hd_pubpage_230hThis three-part series of articles recognizes three Canadian bodybuilders for their outstanding achievements in 2009. Last month, I wrote about Erik Alstrup, the overall winner of the 1997 CBBF Canadian Bodybuilding Championships, who only ever competed once as an IFBB Pro. After that . . . he disappeared. More or less, anyway; in fact, Erik went on to pursue other sporting activities. In 2009, Erik made one of the most impressive and memorable competitive bodybuilding comebacks I have ever seen, winning two IDFA shows (the Montreal Classic and Toronto Classic) in addition to the UFE Nationals. The bodybuilder I’m writing about this month made one of the most impressive debuts ever by a Canadian. He is Ben Pakulski.

I first saw Ben compete at the 2006 OPA Ontario Championships and, frankly, I wasn’t all that impressed even though he won the overall title and became the 2006 Ontario Men’s Bodybuilding Champion. His leg development was mindboggling, but his upper body was lacking. At the time, he had too many body-part imbalances that I never thought that he’d be able to overcome to go to the top. Little did I know that Ben was just starting out and that he’d make me eat my words.

In the next two years, Ben made some amazing improvements to his physique that resulted in his fast rise in the amateur ranks. Ben took second in the super-heavyweight class at both the 2007 and 2008 IFBB North American Championships, and he won the 2008 CBBF Canadian Championships, which earned him an IFBB Pro Card. These improvements speak well for Ben’s work ethic and, also, for his ability to recognize that in order to get ahead, you have to continue to improve, year after year.

Pakulski's calf development is insane!

I saw Ben compete at both North American events, but I never saw him win the Canadians. The next time I saw Ben was in the summer of 2009 when he was just 12 days out from making his pro debut at the IFBB Tampa Pro Championships. Ben allowed me to follow him around the gym to photograph his two workouts that day. From the first moment I saw him I knew he’d improved greatly yet again. In fact, even 12 days out, he looked stage-ready and I could tell that he was raring to make his mark – which he did.

Ben placed third in Tampa, which is a phenomenal finish for a first-timer in the IFBB’s highly competitive professional ranks. Placing in the top three also qualified him for the 2009 Mr. Olympia – a competition many dream of competing in but few ever get to. This stellar performance also catapulted this relatively unknown Canadian into the limelight south of the border. After making the top three in his first pro show, bodybuilding fans in the States now know his name and Muscular Development signed him to a contract. Ben is now officially on his way to becoming the next big thing.

Ben chose to sit out the 2009 Olympia, which didn’t surprise me. When I photographed him he told me that he had no intention of stepping on the Olympia stage for at least a year or two. Instead, he wants to wait and take time to improve even more – Ben is wise enough to realize that if he wants to be a force in the IFBB’s professional ranks, not just another face and physique, he still needs to improve much more. Seeing firsthand how Ben has improved from 2006, I have no doubt that he can improve that much again; he has the opportunity to become Canada’s greatest IFBB Pro ever.

In the last three years, Ben has made amazing upper-body gains.

Erik Alstrup made an inspiring comeback and Ben Pakulski made an amazing debut. These are two men who achieved something special in 2009 and will be remembered for their achievements for years to come. Next month, I’ll finish off this series by writing about the third and final person to be recognized in our "Bodybuilders of the Year" series. Check back on February 1 to find out who it is.

. . . Doug Schneider, Publisher

Doug Schneider is the publisher and chief photographer for SeriousAboutMuscle.com.