Günter Schlierkamp Biography & Bodybuilding Career
A Californian beach boy, as he stands in the books: an extremely positive charisma, paired with a broad toothpaste smile and very symmetrical mountains of muscles. The crowd’s favorite, multiple finalist in Mr. Olympia competitions and the bodybuilder who managed to beat the great Ronnie Coleman in his heyday – Günter Schlierkamp played in the league of top athletes for years. Here we take a look back at the career of the likable German.
Günter grew up on the border to the northern Ruhr area and, like many other young teenagers in the early 1980s, he was fascinated by bodybuilding when he marveled at Conan the Barbarian with the great Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role. From then on, the student from Münsterland found out about the basics of his new favorite sport with the help of bodybuilding magazines and began to train ambitiously with dumbbells in his children’s room at home.
Driven by ever new muscle-bound role models, which arose from the emerging action genre of the Hollywood dream factory, the young Günter intensified his training enthusiasm over the next few years. At the age of 16, he was finally allowed to enter a gym for the first time – it took a lot of persuasive power to get his father to sign the contract. After successfully applied persuasion and a quick focus on competitive sports, the Californian by choice managed to win his first competitions just two years later.
Another two years later one could slowly foresee that the ambitious junior bodybuilder could have great success. In 1990 Günter first struck the German Junior Championship and then a Junior World Championship in Spain. The change to men was also extremely promising: in 1992 the likable giant – 1.85 meters was quite a number for an internationally successful bodybuilder in the early 1990s – became heavyweight world champion at the European Amateur Championships and the German Championships in Berlin.
At the age of 23, Günter took the final step on the way to professional bodybuilding: In Seoul, South Korea, the Münsterlander crowned himself the IFBB amateur world champion in the heavyweight division and was henceforth allowed to call himself Mr. Universum. The newcomer initially found it difficult to gain a foothold in the professional world. Günter often did not make it into the top six, although he was always told to have great potential.
In 1996, three years after starting his professional career, Günter and his ex-wife decided to bet everything on one card and to emigrate to the USA. The couple initially moved to the east coast, as New Jersey was home to a potential sponsor. Little did the hopeful 26-year-old suspect that his future employer meant trouble since he had already lost his company due to tax problems and only hoped to get back on his feet financially with Günter’s help.
After the couple was fraudulently deprived of their savings, Günter was without a job, sponsor, money and permanent residence with an angry spouse on his side in a foreign country. Nevertheless, he decided to pursue his dream of a successful professional bodybuilding career in the states and subsequently found smaller jobs and a not very lucrative sponsor but it helped to somehow stay make ends meet.
After some tough months on the east coast, the opportunity finally arose to move across the country to California. Günter quickly gained a foothold in the legendary Gold’s Gym and a short time later Joe Weider awarded him his first major sponsorship deal. According to his own statements, he quickly fell in love with the exact spot on earth where his great role model Arnold also found happiness a good thirty years earlier.
Despite the results in the competitions still not being the best – getting into the top six was usually a surprise – the tall blond was a popular participant in TV commercials and magazines. A positive charisma, paired with a broad toothpaste smile and very much symmetrical mountains of muscles – the European embodied the Californian beach boy like no other athlete of his time.
In the early 2000s, the Gentle Giant had his final breakthrough into world-class. At the Mr. Olympia weekend in 2002, the Münsterländer delivered perhaps the best performance of his career. Gunter who had already been extremely popular with the audience due to his positive and down-to-earth attitude pulled the audience completely on his side during Prejudging.
When Günter chased the titleholder, Ronnie Coleman who wasn’t in his best shape across the stage at Posedown the next day, the audience expected a hot duel between the Californian by choice and the exceptional Texan athlete – which, by the way, finally appeared again in breathtaking shape in the following two years and all doubts vanished after the continuation of his reign.
But to the surprise of many Günter was only fifth, which caused a lot of boos. When the German showed himself to be a fair loser and still raised his arms, almost the entire hall was up from their seats. A real standing ovation for a fifth place – in the glorious history of the Mr. Olympia competition, only the gentle giant was given this honor. The fact that the German spontaneously went to the microphone and thanked the fans for the great support finally catapulted the popular athlete into the hearts of bodybuilding enthusiasts worldwide.
Gunter managed to view his position as number 5, which was rather disappointing from the audience’s point of view, as a success. After all, Günter had made position 15 in 2001 and he achieved his goal of getting into the top 6 in 2002 with flying colors. In addition, one of his greatest triumphs should not be long in coming: Just a few weeks later there was another duel with the great Ronnie Coleman as part of the GNC Show of Strength, but this time the strong German got the upper hand. Günter achieved his first and only victory as a pro – and that in a duel with Ronnie Coleman, who was considered invincible.
In the following year, a few weeks before the Mr. Olympia weekend, Günter lost almost ten kilograms of muscle mass due to a staphylococcal infection. The realistic chance of competing at the top of the world’s most important competition after his first professional victory and above all the triumph over Ronnie was gone. The German decided to take the stage anyway and he even started in great shape. Once again he made it into the top 6 – he achieved fifth place – and in 2004 he achieved this goal once again.
In 2005 the Münsterländer finally recovered from his heavy weight loss and was determined to attack the top. As in 2002, Günter managed to put an insane package on the floor and thrilled the audience with his charisma, the symmetrical mountains of muscles, and his smooth posing. However, the judges again favored even more extreme proportions. So they placed the favorites Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler and surprisingly Gustavo Badell in front of the German.
Günter was already disappointed on stage. Backstage, he met his idol a few minutes later: Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Austrian praised the athlete for his insane form and informed him that he had seen him further ahead. At this point, Günter said, according to his own statements, it became clear to him that the jump to the absolute top would probably be denied by the judges forever. This realization robbed the Münsterländer of a good deal of motivation.
As part of the preparation for the Mr. Olympia competition in 2006, the German lacked the enthusiasm of the old days. In the back of his mind was buzzing the idea that it might be time for a new chapter in his remarkable career. When Günter finally failed to present himself on stage in the best shape and he missed the top 6 for the first time in four years (he was tenth), he decided to turn his back on competitive sport.
However, Günter never stopped bodybuilding. Even well over a decade after the end of his professional career, the German is in great shape, trains several times per week, and loves his sport as much as ever. Incidentally, the man from Münster has not strayed too far from his roots professionally: With his new wife Kim he runs a fitness studio in California, regularly travels around the world for seminars, and is also devoted to other bodybuilding-related business ideas. In his private life, Günter describes himself as a happy family man.