“They think I am” – Arnold Schwarzenegger on bodybuilding’s GOAT debate

2017 Arnold Classic
Schwarzenegger at the 2017 Arnold Classic (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Arnold Schwarzenegger's name, along with many others, has been thrown into the pot of the greatest of all time (GOAT) debate in bodybuilding over the years.

Quite a few of the legendary athletes in the sport have come and conquered various competitions in the sport, including the most prestigious Mr. Olympia. In the aftermath of the 2022 edition of Mr. Olympia, one of bodybuilding's pioneers, Arnold Schwarzenegger, appeared as Nick Miller's guest on his YouTube channel, Nick's Strength and Power. The two kicked it off by analyzing the results of the competition and arrived at the question of the day. Miller asked Arnold who he considers the GOAT of bodybuilding. Arnold responded in typical Arnold fashion:

"Well yeah, that's a decision that has to be made by the fans. I am not here to say 'the greatest' and all that stuff ... They think I am the greatest of all time ... great, but I just know that there were teriffic bodybuilders. I still think Steve Reeves was the greatest of all time."

Arnold on the GOAT debate

Schwarzenegger is considered by many in and outside of the sport to be the GOAT of bodybuilding. However, Arnold seems to think differently. While he did defer the discussion to the fans, he suggested Stephen Lester "Steve" Reeves, an American bodybuilder who dominated the game during his time, was the GOAT.

"I still think Steve Reeves is the greatest of all time, because of the beauty of his [Reeves'] body and all that."

Arnold went on to iterate the age-old philosophy of "to each his own," referring to how everyone will have their own GOAT in the sport, considering the number of legends the game has seen.

"I think everyone will have a different opinion on that. For instance Lee Haney when he came up in the 80s, and he started winning one Mr. Olympia after the next ... He was a great story."

Lee Haney won Mr. Olympia eight times in a row from 1984 to 1991. His reign as Mr. Olympia stands as the best in the competition's history alongside another legendary figure, Ronnie 'The King' Coleman. Aside from being an exceptional bodybuilder, Haney is known for his charity work, especially Haney's Harvest House.

"He was a great man, a very giving man. He does a lot of charity work, so I think that he is a great representative of the sport ... He had a great body, wide shoulders. I was in awe with hios physique."

Arnold continued to give his two cents on the GOAT debate:

"And then came along Ronnie Coleman. Another one of those guys with those huge shoulders and great proportions. So I am not going to say that I was better than those guys, no."

The sport has seen different people perform to the best of their abilities, with the best they were given at the time. Arnold continued:

"I think that maybe people shouldn't even talk about who was better. They compare photographs of me from the 70s and compare it to the modern boodybuilder. You can never compare it like that, because it depends on lighting, the equipment is different, the medication is different, the nutrition is different, the training methods are different."

Sports science has indeed come a long way since Arnold's time, and the comparison of athletes from different generations is rather unfair. Arnold stated that he believes everyone should focus on the promotion and the betterment of the sport as a whole.

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Edited by Piyush Bisht
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