The golden Ruhl: The German Nightmare’s dream comes true – The 2002 Bodyonics Pinnacle Night of Champions – Markus Ruhl
May 16-18 was a landmark weekend for nerdlings and pimpled Trekkie shut-ins, who were finally rewarded with the opening of the latest Star Wars prequel, Episode II: Attack of the Clones. The Jedi warriors of the pocket-protector set had braved pale-skin-blistering sunlight and chilly nights for weeks as they waited outside theaters for their beloved sci-fi flick to open. The film would battle the previously released blockbuster Spider-Man for box-office supremacy in a competition that dominated entertainment headlines during the weekend. As expected, records were broken.
Big deal, say bodybuilding fans. Could either of these digitally enhanced, overhyped, special-effects-laden movies have contrived the improbable creatures in live action that lurked at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan on May18? At least it can be said that the 31 bodybuilders onstage in New York, ranging from he-man to homunculus were anything but clones, and that the one athlete who finally emerged as the most celebrated flesh-and-blood monster was no Spider-Man. No, he was more like the Amazing Wider-Man.
Pity the clothier confronted with Markus Ruhl. It’s clear the 275-pound German champ freely chose bodybuilding as his line of work, but his cartoonish outsized dimensions dictate that posing trunks may be the sole article of clothing that he can wear comfortably and affordably. This is a man who could have emerged from the fiendish imagination of Stephen King as easily as from a gym in Europe. His flesh isn’t measured in inches and pounds but acreage. The tectonic landscape of his chest is so engorged with living moving tissue that it looks like a German bantamweight is inside each pec fighting to get out.
How would Yoda-obsessed cinephiles respond if confronted with Markus Ruhl? There would be disbelief, terror – a removal of Coke-bottle thick glasses for a quick cleaning with a Chewbacca T-shirt, just to be sure the eyes aren’t being tricked – only to be further terrorized by the fact that Ruhl still stands before them. It’s enough to dim your light saber.
But Markus is no monster; no computer-generated goblin from George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic. Hers a nice fellow with feelings. After three unsuccessful attempts at nabbing the Night Of Champions crown (he was ninth in 1998, fourth in ’99 and second in 2000), Ruhl roiled in high anxiety on May 18 before he was chosen champ over hometown fave Bob Cicherillo and mind-boggling freaky newcomer Francisco “Paco” Bautista from Spain. The Spanish Panic lived up to the buzz he created months earlier, but even his mounds of veiny muscle weren’t enough to overcome Der Freak. This was Ruhl’s party. After grasping the winner’s plaque, the blushing manhouse gushed like Sally Field at the Academy Awards.
The Big Apple has always been kind to the German Nightmare. New York bodybuilding fans greeted Ruhl’s entrance like Michael Jackson at Liza Minnelli’s wedding: with heart-bursting adulation and – there’s no other word for it – love. There were hysterical screams when Ruhl took the stage, but they were expressions of affection. He loved them back, and by the end of the NOC, the consensual affair had been consummated by a $5,000 ring that was part of the official NOC booty awarded to the 30-year-old German. Then the Gotham faithful screamed some more. We’ve lived through Beatlemania. Now, welcome to Brutalmania.
GAIN WEIGHT NOW, ASK ME HOW
This year’s NOC countered a different type of “attack of the clones.” Two weeks earlier at the Southwest USA Pro contest in Arlington, Texas, smaller-framed, highly conditioned bodies were rewarded over the more brutish thick-torso types. In the comparison between the Apollonian (think Frank Zane) and Herculean (think Dorian Yates) types of physique, Apollo reigned — in the form of Darrem Charles — in Texas. (Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman calls this difference apples and oranges, but we’ll keep him in charge of the produce section and go with the classical definitions.)
In New York, Hercules assumed control. Southwest champ Charles was the only example of the small-waisted compact physique who reached the top five at the NOC. Others in the top 10 bulged and stomped; movable beasts like Tom Prince, Craig Titus and Paul Dillett.
Even Marvelous Melvin Anthony, he of the waspy waist, had packed on about a dozen pounds of beef that obscured his usual sinewy presence.
Cicherillo, runner-up in both shows, is the anomaly here. Thick Chick may be Hollywood handsome, but his build is blue-collar all the way. His piano-mover bulk was shredded to the proverbial bone, and as one of the most skilled physique posers in the IFBB, he exploits every advantage at his disposal. The New York-born star is one of those rare bodybuilders who can flourish under any standard. He’s the consummate pro.
The tight and light, such as Willie Stalling — fifth at the Southwest, 11th at the NOC — couldn’t beat the big meat. And with the exception of Ruhl and homegrown Cicherillo, only one other man moved the audience to passionate heights.
