“You have to think it before you can do it. The mind is what makes it all possible.” – Kai Greene
Growing up in a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn can be hard enough. But growing up without the love and support of a family? Dismal. Few have the ability to look beyond their beginnings to something greater. Kai Greene was one of the few who did.
Instead of falling through the cracks of society, Greene combined his passion for visual arts and weight lifting to become one of the most popular bodybuilders in the 21st century.
Kai Greene: The Early Years
Kai Greene was born in Brooklyn, NY on July 12, 1975. When he was 6 years old, the state of New York took him under its protective care due to a chaotic domestic environment. The succeeding 10 years saw him embroiled in constant transition – bouncing from institutional placement to foster care and back again. During these confusing times, Greene managed to find solace in weight training and art. Eventually, Kai combined his two passions, visual arts and lifting weights and began sculpting his own physique.
His bodybuilding career seemingly started at a tender age of 13. After a rapid growth in size, Kai’s 7th-grade english teacher saw great potential and persuaded him to compete in bodybuilding competitions. Fortunately, it worked. The enthusiasm and desire to contrast his physique against competitors his own age became Greene’s outlet to release all the pressure that had built up throughout his tumultuous past. And the timing couldn’t have been better. At the time, Kai’s attitude and behaviour had fallen far below the expectations of the facility that housed him, and if it had continued, Kai’s life may have ended up being nothing more than another unfortunate “statistic.”
*These measurements may not accurately reflect Greene’s physique.
Settling into a New Life
Greene realised that as long as he was breathing, it would never be too late to change for the better. When he embarked on a bodybuilding career, his confidence began to swell, and he started to believe in himself as a worthy competitor and a valuable person.
His years in middle school were mostly spent on the road, participating in various competitions and shows – in the process, bagging one teen title after another. When Kai “lost” and took home 2nd place for the first time in his bodybuilding career. He went back to the drawing board, trained even harder, and came out on the other side more potent than ever. It was during this period that he found 5th Avenue Gym, a nondescript gym located in a Brooklyn basement. By fate, it would be his new home and the place where he would be further educated and trained for bigger bodybuilding competitions. It was in this gym where Kai met a number of remarkable world-class natural athletes. From these people, he absorbed as much knowledge as he could to help him defeat the monsters that lay in his path as climbed the ranks in the bodybuilding world.
Earning Respect in the Bodybuilding World
By the time Kai was 19, he had won every natural professional title that particular organisation had to offer. As a result, he earned the impressive distinction of World’s Youngest Natural Bodybuilder. With nothing left in the natural world, Kai set his sights on the next arena, the IFBB. But in order to achieve pro status in the IFBB, he had to qualify through IFBB’s amateur affiliate organisation the NPC. His results in the NPC were mixed. After two previous unsuccessful attempts, Kai managed to win the heavyweight division and overall at Team Universe in 1999 and was invited to compete at the World in Slovakia. During this event, he placed 4th among dozens of competitors from all across the globe.
While the 4th place finish was impressive, Kai found it disappointing. As a result, he took a break from active competition to regroup and went back into hard training to develop his physique even more. Initially, he was grimly determined to take his place at the very top. However, his critics said it was impossible, and he unfortunately began to believe them.
So instead of making bodybuilding his top priority, Kai went back to school to develop his artistic talent. Since bodybuilding had always provided him the stability and comfort that sustained him throughout his life, he continued to train – not for competitions, but for his own serenity and peace of mind.
A Return to Active Competition
In 2004, the NPC Team Universe had decided to become a pro-qualifier for the IFBB. Although Kai had decided to stay away from competition, he saw this change as an opportunity to reclaim his title with Team Universe. At the same time, it was also an opportunity to rise towards the top of the IFBB professional rankings, never mind that he had been away from the limelight for 5 years.
As a result, Kai put his focus back into bodybuilding, making up for his lack of conviction with no-nonsense, rigorous training while conditioning himself to peak form for Team Universe. Finally, on the 8th of August 2004, Kai arrived at the Tribeca Performance Arts Center in NYC with only one purpose in mind, to come home with the title. And to no surprise, the judges unanimously awarded him the heavyweight title and overall championship.
Due to a lack of opportunities and a mind riddled in doubt, Kai wasn’t able to train intensely over the 16 weightlifting year tenure to this point. But after breaking into the professional ranks of the IFBB, his mindset was set in stone. He wanted to become Mr Olympia.
Present Day Greatness
Today, Kai has reached the pinnacle of his career, a luminous career that he never thought he would ever enjoy. To the public, he is hailed as one of the most inspirational athletes of his generation with many younger aspiring bodybuilders finding his revolutionary approach to training easy and effective.
