WORTHINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) – Central Ohio athletes and trainers are celebrating the return of the Arnold Sports Classic bodybuilding competition this fall.
“There’s other ‘Arnolds’ around the world, of course. But this is THE Arnold. This is the big one,” said Mike Davies, the owner of Metro Fitness in Worthington.
Davies’ gym has been a training ground for amateurs and professionals alike for several decades and his athletes compete in the Arnold Sports Festival almost every year. The longtime coach applauded Tuesday’s announcement about a smaller, rescheduled event on September 25.
“I think it says a lot about Arnold and wanting to protect Jim Lorimer’s legacy here in Columbus, Ohio. I mean, it’s been 30+ years,” Davies said. “It’s going to be back to almost like the original.”
The Arnold Classic, named for and co-founded by fitness icon Arnold Schwartzenegger, started as a bodybuilding and physique competition in 1989. It’s since expanded as the Arnold Sports Festival and includes numerous events and a fitness expo, attracting visitors from around the world.
In 2020, Governor Mike DeWine grabbed international headlines when he canceled the expo and barred fans from attending the events. It was one of the first major gatherings derailed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The March 2021 competition was also postponed.
Tuesday, event organizers announced the Arnold Classic will happen September 25, with professional athletes battling in physique, fitness international and bikini international events. Competitors will be competing for $412,000 in prizes.
“It’s just good to see the sport, which has kind of been held down a little bit because of crowds like everything else, it’s good to see it come back,” said Mike Francois. “Not only just on the training side, but also on the financial side, I think a lot of people depended on it.”
Francois was the men’s bodybuilding champion at the Arnold Classic in 1995 and now helps train other athletes. He explained the sport requires a dedicated lifestyle and years of training. He said the Arnold represents the pinnacle for many competitors and is a point of pride for Central Ohio.
“Columbus has been one of those things where it’s kind of synonymous with the Arnold Classic,” Francois said.
Athlete Brittaney Rachal was disappointed to learn the one-day event excludes amateur competitions. She had been training with Davies to prepare for the 2021 bodybuilding show.
“It’s a bummer because it’s one that’s on our to-do list for the year of shows we wanted to accomplish,” she said.
However, Rachal said she’s encouraged to hear the Arnold is back at all and looks forward to cheering on the professional competitors.
“It’s definitely a privilege and an honor to be able to go and watch these people that you look up to because it’s just amazing what they do,” she said.
Rachal’s goal is to compete in the 2022 show. Organizers have said, if health conditions permit, they plan to bring the full Arnold Sports Festival back to Columbus March 3-5, 2022.
“It gives people something to look forward to because we’re all just tired of what we’ve gone through,” Francois said.
Davies added, “I think it will be an outstanding event again, come March. So you’re going to get 2 Arnolds within seven months of each other. So it’ll be great.”
Tickets will go on sale for the fall Arnold Classic on June 15. More details are expected to be released about the 2022 competitions.