How Jay Cutler Came Back from the Brink of Defeat

August 23, 2011

Author: Johnny Fitness, Editor-in-Chief; Photographer: Garry Bartlett; Model: Jay Cutler “I did it!” Those close enough could almost read the unspoken words of victory in his eyes. Whatever else was there, the world’s newly crowned 2010 Mr. Olympia was keeping to himself. When Jay Cutler lovingly wrapped his powerful, triple-tanned fingers around the fourth Sandow he’ll proudly add to his trophy collection, few knew of the dramatic, pain-filled 24 hours he’d endured prior to his happy acceptance.

Yes, he’d won, despite the unavoidable prediction that he wouldn’t from fans of other competing hopefuls ⎯ a commendable feat in itself ⎯ but to those who value such things, he’d also proven that beneath the huge expanse of upper-body muscle he’d forged, beat the heart of a true champion. Jay didn’t just plain win; he won in a style worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. Call it a cataract of courage ⎯ if you’re big on alliteration ⎯ because it essentially boiled down to Jay’s victory over water, or, as it proved to be in this case, the lack thereof!

Last month, in his Olympia report, our special features editor, Peter McGough, touched on the problem Jay had at the prejudging ⎯  he’d dialed out too soon and too severely on his water intake. McGough accurately reported that normally Jay drinks two gallons of H2O a day; that on the Wednesday before Friday’s prejudging he cut down to one, and on Thursday down to only a half. Friday he reserved only the smallest of occasional sips, although unbeknownst to him, he was already dangerously dehydrated; a condition that doesn’t show symptoms until it’s too late. Jay’s world of well-being crumbled around him as he stepped onstage Friday.

The following is what McGough had no way of knowing at the time, but what a trusted confidant of MuscleMag and Jay told us later. If what I put my name to is not exactly what transpired exactly in the order that it did, be assured that every detail is in essence correct. In the name of readability I’ve taken license to suggest what thoughts may have passed through Jay’s mind. Whether or not my mind-reading ability is spot on is, however, of little consequence as the confidant has sworn the story to be true.

Beginning with mild, and then chronic cramps, Jay found his head ached more at prejudging as his energy grew less. His old nemesis ⎯ water intake ⎯  had caught him out once again. The feedback his body gave him, on which he’d come to rely 100%, had tricked him. Now, when he needed a body he could depend on most, when he was out to prove that last year’s win wasn’t a fluke (after losing in ’08), when he was up against his stiffest competition ever, he felt any hope of a fourth victory was ebbing away.

After barely managing to drag himself offstage in one piece, he collapsed ⎯ not so that anyone would notice, I fancy, but in a corner out of the way and, in his mind, likely out of the competition. For 45 minutes he lay exhausted backstage unable to stand. Seeing his main rival, Phil Heath, who, (unaware of Jay’s plight) was smiling and dancing around, didn’t help his state of mind one bit. He had to do something. Receiving encouragement from a trusted (and knowledgeable) friend would help; so, he texted one he knew was still in the audience. “How’d I look?” was the message. “A little flat,” was the reply. Reading between the lines, and sensing a long friendship had likely laced those three words with an attempt to sugar the situation, he turned in desperation to his trainer, Hany Rambod, to work some kind of miracle … and that he did.

Pulling him up and helping him out the door, he took Jay, still in agony, back to the ailing bodybuilder’s hotel room. Over the next several hours he fed him burger after burger and, in Jay’s words, “handfuls of salt”, and washed it all down with two liters of water. To complete the hoped-for physical makeover, Rambod then had Jay do sets of pushups and curls “to move the food around.” To consolidate the effect, he took Jay off to the gym for a full-body workout! Not a bad undertaking for a man who hours before had zero energy and felt like death.

The highlight to Jay’s story ⎯ apart from achieving what for 24 hours seemed an unlikely win ⎯ was an out-of-the-blue telephone call he received from his 81-year-old father. Here, and I paraphrase, is how the conversation went.

“Hi, son! Got you at last. I’ve been to your home three times trying to find you, but you weren’t there.”

“But you’re in Boston, dad.”

“No, I’m not. I’m here in Vegas. I caught the red-eye last night. I’m here to see you win.”

“What could I say to that?” Jay remarked later. “If my dad flew overnight from Boston to see me win, that’s what I’m going to do. I must win this one for my dad!”

Those who cared to look would’ve seen Jay after his posing routine backstage texting the same member of the audience at the finals on Saturday. “How’d I look?” was his repeated query.

“Don’t know what you did, but you look fan-bloody-tastic, bro” was the reply.

And so it was. Jay’s trainer, whom he trusts implicitly, had his man primed, pumped and more than prepared to do battle for the statue that represents the most coveted award in bodybuilding. He’d snatched victory from defeat, beaten the mighty Phil Heath, whom Jay himself calls a “genetic freak,” and best of all he’d won for his dad.  At times winners are made of more than muscle.