The Arnold Sports Festival is one of the most popular fitness shows of the year. The brainchild of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the event is home to a host of sports, strength contests, and other events. And amongst all the arm wrestling, MMA bouts, and strongman feats is the Arnold Classic, a bodybuilding competition that’s arguably second only to the Mr. Olympia show in terms of prestige.
On Aug. 16, 2023, the official Arnold Sports Festival Instagram page released ticket information for next year’s event. The organization also published a list of the seven bodybuilding divisions that will vie for supremacy at the Classic, including:
- Arnold Classic (Men’s Open)
- Classic Physique
- Men’s Physique
- Pro Wheelchair
There’s a lot on the line for competitors at the Arnold Classic in 2023: Not only does a win qualify a competitor for that year’s Olympia, but in 2022, there was nearly $800,000 in prize money awarded across the event’s various divisions. Of that money, $200,000 went to Brandon Curry, who took first in the Arnold Classic.
Divisions Excluded From the 2023 Arnold Classic
There are four International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness (IFBB) Pro League divisions that are absent from the 2023 Arnold Classic lineup: 212, Women’s Physique, Women’s Bodybuilding, and Figure International.
The 212 division was only featured at the Arnold from 2014 to 2018, while Women’s Bodybuilding — known as the Ms. International competition — was held at the event from 1989 through 2013.
Women’s Physique was also a staple at the event from 2015 through 2020, but it’s been off the docket since. Its repeated absence isn’t sitting well with competitor Sarah Villegas, a two-time Women’s Physique Olympia winner.
Villegas took to Instagram to sound off about the news:
“Women’s physique is bigger than one show, much bigger,” Villegas wrote. “And that’s what the Arnold Classic has become to me, just a show. Women’s physique is one of the biggest events on the Olympia stage and is now at the IFBB Pro League’s main show, The Pittsburgh Pro.”
Iris Kyle, legendary women’s bodybuilder and 10-time Ms. Olympia winner, shared her support for Villegas, commenting on the post:
“Women should have the same privileges as our male [counterparts.] This absolutely [saddens] me to see women are NOT receiving the SAME opportunity to perform their craft.”
The Figure International division — which was at the show nearly every year since 2002, outside of the COVID-shortened 2021 edition — is another notable omission in 2023.
Brian Powers, the executive director of the Arnold Sports Festival, explained the decision in a statement to BarBend:
“We look at all the sports we have, including bodybuilding, every single year, and we analyze whether we can host a competitive field or not. Based on our yearly analysis of all the divisions, we didn’t feel we were in a position to host a world championship Figure competition, which is what we are in the business of doing. We may be able to come back and do it again next year, depending on the depth of the field. We feel like we didn’t have that depth this year. We’ll go back and we’ll look at it again in 2024.
We are making major addition[s] to women’s professional sports in other sports that will be announced soon.”
When Is the Arnold Classic?
The 2023 Arnold Sports Festival will take place on Mar. 2-5, 2023 in Columbus, OH. Here’s the schedule released so far for the Arnold Classic bodybuilding events:
Friday, March 3, 2023
- Fitness International Prejudging (12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.)
- Classic Physique Prejudging (12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.)
- Fitness International Finals (7 p.m.-9:30 p.m.)
- Classic Physique Finals (7 p.m.-9:30 p.m.)
- Arnold Classic Prejudging (7 p.m.-9:30 p.m.)
Saturday, March 4, 2023
- Men’s Physique Prejudging (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)
- Bikini International Prejudging (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)
- Wellness International Prejudging (10 a.m.-12 p.m.)
- Pro Wheelchair Prejudging & Finals (12 p.m.-1 p.m.)
- Men’s Physique Finals (7 p.m.-10 p.m.)
- Bikini International Finals (7 p.m.-10 p.m.)
- Wellness International Finals (7 p.m.-10 p.m.)
- Arnold Classic Finals (7 p.m.-10 p.m.)
Additional reporting by Roger Lockridge.
Featured Image: @arnoldsports on Instagram | Photo by @profitnessphotos on Instagram