go-getter and a guy who lives to defy the odds. The fact is Shaun doesn’t see himself as the lightest or the shortest. He sees himself as a man on a mission. He’s a husband, a father, a 212 Mr. Olympia and a sponsored athlete. He’s got a lot of people and companies depending on him, and this is a guy who will not be outworked. He won’t be out-worked in the gym and he won’t be out-worked on the stage. While he’s a happy-go-lucky type and is super down to Earth, when it’s game time, it’s game time! Clarida takes a no holds barred approach to competing. This translates to real battles on stage and the absolute highest entertainment value for the fans! If you don’t pose hard and if you don’t believe in yourself, why even bother showing up? When GK takes the stage, he’s going to SLAY EVERYBODY!
What’s crazy is that no matter what Shaun achieves, there’s always going to be a huge contingent of the media that simply can’t be convinced. One take away from the Arnold was the judges rewarding aesthetics and symmetry over sheer mass. This is why Dauda beat Walker and why Jacked almost beat him as well. It’s also why Shaun beat Akim and why he nearly beat Ramy. If Shaun had come in just a tiny bit sharper with the added size he would have beat Ramy. Can you imagine that? It damn near happened!!
And if the judges keep to this standard why wouldn’t Clarida try the open Olympia? If came in at 4th, 5th, and even 6th, the pay would be more or comparable to what he’d win if got his third 212 title. The fact is being Top 5 at the Arnold – with this type of lineup – has to give the NJ based bodybuilder some serious food for thought. The only guys not there were Hadi and Derek – two former 212 guys. So he’s supposed to stay out of the open Olympia because of guys he’s beat before? Are you kidding me? HE NEARLY BEAT BIG RAMY, so shut the f*ck up!!
If Shaun chooses to defend his 212 title – that’s great, but he doesn’t have to stay in the 212. If mass didn’t matter when he nearly beat Big Ramy in Columbus, what’s to say he can’t come in as conditioned as Hadi or Derek in Orlando, FL? Size is not going to win at the Arnold or may not at the Olympia, either. It seems like the sport is going after balance and condition, but it also seems that symmetry is getting more and more love. Even if Shaun does the O and let’s say takes 7th, so what? Whatever money he’s out between prize money, he’ll more than make up for in sponsorships and bonuses. The decision to do the open or 212 won’t be decided based on prize money, at least I don’t think so.
I honestly think that Shaun could break into the open Olympia Top 6 and get closer to the top than many are willing to concede. Just wait and see!
Like I said, no matter what Shaun accomplishes, the naysayers will never be convinced. That’s ok though. Shaun will keep kicking ass and making jaws drop! Absolutely nothing will stop The Giant Killer!