Ronnie Coleman: A Mountainous Man
How many athletes can we name who’ve reached the summit of their sport, in fact, who’ve been so dominant that their name is synonymous with the sport itself? The names flashing through our minds are a ‘who’s who,’ and include: Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger, Michael, LeBron, Serena, the Babe, Joe DiMaggio, Lawrence Taylor, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis.
Of course, there are several others deserving of such accolade, so please cool your jets. This subject will forever make good bar-top banter, and we’ll discuss it further over the next round. But for now, we have another obvious name to add to this esteemed list.
For those who follow the sport of bodybuilding, with such notable champions and celebrities as Ferrigno, Schwarzenegger and Haney, the name often at the very top of the mountain is Ronnie Coleman. And why not? He won bodybuilding’s preeminent world championship, Mr. Olympia, a record-tying eight (8) consecutive years (1998-2005).
It is said that the physique Coleman displayed on stage in the 2003 competition, at a massive, shredded, awe-inspiring, 5’11” and 290 pounds, will never be duplicated. Michelangelo in his marble-carving prime couldn’t have done it better.
Martial artist, bodybuilder and fitness trainer, Dave Robson, has said, “From an objective standpoint he presented the greatest single collection of desirable attributes needed to win an Olympia title: great proportions, freaky size and conditioning, and an overwhelming onstage presence. By pure bodybuilding terms alone, a strong case could be made for Ronnie Coleman being the best Olympian ever.” Who are we to argue?
In preparation for this article, I spent some time looking over pictures of Coleman from each of those eight winning competitions. One thought jumped ahead of all the others competing for limited space. Whatever is your opinion of bodybuilding, what this man accomplished insofar as sculpting the human body to some God-like form of perfection is at the least jaw-dropping, if not inspiring.
I was immediately moved to hunt for (and dust off) my 7, 10 and 15 pound dumbbells and I plan to start using them soon. Unfortunately, in carting them out from the back of the garage, I pulled a muscle in my abdomen, and my scapular, I think. Whatever that thing is under my shoulder blade. Oh yeah, and my right triceps hurts like hell too. Thankfully, I hadn’t gotten to the 15 pounders yet or it could have been much worse. It’s okay though, it’s given me more time to write this piece. I guess it’s true that God works in mysterious ways.
Anyway, unlike me, Ronnie Coleman was a high achiever from early on. At Grambling State, he played middle linebacker, the thinking man’s position, under the legendary coach, Eddie Robinson. He went on to graduate cum laude with a BS in accounting. From that point on, it appears he started counting calories and muscle group sizes rather than numbers.
In 1989, he joined the police department in Arlington, Texas where he served admirably until 2003. During that time, he began weight training and entered his first contest, Mr. Texas, in 1995. How’s this for gratitude, he beat his trainer to win the title. Soon after, Coleman began his professional career and started winning competitions regularly in the heavyweight class. He soon reached the pinnacle of his sport where he remained for a record number of years.
Coleman’s post-competition career has been equally ambitious and successful. He’s traveled the world appearing at gym openings and endorsing a long list of nutritional products. He’s starred in several training videos, been honored by the Governor of Texas for promoting physical fitness and he’s lent his support to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Inner City Games.’ In 2011, he launched his own nutritional supplements and wellness brand, Ronnie Coleman’s Signature Series, which continues to thrive today.
In 2016, Coleman married his long-time girlfriend and together with two daughters from a previous marriage they enjoy a fulfilling family life. Most recently, in 2018, the authorized documentary, Ronnie Coleman: The King was released. A snippet from one of the film’s reviews quoted him as “a man with nonstop conviction, dedication to family, and remarkable willpower – witness the ultimate exploration of bodybuilding’s biggest legend yet.”
Like many world-class athletes who’ve pushed their bodies to the max (think scores of now retired NFL players either hobbling on creaky knees or dealing with concussion-related brain injuries), Coleman has also paid a stiff price for his discipline. He’s undergone six surgeries, and today this young ‘throomer’ walks with the help of crutches. While it may have slowed him down a bit physically, it hasn’t changed the champion in the man. His spirit continues to soar as he trains his body to its maximum potential while looking after his family and flourishing business.
I suspect that this ‘mountain’ of a man views his time on earth as both a grand blessing and a daily competition to be won, which is just what he’s been doing all his life.