Mr. Olympia 2011: Phil Heath Will Bring Niche Sport to Forefront

Joseph HealyCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2011

Photo courtesty of
Photo courtesty of

Fans of the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition were dealt a surprise in the 2011 competition.

Phil Heath, a relative newcomer to the top ranks in the world of bodybuilding, emerged victorious after beating a "who's who" of the sport, including four-time champion Jay Cutler (No, not that Jay Cutler. Bodybuilding Jay Cutler, not Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler).

Heath finished third in the 2008 Mr. Olympia event and second in the 2010 event, but any time Cutler is beaten, it's a surprise.

These competitions aren't Heath's first taste of sports at a high level. From 1998-2002, Heath was a player on the University of Denver basketball team.

While he didn't see much playing time during his college career, his dedication and hard work that took him to that level in basketball is what has enabled him to be so successful in bodybuilding as well.

It's clear that his success isn't all about hard work, though. He has a knack for competition. He is such a natural that his nickname within the community is "The Gift."

Heath winning this most prestigious of bodybuilding events is a huge boon for the sport. His win in the event has brought the competition some mainstream sports media attention. That's saying a lot when you consider that he was some reserve player on a basketball team in a mid-major basketball conference.

It also opens up a lot of doors for bodybuilding. Heath has the unique opportunity to be the face of the sport for those that wouldn't have normally paid attention to it.

It will also give athletes who have left their respective sports another outlet to channel their competitive spirit. If Heath, a 180-pound basketball player in college, can do it then certainly others can as well.

Phil Heath isn't a big name in the mainstream sports world, but he has given the sport of bodybuilding enough mainstream attention since his win to make him the new biggest star on the circuit.