- How do you not have any preconceived notions about the competitors when you judge the Mr. Olympia contest?
Of course you know the competitors by name, and how they used to look before. But for example, if I put some competitor on sixth place (as he have been year before) and he is not in shape and doesn't belong that high on scores, I risk my reputation. My reputation as a IFBB Pro Judge is more important than trying to please somebody. If my judging is lousy, my career as a judge is over. Nobody wants that to happen. And they will not risk it!
- What does the head judge, and assistant head judges do at the Mr. Olympia?
The head judge gives a brief meeting before pre-judging. If there's a new rule, he tells us about it and we can have more instructions on how we judge with these new rules. He also gives details about the schedules so the judging panel will be present at the right time. He points out - every time - that we must do individual decisions, look at all the comparisons, take a very close look on how each competitor looks on that specific day (and not just remember how he placed last year or at a different contest) and not to talk each other during or after pre-judging.
The head judge asks from each judge what would he / she would like to compare. He also recommends judges to the panel months before Mr. Olympia and then, the IFBB Pro Division makes the decisions who will judge the Mr. Olympia. The head judge is the person who represents the whole judging panel. The guys on stage (I think that is what you mean as an assistant head judge?) just takes care about that the guys will be on the numerical order on stage and make sure that the right competitors will be at the comparisons in their right places.
- How can you judge one better when there are two great competitors on the stage, like Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler? What do you look for?
Apples and oranges, like some no-named-athlete once said. The judges are always looking for an overall package, starting from toes up to the neck. Sounds boring, but hey, it's like that! When I personally judge the overall package, I will check out the competitor's structure, muscle mass and definition. There is not a specific order of which one is the most important matter, because it's the overall package that matters. You just take a look of some competitor and you can tell if he is good or not.
Ronnie and Jay are good examples about overall package. Ronnie's overall structure is lighter than Jay's. I admit that in some contests Ronnie has had a big belly, but it was not so big last year (remember, the fans and media can't judge competitors either on how they looked a year before). Jay has a naturally wider waist line than Ronnie. Which one is better: slightly hanging belly with narrow waist line OR tight abs with wider waist? Apples and oranges.
- Should the judges go to dinner with some competitors, or be friendly and hang out with competitors before they judge them?
In every sport, players and judges know each other. The circles are very small even in the major sports. You are making friends with someone because the sport is connecting you. It's like in "normal day life". You just like somebody and hang around with them. Then there's a person that you don't like to associate. Judges go out to dinner with competitors? I personally haven't seen that. Besides, if the competitor wants to be in 100% shape, they can't have dinner and go out like the judges do. I don't like the idea that judges hang out with competitors just before the contest. It only makes bad talk for nothing. You also don't talk about the upcoming contest with competitors. It's not like a fan meeting.
- How do you become an IFBB judge?
I got my national judging license (in Finland) in 1984. I judged numerous contests and honed my abilities at the European Championships as a test judge. I didn't pass that test then. Then, there was more judging in Finland and in 1989, I got another try as a test judge at the European Championships. I passed the test clearly. Then I judged the 1990 European and World Championships. I did good work and then the IFBB needed a judge for the 1991 Finnish Grand Prix. Wayne contacted me and he informed me about the rules and he said that if my judging is good, I can continue as a IFBB Pro Judge.
- How do you compare mass monsters to symmetrical bodybuilders on stage?
It is very difficult, but it is still the overall package. I may repeat myself over and over again about the overall package, but to me, it's really the most important thing. Of course some judges like more symmetrical, and some judges likes more massive. But then again, we have 12 judges on the panel and the results are combination of different opinions. Starting point is always that the competitor must be in shape.
- Does it matter what type of music you pose too, or what kind of moves you make in the posing routine?
It matters a lot to me. I don't like routines that are like guest posing appearance with lot's of mimics and too much "story", like answering the phone and talking… that kind of thing. It's good for the audience and very entertaining, but it's not posing. Posing is something else than acting or doing mimics to the music. Entertainment is good for the sport, BUT you cannot judge a ballet dancer and a hiphopper, which one is better, if you know what I mean?
- When people say some bodybuilders can pose, what does that mean to you?
They are doing moves or poses that someone else is doing, but the poses don't fit for everyone. When a bodybuilder is young, he admires some physique star who hits their trademark poses. The young bodybuilder tries to copy that pose and he hits it everywhere trying to look like his idol. That's ok when you're a beginner, but once you have the mass, you must see clearly see what poses you can hit and what you should avoid. Imagine the guy who has weak arms is doing arm poses like Arnold. Many Mr. Olympia competitors should think twice if they are able to hit some special shots. Most of the guys cannot do the twist poses in a correct way. They turn their torso too much and that's why the poses looks very stiff and clumsy.
- If competitors speak out about the judges, or other competitors, or people around the bodybuilding world, does it influence judges?
Of course you have ears, but does this talk get judged? Nope. Some of the "very big mouthed" competitors have placed to the top just because their physique's have been so good. Sometimes I read some magazines and I get amused when some competitor claims that the shows are fixed and they are 100% sure for that. Believe me, it's the shape of the contest day that matters, nothing else.
- What can the IFBB or judges do to make the judging seem more impartial to the fans around the world?
There is 12 judges in a judging panel, and the three highest and three lowest scores will be taken out first. Then, the remaining six judges scores will be left to the actual scores. One judge will be selected out by the computer program. Only five judges scores are counted together. I think that's very secure.