By David Robson
To train for the prestigious Mr Olympia bodybuilding competition must surely be one of the most heroic of undertakings; six months of blood, sweat and tears, culminating in a contest-ready physique, poised to take on the worlds best.
The Mr. Olympia journey is a remarkable feat, given it is, in addition to the pinnacle of mental and physical sacrifice, an all consuming task, surmountable only by the fittest of the fittest.
Professional bodybuilding veteran Danny Padilla has made it his aim on a number of occasions to win the Mr Olympia. However, this particular title has eluded him. This is not to say Danny hasn’t worked, in earnest, to become the greatest bodybuilder in the world. He has. Following amazing back-to-back Mr. America and Mr. Universe title wins in 1977, Danny was poised to become the next big thing.
Indeed, by the early 1980’s Danny had developed his body to perfection – he had procured a much sought after package of balanced mass, complete with a ripped to shreds appearance that wins the big contests. Danny was so impressed with his physical achievements he decided to display his unprecedented defined physique at the 1981 Mr. Olympia.
When Danny revealed to those in attendance, the improvements he had made, many tipped him to win. Danny arguably presented the most balanced, and mind-bogglingly ripped, physique of any competitor on stage – precisely what he was told he would need to do to win. Alas, he did not win but came a disappointing fifth, trailing behind competitors who were considered by many to be completely out of the running.
1981 Mr. Olympia Standings
Place ——————————-Name —————Country
—1 —————————-Franco Columbo ———USA
—2 —————————-Chris Dickerson ———USA
—3 ——————————–Tom Platz ————–USA
—4 —————————–Roy Callender ——–Canada
—5 ——————————Danny Padilla ———–USA
—6 —————————–Jusup Wilkosz ——Germany
—7 —————————-Dennis Tinerino ———–USA
—8 ——————————Jonny Fuller ———-England
—9 —————————-Samir Bannout ————USA
–10 —————————–Roger Walker ——-Australia
–11 ——————————Hubert Metz ——–Germany
–12 ————————–Carlos Rodqigues ———-USA
–13 ——————————Ed Corney —————–USA
–14 —————————–Steve Davis —————-USA
–15 ——————————-Mike Katz —————–USA
–16 ——————————Ken Waller —————-USA
–17 ——————————Jorma Raty —————USA
Following this result, or insult, Danny became disillusioned with competitive bodybuilding and opted to focus on other areas of his life rather than make the sacrifices necessary to fight what was, apparent to him, a losing battle. He thought if a massive, symmetrical, and ripped to shreds physique, could not even make the top three, what was the point in continuing to compete.
Danny, however, continued to train and progressed to the point where he decided to again compete. In 1990 Danny came third in the Night of the Champions and knew he was well and truly back.
In recent years Danny has focused his energies on securing the Masters Olympia crown. In this Bodybuilding.com exclusive, Danny shares his 1981 Olympia experiences. Learn of the progress he made in the weeks leading up to this competition – and what really happened.
Q – Hi Danny. Good to talk to you again. Lets discuss your 81′ Olympia preparation. How long did it take you to prepare for the 81′ Olympia.
A – I prepared for the 81′ Olympia for a full year.
Q – How did you qualify to compete at this Olympia and what inspired you to get into such great shape?
A – I came second in my weight class at a previous Olympia to qualify for the 81′ Olympia. While in CA someone told me I never won a show because I was never cut enough and this motivated me to compete.
Q – How old were you when you competed at the 1981 Olympia?
A – I was 30 years old.
Q – What did you weigh and what was your body-fat percentage?
A – One week prior to this contest I weighed 157 pounds. On the night of the show I weighed 176. There was no fat to be found anywhere on my body.
Q – In the off-season, prior to this Olympia, what was your bodyweight, and body-fat percentage, if you can recall this?
A – Body-fat percentage was 16% in the off-season at 178lbs. I never really get grossly out of shape.
Q – Did you bring any muscle-groups up for this contest? Which ones, and by how much?
A – I improved my back muscles and abdominals while bringing my waistline down to 28-inches.
Q – Overall, what improvements did you make for the 81′ Olympia?
A – Basically, the overall improvement was a complete package. Every muscle and muscle group could be seen.
Q – What training methods did you use at the time? Also, describe your pre-contest diet at this time.
A – Each body part was trained twice a week. The push-pull system was used the last 10-weeks before the show, three times a week. I went against rules of low carbs and stayed on 80-grams of protein and consumed all the carbs that I needed (mostly fruits, veggies, brown rice and yogurt). At this point I did not worry about calories. I also jogged three days a week, 5-miles per jog. In the last two weeks prior to the show I counted calories: On the 1st week I took in 1500 calories and on the last week, 1000. Mind you, during the last ten days prior to the show I was too weak to lift weights or do aerobics. I basically worked in the store with my dad and rested as much as I could. The Monday before the contest I weighed exactly 157. On Wednesday I began to double my calories and double my carbs until Saturday.
