Home Events The unheard Mr. Olympia winner – Chris Dickerson

The unheard Mr. Olympia winner – Chris Dickerson


It is intriguing how some names amass such popularity and become known to everyone, while others don’t seem to ring a bell while being connected to similar, if not even greater performances. This is the case with Mr. Olympia competition winners. Who remembers Olympia winner Chris Dickerson? If you have no idea why we should talk about him, find out below the many reasons why he mattered and still does.

Meet one of the world’s most titled bodybuilders

Fame is sometimes built in unusual ways and so is its afterglow. Chris Dickerson certainly has an unusual fate. There is no reason why he would be cast aside – on the contrary, his achievements need to be noted and remembered. His career has been going strong for no less than 30 years, a time during which he never got tired of winning important titles.

The success did not come without a price. Dickerson is now in his late 70’s and he has a knee and hip replacement, consequent to all the effort and the strain he had put on his body. However, even like this, he manages to stay active and fit, with regular rounds at the gym, and to draw precious lessons. What’s more important is that he continues to mentor bodybuilders and to inspire them to follow paths as rewarding as his own.


Chris Dickerson at 1980 Olympia

Born in 1939 in New York City, Chris Dickerson is a now retired Afro-American bodybuilder. His youth years are far from what bodybuilding enthusiasts would picture – he studied music and became an opera singer, being quite successful at it. He was also passionate about acting and decided to pursue the actor career in his teenage. Perhaps another notable aspect is that of him being openly gay and the first Olympia winner of this kind, a rather surprising revelation at its time. Even before he ever thought of bodybuilding, Chris admired Bill Pearl, who later became his trainer and even mentor. The connection is frequently mentioned in his interviews to this day.


Chris Dickerson at 1982 Olympia

Among all the coveted titles he won, his top victory is considered to be the 1982 IFBB Mr. Olympia title. Dickerson’s name points to 30 years of elite bodybuilding and relentless competing. The first big spark was the 1965 Mr. Long Beach competition, where he got the 3rd place. For many occasions, he trained with Bill Pearl, former Mr. Universe. When he won the Mr. Olympia title in 1982, he was 43 years old. There is a notable similarity between him and Dexter Jackson: just like the latter, he is the other bodybuilder who managed to win both Masters Olympia and Mr. Olympia contests.

Chris Dickerson’s type of physique

From early on, it was quite obvious that Chris Dickerson had the genetics and the athleticism that could help him succeed in bodybuilding. During the decades he competed, the physique was the main aspect to be considered. There were hardly any ‘trendy’ criteria like we see today. Size did not matter as much as the perfection of each shape making up the bodybuilder’s physique. As the athlete himself told in various interviews, the sheer size we admire today would have not made a big impression during the past decades. It was aesthetics that got the prize, especially in the overseas competitions in Britain, which Dickerson fondly remembers.

Chris Dickerson at 1984 Olympia

Dickerson was 1.68 m tall and weighing 86 kg at his peak. His body was distinguished by its heavy muscles and great symmetry. Additionally, he confesses that genetics played a very complex role: his particular type of musculature would develop in its own way. If other men did exactly the same exercises, they never achieved the same aesthetic. Thus, it was fairly easy for Dickerson to satisfy the classic standards of the time. Also, he would emphasize his physique through very good, well-chosen poses, to achieve competitive success. In fact, he had more than that – he was, in a sense, truly artistic, which may come from his interest in modeling. All of this got him into the IFBB, NABBA and WBBG Hall of Fame. In addition, he impressed through a great extension of his peak form; when Dickerson won Mr. Olympia, he was the oldest contestant to snatch the title (43 years old). Today he is well in his late 70s and he still goes to the gym regularly, proving his inexhaustible self and immense physical capabilities.


Chris Dickerson is a competitor who made himself known through four separate eras in bodybuilding: the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s. He has seen many innovations, changes, and trends throughout his career. Chris never got stuck in any of those but accepted every new challenge and opportunity to evolve, perfecting his skill.

His bodybuilding career began in 1965 and ended in 1994 when Chris retired. Some of his achievements have already been mentioned in the paragraphs above. He was also successful in physique modeling – Dickerson worked as a model especially during the 1960s. In the 1970s, Dickerson ventured into nude photography, as captured by talented photographer Jim French. Currently, he trains athletes in Florida and also holds seminars. As a bodybuilder, Chris Dickerson’s career was extremely prolific. He got about 60 notable results, the list is too big to publish here. However, we are going to name some of the most important achievements in this regard:

Chris Dickerson Hall of Fame induction at Muscle Beach – July 4, 2014

  • Mr. Eastern America Overall Winner, 1966
  • Junior Mr. USA Winner – 1966
  • Mr. California Winner – 1967
  • Multiple times NABBA winner, Short and Overall, between 1970 and 1976
  • Mr. USA Winner – 1968
  • Mr. America Winner – 1970
  • Pro Mr. America WBBG Winner – 1973
  • IFBB Winner of Grand Prix New York, Grand Prix Miami, Grand Prix California 1980
  • IFBB Mr. Olympia Winner – 1982
  • IFBB Olympia Masters 50+ Winner – 1994

As you can see, Dickerson has been extremely competitive all throughout his long-spanning career, with important victories even right before his retirement. His history-making moment, though, was considered to be the moment he became the first African-American to win the AAU Mr. America, in 1970.

Many consider that he would’ve easily been three times Mr. Olympia, as coming in second in 1980 and 1981 were highly debatable moments and he appeared as the true winner. It may be therefore justifiable to say that Dickerson is almost three times Mr. Olympia. Let’s not forget that he competed against Arnold himself, therefore coming second in such circumstances can hardly ever be seen as a loss.

Present days

Chris Dickerson interview

As said before, Chris Dickerson is currently in his late 70’s and, although he trains frequently, he states very clearly that the physical shape is no longer his concern. Instead, health is. After all, it is fairly normal for a senior to try to avoid age-related issues. Dickerson pays attention to the foods he eats, as to keep his arteries and joints healthy, as well as other key parts of the body that get very vulnerable at this age. He stopped competing when he was 55, with only three interruptions during his active years, due to surgeries. Naturally, he passes on the health concern to the younger ones as well, since health should come before performance.

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