WACKO FOR PACO Spain’s Francisco Bautista, nicknamed Paco, had made noise at the World Amateur Championships in 1999, when he won the heavyweight and overall titles but then failed the drug test. Eventually, he gained his pro card and went to work. He must like work. A lot. Bautista’s spectacular pro debut will go down as one of the most dramatic in the history of bodybuilding. Quaking with nervous excitement, Bautista had to be cautioned by the head judge during symmetry comparisons to relax. Clearly, the Spaniard’s giddiness was fueled by the howls from the New York faithful, who enthusiastically welcome freaks of all types to their wonderful city. (Again, we remind you of the Liza Minnelli wedding.) The Spanish Panic caused one when he stepped under the lights.
The accompanying photos illustrate why. His legs, particularly, defy description. They are in the Platzian mold — immense hanging split hams balancing humongous teardrop development that had his rivals weeping with envy. Bautista’s limbs are alive with finely detailed vein-squiggled slabs of pulsating mass, as if his muscled bodyparts were sentient beings clamoring for attention. If that sounds hyperbolic, ask those who witnessed Paco’s electrifying performance. If physiques could scream “Here I am,” his would. Although he must address some noticeable symmetry defects, those details are minor to the musclehead fraternity. He qualified for the Olympia in his pro debut, and deserved it. This guy’s for real. El Toro has arrived.
FICKLE FATES Craig Titus tightened up after the Southwest (where he finished seventh) and earned fifth place in New York, thus meeting his goal of an Olympia appearance in 2002. Others were left hoping for Olympia qualifications at the Toronto Pro International on May 25, including several athletes who had made the big show last year. Tom Prince also improved on his condition in Texas, but he could do no better than seventh. Melvin Anthony, impressive considering he was performing only about 10 weeks after suffering a torn triceps, missed the cut and ended up eighth.
Two weeks after his disappointing comeback at the Southwest (eighth place), Paul Dillett couldn’t quite regain his footing — literally or figuratively — in New York. He seemed hesitant, sometimes even unsure where to plant his feet for a pose. The New York crowd, who famously booed him two years ago, couldn’t make up their minds whether to cheer or jeer. Although he jumped up to sixth place at the NOC, Freakenstein fell short of his goal to make the O. Since he won’t do Toronto, it’s back to the lab for this monster.
The Southwest contest was notable for the disservice done to veteran British pro J.D. Dawodu, who finished fourth but should have placed higher. London-based Dawodu unfortunately arrived onstage in New York showing the effects of two trips across the Atlantic. He had smoothed out noticeably from his crisp condition in Texas and had to settle for ninth place at the NOC. He was not the only athlete to prove that repeating ones spot-on condition over a span of 14 days is a difficult task. He vowed final redemption in Canada. Like the Star Wars series, Dawodu needs to produce a prequel.
For now, the box office belongs to the golden Ruhl. For all those competitors who missed their marks in New York, the new NOC champ can serve as graphic inspiration. The German Nightmare has had his own set of personal nightmares, experiencing numerous setbacks, some self-inflicted. He has survived serious injuries (torn left-knee ligaments in late 2000), steep cultural barriers, undeserved placings and worse threats to his career. After being disqualified in two out of three Mr. Olympia appearances, Ruhl appeared to be flirting with disaster. Now, it seems, disaster might await his competition at the Mr. Olympia.
2002 NIGHT OF CHAMPIONS
May 18, 2002
Beacon Theatre, New York City
1 Markus Ruhl * Germany $15,000 +
2 Bob Cicherillo* United States 8,000
3 Francisco Bautista* Spain 5,000
4 Darrem Charles * Trinidad and Tobago 4,000
5 Craig Titus * United States 3,000
6 Paul Dillett Canada
7 Tom Prince United States
8 Melvin Anthony United States
9 J.D. Dawodu England
10 Gustavo Badell Puerto Rico
11 Willie Stalling United States
12 Mustafa Mohammad Jordan
13 Jason Arntz United States
14 Eddie Abbew England
15 Johannes Eleftheriadis Germany
Also competed: Tevita Aholelei, Paul Baker, Shaun Davis, Dennis Francis,
Milton Holloway, Valentin Jabes, Ken Jones, Berry Kabov, Heilko
Kallbach, Charles kemp, Rod Ketchens, Christian Lobarede, Alison Maria,
Erwin Marquez, Mike Morris, Mohsen Yazdani
* Qualifies for 2002 Mr. Olympia contest.
+ Also awarded a ring worth $5,000.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group