Although Kai has managed to achieve incredible feats in the Mr Olympia by placing 2nd in 2012 to 2014 and 3rd and 7th the years before that respectively, Kai L. Greene’s story is not yet complete. His ultimate goal is to be crowned Mr Olympia. But with his formidable rival, Phil Heath, standing in his way and many more hungry competitors chasing his tail, this last hurdle will be the toughest one yet.
Unfortunately, in a turn of events in 2015, Kai Greene was unable to compete in the 2015 Olympia due to an undisclosed reason. Though speculation has it, the issue stemmed from a conflict of interest between his sponsor and the federation. In the end, it was just another hurdle Kai has to overcome. Winning the Olympia is a tough task, but regardless of whether Kai wins the title or not. He will always be remembered as a humble inspiration for those who aspire to greatness, though the odds be always against them.
“If a man doesn’t have a dream, then he has nothing to work for. Nothing to get up in the morning. No reason, no purpose to be.” – Kai Greene
“If you don’t have a dream, then you have nothing to work for, nothing to get up in the morning for, no reason.. and no purpose to be. But friends we do have a dream and dreams to come true not because we keep believing, but we keep working hard.” – Kai Greene
“The mind is everything. If you don’t believe you can do something then you can’t. If you believe that your upbringing was substandard and therefore you have to walk around as a refugee from that crisis situation for the rest of your life, forever bearing the burden of that experience then that will be YOUR life.” – Kai Greene
“Bodybuilding is an art, your body is the canvas, weights are your brush and nutrition is your paint. We all have the ability to turn a self-portrait into a masterpiece.” – Kai Greene
“Nothing comes easy, but as long as you’re breathing, you’re always one breath away from making your dreams a reality. Make every breath count.” – Kai Greene
“The person with the biggest dreams is more powerful than the person with the answers.” – Kai Greene
“They can crack jokes. They can sit back and analyse and criticize and make all the fun they want. But I’m living my life, I’m doing it. What are you doing?” – Kai Greene
“Champions are an example of what happens when you decide to leave the plane of average thinking, where you dare to dream and you dare to go after that dream, and you make these thoughts and ideas become more than something than just a dream. They actually become a vision.” – Kai Greene
“If I have to die tonight, if this weight is going to kill me tonight. So be it! I am dying where I wanna be.” – Kai Greene
“Your dreams are always going to be the most important to you than they will be to anyone else. So keep dreaming, keep believing, keep pressing forward. So all those warriors out there – be encouraged.” – Kai Greene
“I never gave up, even when people told me I’d never make it. Never underestimate the heart of a champion.” – Kai Greene
“The greatest gift you can give someone is the space to be his or herself, without the threat of you leaving.” – Kai Greene
“It’s like you have to save your own life, nobody is going to be your saviour for you. So we have to do what we have to do, no matter what it is.” – Kai Greene
“If you don’t believe you can do something then you can’t.” – Kai Greene
“Get out, realize your dream, and go for it.” – Kai Greene
- 1994 NGA American Nationals – Overall 1st
- 1996 WNBF Pro Natural Worlds – 1st
- 1997 NPC Blue Thunder – 1st and Overall
- 1997 NPC New York Amateur Grand Prix, Heavyweight – 1st and overall
- 1997 NPC Team Universe Championships. Heavyweight – 2nd
- 1998 NPC Team Universe Championships, Heavyweight – 3rd
- 1999 NPC Team Universe Championships, Heavyweight – 1st and overall
- 1999 World Amateur Championships – 6th
- 2004 NPC Team Universe Championships, Heavyweight – 1st and Overall (Pro Card)
- 2005 IFBB New York Pro – 14th (First pro show)
- 2006 IFBB Colorado Pro Championships – 14th
- 2006 IFBB Iron Man Pro – No placement
- 2006 IFBB New York Pro Championships – No placement
- 2006 IFBB Shawn Ray Colorado Pro/AM Classic – 14th
- 2007 IFBB New York Pro – 6th
- 2007 IFBB Keystone Pro Classic – 3rd
- 2007 Shawn Ray Colardo Pro/Am Classic – 1st
- 2008 Arnold Classic – 3rd
- 2008 New York Pro – 1st
- 2009 Australian Pro Grand Priix – 1st
- 2009 Arnold Classic – 1st
- 2009 Mr Olympia – 4th
- 2010 Arnold Classic – 1st
- 2010 Australian Pro Grand Prix – 1st
- 2010 Mr Olympia – 7th
- 2011 New York Pro – 1st
- 2011 Mr Olympia – 3rd
- 2011 Sheru Classic – 3rd
- 2012 Mr Olympia – 2nd
- 2012 Sheru Classic – 2nd
- 2013 Mr Olympia – 2nd
- 2013 Arnold Classic Europe – 2nd
- 2013 EVL’s Prague Pro – 1st
- 2014 Mr Olympia – 2nd
*This list may not reflect all bodybuilding shows Greene has participated in.