Derek Lunsford is the reigning 212 Olympia champion from 2021, but it appears he will not defend his title this coming December. On Sept. 15, 2022, Olympia LLC posted an Instagram announcement revealing Lunsford has received a “special invite” to compete for the 2022 Mr. Olympia title. The news follows a recent request from the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Pro League athlete to switch divisions.
“Lunsford submitted a formal request to receive a special invitation to compete in the open division this December,” the announcement wrote. “… After careful consideration, the Olympia promoters and the IFBB Professional League have granted Lunsford a Special Invitation. The addition of Lunsford further bolsters what many are calling ‘one of the best lineups’ in the history of the event.”
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Lunsford’s official shift to the Men’s Open division, or vying for the Mr. Olympia title itself, comes on the heels of some recent now-clear hints of the bodybuilder’s future.
The athlete reportedly guest-posed at 257 pounds at the 2022 Pittsburgh Pro in May. Later, in a mid-July 2022 edition of Olympia TV on YouTube, Chief Olympia Officer Dan Solomon suggested Lunsford was “nowhere near 212 [pounds] at this point.” At the time of Solomon’s comments, Lunsford did not address the sentiments in public, but the writing appeared to already be on the wall.
“Earlier this year, Derek Lunsford revealed a jaw-dropping new version of his championship physique when he made a surprise appearance in Pittsburgh,” the Olympic LLC continued. “The reigning ‘212 champ’ went toe to toe with some of the biggest and best in the world. The photos and videos had the global bodybuilding scene buzzing with excitement.”
Not long after his Pittsburgh Pro cameo, Lunsford apparently filed his Open division request as his bulking nutrition filed suit.
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Lunsford’s new competitive task in 2022 is overcoming many of the same elite athletes he featured alongside in Western Pennsylvania.
Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Ellsbiay is the two-time reigning champion (2020-2021). However, established challengers like the ascending Nick Walker, former winner Brandon Curry (2019), and Hunter Labrada could all find themselves in prime positions for the 2022 Olympia title. Former 212 winner and 2021 runner-up Shaun Clarida may also be a factor in the Open category. At the time of this writing, Clarida has not confirmed whether he will compete in the 212 or Open division in December.
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It’s a stacked field for Lunsford in his forthcoming Open debut. In the event he captures the Mr. Olympia title, Lunsford would be the 17th unique winner of the championship. In addition, he’d be the first IFBB Pro League competitor to ever win the Olympia in two divisions. The star bodybuilder will have to overcome a cadre of elite peers, but his potential history certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Featured image: @dereklunsford_ on Instagram