Winston Sullivan took a gamble on himself.
And because of it, he’s now headed to Las Vegas.
Not for casinos and especially not the all-you-can-eat buffets, but for the 2022 Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend starting Dec. 15, where he will compete as one of the top bodybuilders in the world.
“Here I am going to the biggest and best show in bodybuilding,” the Lutz resident said. “I never thought I’d ever be on the biggest stage. I’m very grateful for it all, especially when you take all the hard work you put in — you set a goal and go out and accomplish it.
“I never thought I’d be in Mr. Olympia — I really still can’t believe it.”
Sullivan’s disbelief stems from the fact that he’s doing competitive bodybuilding for just a short time — only eight years. He did so after a friend, who also used to bodybuild, egged him on to give it a try.
Initially, Sullivan, standing at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, was skeptical because he wasn’t “trying to get big — I didn’t want to get too big, but he told me about the Men’s Physique Division.
“We don’t wear speedos, we wear board shorts,” he added. “It’s more about an aesthetic look — a beach body, so (my friend) kept pushing me and I finally said why not, but in my first competition I came in fourth. In my second I came in sixth.
“I was hooked then.”
Sullivan, a 37-year-old security guard, will compete for Men’s Physique Olympia. He is one of 60 competitors in this division and just one of 23 from the United States, with the others hailing from all over the world, such as Spain, France, Brazil, Iran, South Korea, Morocco, Australia, China and more.
However, what’s even more remarkable is Sullivan accomplished this feat, and his sculpted body, without the guidance of a trainer. He did it with just hours of working out at Esporta Fitness in Lutz, a meticulous dietary regimen and two gallons of water a day.
All that hard work, and strict diet, paid off: He won the 2022 Daytona Pro/Am Championships, which is what qualified him to compete at Mr. Olympia.
“The hardest part is being hungry,” Sullivan said. “Having two kids, they go to a party and come back with cupcakes, and I’m like, ‘Come on!’ Or, they’re like, ‘Daddy, we want McDonald’s,’ but then I get it for them, and my whole car smells like French fries!
“And I missed Thanksgiving — I didn’t get to eat any of that. I’m sitting at the table with tuna fish and sweet potatoes and they’re passing around pies in front of me! But the alternative is I don’t spend Thanksgiving with my family?! No thanks.”
Despite no trainer and no one at his gym knowing he could become Mr. Olympia, Sullivan hasn’t been doing this alone.
His fiancée, Tiffany Rudd, and his two kids — Gabriel, 13, and Skylar, 8 — have been there every step of the way. They’ve been supportive — even though they do eat good food in front of him.
Rudd didn’t quite understand what bodybuilding was about, at first.
“It was hard for me to comprehend at first,” Rudd said. “It was a lot more gym hours, multiple times a day, so in any relationship, everyone has that moment: Is he really going to the gym? It takes a lot of trust in your partner, to trust they are where (they say) they are.
“Of course, I was supportive, but I didn’t understand it — not until I saw (him compete in a show). And it’s crazy to tell people, too. ‘What does he do?’ and tell people he’s a professional bodybuilder, but I have to tell them, ‘Yeah, what Arnold Schwarzenegger did!’ (laughs).”
Sullivan and Rudd, who are getting married this New Year’s Eve, understood the lifestyle change when he first started competing. The workouts, the different foods, the trips to shows — but they embraced all of it, which has paid off.
Now, they’re both going on their first trip to Las Vegas, excited to see what comes of what all the hard work may bring.
It was a gamble, but one very much worth making.
“It was a lifestyle change, which is tough, but we adjusted for him and love and support him,” Rudd said. “At first, I didn’t realize the dedication it would take, but admire him for his dedication. This opportunity is amazing for him, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
“It’s kind of fun to see how far you can push yourself and your body,” Sullivan added. “I look back at myself before (bodybuilding) and I’m like, ‘Wow.’”
“To see thousands of competitors, and they say you’re one of the top 60 guys in the world, that’s an accomplishment within itself, and I’m very excited to be a part of that.”
2022 Joe Weider’s Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend
When: Dec. 15 to Dec. 18
Where: The Venetian Expo & Convention Center, Las Vegas
Details: Men and women bodybuilders from all over the world will compete in various categories, from the traditional Mr. and Ms. Olympia, Men’s and Women’s Physique Olympia and even Wheelchair Olympia.
Info: Visit MrOlympia.com.
Published December 14, 2022
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