Written by Ron Harris
16 November 2020



5 Weeks to Redemption!

How Iain Valliere Won the New York Pro


By Ron Harris


Tampa must have started to seem to be something of a cursed city for Canada’s Iain Valliere. In August 2019, he arrived in top form hoping for a win. And it would have been his, except that living legend Dexter Jackson and the U.K. Juggernaut, the late Luke Sandoe, decided to enter also. He returned to Florida a year later, and this time came runner-up at the Tampa Pro to rising star Hunter Labrada, making his pro debut. Placing aside, it wasn’t a memorable look for Valliere. His tan was too light, and the huge man was under-carbed and flat, meaning nothing was popping. As luck would have it, the prestigious New York Pro had not only been postponed from its traditional date in May to early September, and moved to, guess where? Tampa! Iain set his sights on that and went to work. What followed was one of those “feel good” moments in sports, where the underdog rises from defeat to claim victory. To gain an insight into his mental state and how he made that win happen, I present to you two interviews conducted with him that fateful weekend in Tampa: one the night before the contest, and one moments after he became the 2020 New York Pro Champion.


Part 1: The Night Before 

Friday, September 4, 2020 at 6:14 p.m.


I was here in Tampa just five weeks ago watching you take second place to Hunter Labrada. You’re back for vengeance! 


I’m here to prove to myself that I have more in the tank than what you saw at the Tampa Pro. I’m excited to be here.


I’m just going to come right out and ask you, what went wrong? I know that wasn’t the Iain I should have seen. I’ve seen you so much better.


I was about 60 percent there. You’re going to see a vastly different Iain tomorrow. The short story: bad tan, stressed out of my mind, and flat as a pancake.


There was speculation that being alone to compete in a foreign country was disastrous. But it’s true, being by yourself as a pro trying to qualify for the Mr. Olympia is not ideal. You basically need a gofer for situations that arise like, oh shit, I’m out of rice cakes, I need to go get more! Just someone to handle things so you can relax and rest. Did being on your own play a role in your looking the way you did?


It had some impact for sure. Having to walk around and leave the hotel to do stuff drains you. With my color, having a second set of eyes to say you’re still too light would have helped. I’m not saying being alone was the determining factor, but all these things did play a role. That was my first time going to a show alone, so it was new territory for me. It added to my anxiety and stress levels. My wife Melissa is here with me with this time.


(At this point, I ask Melissa to join the interview)


Why couldn’t you make it last time?


(Melissa) I have a job, and in Canada, if we come to the USA, we have to quarantine for two weeks when we get home. It would have been three weeks off work in all. Looking back, I would have just done it. Foolishly, we didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. I’ve gone to shows alone before, but as a bodybuilder it’s different. I didn’t even attempt to take the three weeks off work. This time it was non-negotiable. I was coming whether I had a job when I got back or not. 


That’s a keeper there, Iain!


My employer was super supportive, so it’s fine. I’m happy I’m here now so it’s gonna be a very different experience. (Now back to Iain)


After the Tampa Pro, did you immediately know you’d do another show?


Yes. There was absolutely no way I was gonna hang it up after that. The second place in that show didn’t reflect how I looked in my mind. In my mind that was a last-place look. I know I had so much more to show than that. Tan aside, flatness aside, it was just I knew I had way more and there was no way I was going to end a season displaying barely 50 percent of what I know I have. For me to see that, I had to get back up there and prove to myself that I haven’t worked for 15 years to display a physique like that. Obviously I want to qualify for the Olympia and I will this weekend, but that was secondary to the fact of just getting back on stage and proving to myself and everybody else that wasn’t Iain.


iainv tampa


Your true fans knew that. The 2018 Mr. Olympia was a phenomenal look for you, as was the Tampa Pro in 2019. I feel you’re not always being judged on how you look that day, but compared to the best version of you we’ve seen.


True, and I’ll bring my best this weekend and prove to myself and everyone else that five weeks ago was a fluke, shit happens, and both myself and my coach Patrick Tuor learn from our mistakes.


