by Christian Duque
212 Mr. Olympia Shaun Clarida has gone above and beyond what most people thought possible to add to the division in which he competes. I say most people because all along I knew what he was capable of. After all, he has great predecessors in James “Flex” Lewis and Kamal Elgargni. Although it seems hard to believe, Shaun is the first American recipient of the title, and he has done quite a bit to grow the division in the United States.
Lewis, a native of Welsh, was able to push the 212 around the world and create a fanfare that ran parallel to that of seven-time Mr. Olympia Phil Heath during his run at the Open. Kamal, also a native of Britain, also represents Libya, his homeland. When was the last time Africa had a competitor at this level in physical sports? It’s been a while, at least since the days of Gary Strydom, but he’s never won the Olympics. Shaun took and walked the torch too, appearing on a variety of industrial TV shows, podcasts, and LIVE formats. He’s also rammed the sidewalk with appearances in stores, meet-and-greets at the gym, and also in the mainstream media. Clarida is a reserved, hardworking and very personable champion. If more athletes took a page from its playbook, the sport would grow by leaps and bounds. But it wasn’t all laughter and high fives. Believe it or not, there are still adversities and challenges that can easily become obstacles. Shaun is a fighter – always has been – always will be.
You’d think a 212 Mr. Olympia could have essentially anything he wanted, right? Well, for the purists out there who are just waiting to say “he’s not a 212 Mr. Olympia, he’s the 212 Olympia Showdown Champion …” I say that. I used to be a geek who knew the difference, but just because the Olympics themselves aren’t broken down by weight class makes the status quo of two bodybuilding divisions a bit bizarre. In all respects, the winner of the showdown, at least for public opinion, is the 212 Mr. Olympia. Just like public opinion “with Classic Physique”; for most of the fans it is really classic bodybuilding. Let’s get real guys !! Anyway, you’d think that a 212 Mr. Olympia could have basically anything he wanted, but that’s not the case.
Almost immediately after winning his crown, Shuan parted ways with his former sponsor Nutrabio. From the start I had problems with the company’s use of it. While they showed him love by signing him and promoting him well, they missed the bus when it came to pushing him hard when he won the greatest title in bodybuilding. Sure, they showed him on his own protein tub and they made a few posters, but it was 2020 and not 2000. In a social media dominated era, you have to work harder than ever to look people in the face. In many ways, social media advertising campaigns must have blitzkrieg qualities. You have to hit first, harder than anyone else, faster than anyone else, and you have to be relentless. You have to overwhelm your senses. Whether Facebook, Instagram, Youtube or Tiktok, this campaign has to be seen. When you open your email, you should see banners on the sides, popups, and more. The company’s front page should look almost like a shrine to the champion. Unfortunately, they were equally focused on a number of other sports, which diluted the reach they could have had if only they focused on Shaun and Shaun. But imagine winning the biggest title in your sport and now you have to find out who is sponsoring you?
Still, Shaun continued. The fact that he was without a sponsor didn’t stop him. Over time, he partnered up with a company that was a better fit for him anyway, but the point is, he just kept going. Others may have slowed down the number of appearances or went into hiding until they could find another sponsor. Instead, Shaun did two things. He openly looked for other companies by testing their supplements, without rushing, and he kept his obligations. The former matters as many others may have signed prematurely with another company. This could have been the product of the rebound effect, pride, or simply the need for money. Clarida took the time to make sure he found a company that he believed in and that really believed in him. It’s the right way to do business, and it’s a great example for its fellow athletes and fans.
In a very real way, the 212 Mr. Olympia is a role model for both his colleagues and his supporters. Bodybuilding has always crossed the muscle. Just like the bands and artists we love, there is so much more than the sheet music and lyrics that make up their songs. Bodybuilding is also about the champions, their trials and tribulations, their tips for success and their approaches to dealing with life’s pitfalls.
Shaun Clarida was perhaps one of the most overlooked and underrated bodybuilders of his day. It has been written off for its size, its weight and, frankly, its reluctance. In the age of social media, the press loves vocal competitors, feasts on feuds and lives for spreading clickbait and fake news. Listen, don’t kill the messenger, I’m just telling you clear facts here. If you have a soft-spoken, humble, and determined champion, their phone is unlikely to ring a lot. And while many will ultimately play ball, others will stick with their guns and continue to do what needs to be done to achieve their goals – their own way!
The key to growing bodybuilding is to do exactly what Clarida does. The 212 is a fantastic division that attracts the best bodies in the world. The boys are a tight-knit crew, without drama and a lot of camaraderie. As a fan, you just can’t ask for more. Hopefully in time I can see 212 bodybuilding again at the Arnold Classic of Glory. I think all of these things are coming. For now, however, I wanted to write this article to truly acknowledge the efforts of a great champion, 212 Mr. Olympia Shaun “Giant Killer” Clarida !!