Per Šarčev, the defending champion need only worry about last year’s runner-up.

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The 2023 Mr. Olympia is slowly shaping up to be a contest of mammoth proportions on paper. As the Men’s Open division seemingly enters a new golden era, bodybuilding’s flagship contest resembles a gauntlet of competitors where only a truly worthy champion will triumph. However, according to long-time trainer Miloš Šarčev, the contest starts and ends with two top contenders.

On July 6, 2023, during a conversation with Jay Cutler on Cutler’s YouTube channel, Šarčev maintained that he thinks defending Mr. Olympia champion Hadi Choopan and the 2022 runner-up, Derek Lunsford, are the two favorites for the 2023 edition of the contest. The discussion picks up toward the end of the video below around 1:26:30.

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After waiting for years but never quite breaking through, the seasoned Choopan might be on the brink of an Olympia dynasty. That is unless, per Šarčev, Lunsford, or even 2023 Arnold Classic (AC) winner Samson Dauda (as a dark horse) have something to say about it.

“Derek [Lunsford] and Hadi [Choopan] are frontrunners,” Šarčev said. “Samson [Dauda] is going to the [2023 Mr. Olympia] show to win and will do everything possible for him to win.”

If Choopan does indeed repeat as Mr. Olympia champion in November in Orlando, FL, he will put himself within striking distance of a legendary “three-peat.” According to Šarčev, Choopan may very well become the first Men’s Open athlete since Phil Heath (2011-2017) to win the Mr. Olympia on at least three consecutive occasions.

“I have all the respect for Hadi [Choopan],” Šarčev said. “Hadi [Choopan] could be three times the Mr. Olympia.”

What was interesting about Šarčev’s analysis concerned Lunsford. Per the trainer, Lunsford is already in championship condition with a world-class back. It’s the other poses — particularly any featuring the sides — that may determine whether the star athlete can unseat Choopan from his fitness throne.

“Derek [Lunsford] would be already the Mr. Olympia if it was judged from the back,” Šarčev explained. “He [Lunsford] lost from the side a little bit. And when you think front, front double biceps, front lat spread, he’s super dangerous because then you can really see the definition and hardness on the chest on those two poses and he had a crazy v-taper so you gotta give him. He has front double biceps, the front lat spread, he looks crazy in all these poses. He’s super dangerous. From the back, he’s phenomenal. The other poses, he can be beaten. Can he be beaten in other poses convincingly enough? That remains to be seen. I still think Hadi Choopan is going to [win].”

At the time of this writing, the 2023 Mr. Olympia is just under four months away. A lot can change in that amount of time. Yet, if a keen and experienced eye like Šarčev is already seeing the forest for the trees, the latest Olympia really might come down to another epic battle between Choopan and Lunsford.

Featured image: @hadi_choopan on Instagram

About Robert Zeglinski

Robert is a seasoned and adept editor and writer with a keen, passionate penchant for the writing craft. He’s been a leader in newsrooms such as SB Nation, USA TODAY, and WBBM Newsradio, with various other content and art production teams, and first made a name for himself in his hometown of Chicago. When not knee-deep in research or lost in a stream of consciousness for a thorough piece, you can find Robert inhaling yet another novel, journaling his heart out, or playing with his Shiba Inu, Maximus (Max, for short).

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