You’ve had five weeks to improve. A lot of guys get much better in a time frame like that between shows. Do you feel the extra five weeks was an advantage for you?


I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but Melissa looked at me this morning and said it looked like three years had passed between the Tampa Pro and today. Hopefully I bring that look to the stage. Patrick and I had only done one show together, and it was the Tampa Pro last year. I’d already done three shows that season, so I was already in shape when we started working together. We perfected the look I already had, but we didn’t do the entire prep process together. He learned my body quickly after this latest Tampa Pro prep. He learned I need to eat a lot, and that fullness has a drastic effect on my physique. I can flatten out a lot overnight, and my water loss can be dramatic. We figured these things out quickly and made massive adjustments for this show. The look now isn’t even comparable. I also worked with Kenny Wallach on my posing, something I never did before. I’ve been knocked for my posing before. I was doing myself a massive disservice in a lot of poses by the way I was hitting them. Kenny fixed my poses and it makes such a difference.




Even with a shirt on, I can tell your tan is better this time.

Yes. We started yesterday and got two coats on last night. We got one more on this morning, we’ll get two more on today and one tomorrow. I’ll be the darkest white guy on stage! I also did a lot of tanning before this to make sure I had a good base. The things we messed up on in Tampa will be the most improved here; the fullness and the tan will be 100 percent better. I want to show the judges that I learn quickly from my mistakes.


Part 2: The Winner’s Circle

Saturday, September 5, 2020 at 9:40 p.m.


Five weeks ago, you left Tampa not a happy camper. 


Disheartened, to say the least.


Things did not go the way you planned but man, talk about redemption. It didn’t take a whole year, only a little over a month to come back and set things right. You must have a great sense of relief right now.


The sense of relief knows from coming I had this inside me all along. After Tampa, I had some moments like, maybe this is it for me. Maybe I’ve regressed. Maybe the 2018 Olympia was as good as I was ever going to get. You start having these thoughts creep into your mind and you start getting down on yourself. But I knew. I saw it in the gym, and I saw it in my progress photos for Patrick. I thought, what am I seeing? Am I crazy? I knew it was there, and this was such a huge validation to show that what I saw and what I know I’m capable of really is there, when we put the right formula together. It also shows that when we do it wrong, it’s really wrong, but when we do it right, awesome things can happen. Patrick and I really learned a lot, and this win gave me a huge sense of redemption and validation.




Would you also attribute your win to your wife Melissa being here this time?


At the last show I was alone, and I lost; this time she was here and I won. I came second in a way weaker lineup and I just won the New York Pro, the third toughest show in the sport after the Olympia and the Arnold. The only difference was, she was here. But seriously, a huge part of this sport is mental. When you sit there alone in a hotel room, thoughts run through your mind. You have no one there to talk things over with and relax with, no one there to help with things like food so you’re not out there running around on your feet all the time. Just having someone you love with you to keep your head straight when you’re doubting yourself, someone to tell you it’s all good, you’re good. We all need a second set of eyes. Patrick is over in Europe, and it’s hard to get here right now. Melissa knows bodybuilding. She won the Tampa Pro. She’s been to the Olympia. Her brother is an Olympia champion and her husband is a pro bodybuilder. She knows what a good bodybuilder is supposed to look like.


But is she brutally honest with you?


She is, and sometimes it makes me really mad. But just to have that support and that comfort is priceless. Having her there to keep my mind occupied did so much in itself.


This was a tough show. At judging, I kept thinking, if you had shown up here looking the way you did five weeks ago, you might not have been in the top 10.


I agree with you, but I think I would have been around seventh or eighth. I was close to Antoine and those guys. There’s no way I would have been comparable to guys like Justin and Hassan in the top five. The adjustments we made this time weren’t anything crazy. For this show, we kept my water in all the way through. I drank 9 liters of water yesterday, and I drank my normal amount today. I never cut water; I kept my sodium high, no diuretics, no lowering of food, nothing. We just treated it like it was another high-carb day in prep. We waltzed in and stepped on stage.


