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Columbus Combat—Arnold Sports Festival Wrap-Up

A few postmortems on the Arnold Sports Festival pro-physique competitions, which took place on March 5 and 6, in Columbus, Ohio, are in order. That includes some thoughts on the men’s show, which really took me by surprise. Manning my post here at the IM Hollywood office, the big computer set to the Webcast—or, in the case of the women’s judging, Dave Palumbo’s forum—and the laptop set to my new Twitter page, I couldn’t help feeling that it was just like being there. Except, of course, when the Webcast stalled at every critical moment. (When it was on it, was great; these things happen.) Except, of course, that if I hadn’t attended the event for so many years, I would not have been able to imagine being there so completely. Except, of course, that I got to organize my shopping list for my annual Oscar party during the women’s routines on Friday night, which was not a bad thing.

Also helping was the fact that the familiar winners did indeed win again. I mentioned above being surprised by the results of the actual Arnold Classic. Listening to Dan Solomon and Bob Cicherillo’s excellent commentary on the Webcast may have had something to do with that, and I wondered if they, too, were surprised. If they were, they never showed it. Going in to the night show, based on their commentary and interpretation of the callouts—undoubtedly colored by my own preference for Dexter Jackson’s physique in general—I was sure that:

1) Kai Green, the eventual winner, wasn’t 100 percent.

2) Dexter was likely ahead after the judging, but an upset by the phenomenally improved Phil Heath was not out of the question.

3) Branch Warren looked good, but he faded as the day wore on.

So, basically, I was kind of expecting Dexter to win and Kai to come in fourth (with Heath second and Branch third) instead of the other way around. (Insert smiley here.)

Oh, well. Guess I should have called L.T. and Dave Liberman, who did a bang-up wrap-up video. You can catch  “The Experts” expert opinions here.

No disrespect to Kai, who is a tremendous bodybuilder. I’ve covered a number of his wins, including last year’s Arnold Classic victory. I just didn’t think he was as good as he was at that show.

Re Dexter, whose only sin appears to be that he’s pretty much achieved his ideal physique and can no longer surprise the judges by getting better: It seems there’s nothing crueler than the collective IFBB panel when it decides someone has reached that point.

Which brings me to the women’s shows and my favorite lost cause—Mo Brant’s physique.

Now, the overall Figure International results were not too surprising. My prejudging comments proved a lot better than my notes on the men’s show. As I was watching the photos pop up astonishingly quickly in the forum and “analyzing” the callouts, I knew that although Mo could easily finish as high as fourth in that lineup, she’d be placed no higher than seventh, just out of Olympia-qualifying territory. That’s exactly where she finished.

The thing about a competitor who has been around a long time is that there is a lot of history (and a lot of water under the bridge). So it seemed ironic to me that one of the gals who beat Monica last Friday night—someone who was notably not in the wonderful condition she had displayed last fall, when she did very well—was wearing a one-piece suit that did not particularly flatter her. Ironic because I can remember one Arnold Classic weekend years ago when Mo lost the show by just a point or two and it was because, as one highly placed official told me, “I didn’t like her one-piece suit.”

Granted, that was not a direct quote. (He or she went into detail about what was wrong with the suit.) And I wouldn’t mention it at all except I was three glasses of zinfandel in by the time the figure results were announced, and I couldn’t help thinking about how unevenly the suit standard is applied in figure. Also that there’s always an out: After all, one person’s, “She was a hot mess in that suit,” is another’s “She looked amazing.…"

With the Fitness International I admit I was surprised that Julie Palmer beat Tanji Johnson out for second. Turns out it was by a single point. The judges didn’t place Tanji's improved body as high in the physique round as I thought they would.

Adela Garcia was an easy winner, first in the physiques and second in the routines—a point behind routine-round winner Tanji. Fan favorite Oksana Grishina got some respect in the routines, taking third there and fifth overall, her best landing ever at an A-list event.

Trish Warren’s strong showing in the comparisons with a very different and attractive new look moved her all the way up to fourth overall.  Rookie Camala Rodriguez, who finished third in her pro debut at the Phoenix Pro a couple of weeks ago, rounded out the top six. Of that group, all were already qualified for the ’10 Fitness Olympia except Trish and Oksana.

As for Iris Kyle’s record-breaking fifth Ms. International win, you’ll find no arguments here—or with most of the placings. I wish Dayana Cadeau, who took sixth, had been a bit sharper. I love her smaller look. In general, the results of this show explain why the smaller, more symmetrical female flexers in the pro ranks sometimes get very discouraged. The top five here—Iris, Yaxieni Oriquen-Garcia, Debi Laszewski, Lisa Aukland and Betty Pariso—are all very big women.

A standout among the “smaller” newcomers was Russian Elena Shportun-Willemer, who finished ninth. I also thought Tonie Thompson, 11th, looked pretty darned good.

Next up for the women bodubuilders is the New York Pro on May 8. It’ll be interesting to see who besides defending champ Cathy LeFrancois shows up.

Find my Arnold Classic and Ms., Fitness and Figure International tweets here. Some day I will figure out how to link it in the blog.

Find the complete results and photo gallery, including the Arnold Classic photos, here.

Photos by Roland Balik (from top):

Adela Garcia.

Figure top six (from left): Larissa Reis, Mindi Smith, Erin Stern, Nicole Wilkins-Lee, Heather Mae French and Felicia Romero.

Monica Brant.

Tanji Johnson.

Oksana Grishina.

Iris Kyle.

Elena Shportun-Willemer.


  1. Andre Matheny Sr.

    March 16, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Don’t mess with the lady’s guys! These women’s know how to entertain and is known as the best of the best, when it comes to the Iron man magazine!

  2. Stacey

    March 17, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Okay, we all get it. In Figure, chicks with muscles are GROSS now…. Ew.

    I can’t wait until Bikini is included on the same night, in the same show, on the same stage with Women’s Body Building, Fitness, and Figure. Seriously, if Figure is now going to be nothing more than a parade of skinny chicks in swimsuits, who barely look like they train, what differentiates them from Bikini? What a mess.

    And yes, Monica was the only thing about Figure worth seeing.

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