Q – How did you feel mentally during the weeks leading up to this competition? Were you excited, confident of doing well?
A – I visualize what I wanted to look like before the show and came up with a plan to follow through with. I was excited and confident because Arnold had retired and I figured I had a chance.
Q – Physically, how did you feel? Did you feel strong and energetic, or depleted and weak?
A – I felt very strong in the beginning of my program, and in the last two weeks I was depleted.
Q – Do you think you achieved the best shape of your life for this contest? What did you do differently to achieve this effect.
A – I was in the best shape of my life for the 1981 Olympia, even though the IFBB said I looked too depleted because they had to save face for choosing the wrong winner. If Tom Platz, or Roy Calender, won, I could have accepted it. Although I would have liked it better if I had won. The other show I looked great for was the 1990 Night of the Champions. I was beat by Dorian Yates and Momo Benaziza. I thought that I had the most complete physique at a body weight of 225-pounds, and cut to shreds.
Q – As an athlete, what did you gain from doing well in this Olympia?
A – Well, the only thing I gained was I became world famous. Also, I made the Padilla name famous and it’s in the history books of bodybuilding. There were some financial benefits but, unfortunately, when you’re five foot two and your eyes ain’t blue you don’t make the same amount of money as a man over six feet because with the Olympia it’s the tallest and biggest man that makes the show.
Q – Who did you train with (if anyone) during the pre-contest phase building up to the 81′ Olympia? What other support did you have?
A – I trained with my best friend Larry Baker, an attorney who loved to lift weights. The only other support I had was me, myself and I. Of course my parents supported me. I received no support from Weider or the magazine (Muscle Builder).
Q – Where did you train (which town and what gym)?
A – I trained at the Rockelle Fitness centre in Rochester, NY.
Q – Going into the 81′ Olympia, did you know who your main competition would be?
A – I had an idea Roy Calender would be tough. Also, I knew that Tom Platz would be tough. And at the time I knew that Arnold had two friends that were in the contest. That was Franco Columbo, (who had won the Olympia one time already) and another protege’ from Germany. His name was Jusup Wilcosz.
Q – Who did you see as your biggest threat to winning the Olympia?
A – The biggest threat was Franco, Arnold’s training partner.
Q – During the contest, what were some of the moments you remember as being interesting? What was the atmosphere like backstage?
A – I remember Arnold talking to Franco, basically stating that it was going to be tough for him to win the show because of Tom Platz, and myself. I personally think Arnold wanted Franco to drop out, but he stayed anyway and somehow he won the show, the atmosphere was incredible. I remember distinctly, Arnold, Franco and Bill drake pumping up getting Franco ready for the show. I was very confident. I knew I looked incredible, and my friend Larry Baker thought for sure that I won the show. We heard people calling on a pay phone in the back saying they didn’t think Danny could lose this show.
Q – After the 81′ Olympia, were you back in the gym training, or did you take some time off?
A – After the 81′ Olympia because working out was my first love even though I was humiliated, I still trained. But I lost my drive for competition.
Q – What were your thoughts on the outcome of the 81′ Olympia? Do you think you deserved better, and why?
A – I definitely thought that if I didn’t win, I could have at least been second. The crowd was with me. When I was called fifth, half the audience booed and left the auditorium. Also, the fans followed me all the way to my hotel. But the worst part of this show was the network that was filming stopped because of the audiences reaction. Also the mysterious thing about this show is that there is hardly any photos and there is absolutely no film. Who has ever heard of a Mr. Olympia not being filmed? And if anyone has film or photos, please contact me – email@example.com. The only photos I know of are owned by Joe Weider and Flex magazine and John Balik, the owner of Ironman.
Q – Well, you are obviously very committed to bodybuilding as evidenced by your return to the Masters stage. What are your thoughts on the cancellation of the Masters Olympia this year?
A – I was disappointed that it was cancelled. I was in training and in great shape.
Q – Thank you very much for your time Danny. One last question. Are you determined to compete at the Masters Olympia if it is held again?
A – Hopefully, if my health holds out and they don’t cancel the show again. It’s obvious I have to compete for ego only because the prize money is so bad I can make more money selling news papers. It is very sad that when a body builder hits his forties or fifties, it’s not like the golf masters. They just want you to go in a corner and die somewhere.
I hope bodybuilding fans have enjoyed this classic article. Please post any comments you have below and share this article. Thank you.
To read more on the 1981 Mr Olympia (the greatest booing contest of all time!) click here.