Phil Heath stopped competing after his third-place finish at the 2020 Mr. Olympia. The seven-time champion (2011-2017) hasn’t been seen on a stage in over two years, but he never retired. Even as he stays active in other endeavors at age 43, the door for a potential comeback remains open.
On Feb. 24, 2023, Heath posted a video to his Instagram where he walks through a few biceps and shoulder movements in front of a dumbbell rack at an undisclosed gym. A combination of the icon’s jacked look and a heartfelt reflection about a positive mental attitude while overcoming adversity could paint the picture of someone planning to don their posing trunks again.
To rise to the top of a rigorous sport like bodybuilding, an athlete has to sacrifice a lot in terms of nutrition and training on their respective journey. After making those kinds of sacrifices for years, it seems Heath is focusing on recalibrating himself gradually.
“One of the things which I had to fight throughout my life was my own reflection in the mirror,” Heath wrote. “I wasn’t staring into the mirrors in admiration of my hard work, but the work which is left to be done. Not just in my muscles but more importantly in my mind and spirit.”
It’s not clear what Heath is referring to precisely when he mentions his “fight,” but those are an intriguing choice of words. While characterizing where he’s previously put his energies — some of it elite bodybuilding — it’s almost as if Heath is setting the stage for a potential return.
“… My reason to fight will be my future version of self that achieves everything I’ve put my heart and soul into.”
As a former Olympia champion, Heath has a lifetime invitation to compete in the annual Mr. Olympia contest. Were he to make a comeback in 2023, this year’s iteration will take place in early November in Orlando, FL. A field featuring competitors like defending champion Hadi Choopan, Nick Walker, and two-time winner (2020-2021) Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay would await Heath.
While the 2023 Masters Olympia recently announced a $229,000 overall prize purse, Heath is not yet eligible for the Men’s Open portion of the returning contest. The competition starts its age guidelines for that division at 45. With a Dec. 18, 1979 birthday, Heath can’t feature there until late 2024 at the earliest. That doesn’t consider potential prep time and when future iterations of the Masters competition would take place.
Heath is not competing in the 2023 Arnold Classic but will be on hand to interact with the athletes and spectators. If he does indeed have a comeback planned in the works, it seems the legend is taking his time dipping his toes back into the water. He’s undoubtedly earned the right to bide his time and weigh all options as one of the faces of the sport.
Featured image: @philheath on Instagram