I hope everyone hears that, because some knuckleheads out there will go days without water and pop Dyazide like Tic Tacs.


I have to give a special shout-out to Patrick Tuor. He’s the one who put this formula together and learned so fast from his mistakes.


Changing things rarely seems to pay off. We can now follow all the pros in Instagram. Pretty much everyone looks pretty good a week or two out. Then on show day, at least half of them suddenly look four weeks out, flat as shit, or both.


It’s because guys change things drastically at the last minute to look 2 percent better and end up looking 20 percent worse. I was looking at my pics from a week or two out and said, this is gonna be a tough look for anyone to beat if we can just hold this until the stage. Let’s change nothing. We slowly increased my food and kept my water as high as we could. We learned the hard way in Tampa that when we lower my water, I turn into a tiny little twig. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We got here and things were looking good, so I kept on eating the same meals all the way up to and including today.


A couple of years ago, your best pose was the side triceps. Now I would say it’s the front lat spread.


It’s something I worked really hard on. To be honest, all my front shots were my weakest shots. My front double biceps is still one of my weaker poses, but it’s made huge strides and I give Kenny Wallach the credit for that. Four weeks of working with him completely changed my posing. All the practice made the judging easier too. When I was up there, I felt like I could hit poses all day.


And you almost had to. Head judge Tyler Manion worked the shit out of you guys in the top five and you never seemed to be fading.


I was sweating because it was hot and I had drunk 9 liters of water, but I didn’t feel tired. I could have done 40 more rounds. As the water came out, I think I looked even better.


Even if you had got second place again today, you still would have gone to the Olympia on points. But isn’t it so much better to get there with a win?


It’s so much better, and to have it be the New York Pro and get the cool ring with the diamonds, that’s for life. Even if I retire tomorrow, this win is forever. I never take for granted all the people I’ve met in bodybuilding and all the opportunities I’ve had. In 2018 I qualified with a win, but it was a small show and the lineup was not tough at all. I wiped the floor with that show. This was a show that I was very confident I could win because I know what I looked like, but I had my doubts because it’s the New York Pro and the lineup was going to be ridiculous. This win was a validation of everything I’ve worked so hard for. To go into the Olympia with some momentum like that is a good thing. And I still have time to get better. I was talking to Patrick today. We think I was 60 percent at the Tampa Pro, we were about 85 percent here, and we still think we can improve another 10 to 15 percent. We can keep the size and fullness, bring in the condition more from the back, and keep working on my posing. I can still get better in the next three months. I want to show the Mr. Olympia judges the 100 percent form of Iain.




You were 14th place the first time you competed there in 2018. Let’s bump that up, shall we?


We’re aiming for top 10 this time, that’s for sure.


Instagram: iainvalliere



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Contest History

2011 CBBF Canadian Championships

Junior Winner


2014 CBBF Ontario Championships

Super Heavyweight Winner


2014 IFBB Amateur Olympia Latin America

Heavyweight and Overall Champion


2015 Orlando Show of Champions

Seventh Place


2015 Toronto Pro

Fifth Place


2016 Toronto Pro

Seventh Place


2016 Vancouver Pro

Ninth Place


2018 Indy Pro

Fourth Place


2018 Vancouver Pro

Fourth Place


2018 Big Man Weekend



2018 Mr. Olympia

14th Place


2019 Toronto Pro

Second Place


2019 Vancouver Pro

Fourth Place


2019 Portugal Pro

Third Place


2019 Tampa Pro

Third Place


2020 Tampa Pro

Second Place


2020 NY Pro




Ron Harris got his start in the bodybuilding industry during the eight years he worked in Los Angeles as Associate Producer for ESPN’s “American Muscle Magazine” show in the 1990s. Since 1992 he has published nearly 5,000 articles in bodybuilding and fitness magazines, making him the most prolific bodybuilding writer ever. Ron has been training since the age of 14 and competing as a bodybuilder since 1989. He lives with his wife and two children in the Boston area. Facebook Instagram