Pittsburgh flexer Amber DeFrancesco sailed into the pros after overwhelming the heavyweight class and ascending to the overall Women’s title at the NPC National Bodybuilding, Figure and Bikini Championships, which was held in Atlanta on Saturday, October 16. The 5’6″ former figure competitor, who caught this reporter’s attention after her stunning victory at the ’08 Junior Nationals, possesses the elusive total package that physique athletes the world over strive for: shapely bodyparts, plenty of muscle plus symmetry and proportion. It doesn’t hurt either that, as IRON MAN photog Roland Balik observed after the judging, “She’s pretty.” Weighing in at 148, three pounds more than than she carried for her runner-up finish at this show last year, Amber was the obvious class winner the moment she stepped onstage.
The battle for the overall may have been a little tougher, however. Lightweight champ Marina Lopez of Colorado also brought a perfect package to Atlanta. After finishing second to Claire O’Connell at the USA in July, Marina was ready for the next step; Coming in just a little tighter did the trick. She made short work of another noted contender, ’09 USA winner Margaret Negrete, but in the end she couldn’t stop Amber’s assault on the overall trophy.
Julia Korfhage slipped passed veteran flexer Janet Kaufman to take the middleweights by a couple of points. Janet, who’s becoming a perennial bridesmaid at these events, looked to have brought her best, most complete physique ever and had a lot of fans in the peanut gallery where I was lurking. Julia’s attractive physique and improved presentation did not go unnoticed, however—although I have to admit I was surprised when the results were announced.
The light-heavyweight class brought another interesting call, with Georgia’s Monique Hayes displaying sufficient size and shape to fight off a serious challenge from a more conditioned Joella Bernard. Monique last competed in this contest in 2008, when she finished fourth. All four class winners are heading to the pros.
Much as been made (certainly by me) of the NPC’s current trend toward moving smaller, more symmetrical types of female flexers into the professional ranks. Making change at the judges table, I call it. It’s worth noting that Lopez and Korfhage are, like DeFrancesco, former figure competitors, a trend that’s also been made much of. I have to wonder if that affected the decision in the middleweights (Kaufman is no shredded mass machine, but she’s been at it for a couple of decades).
Competitor numbers were down in women’s bodybuilding at the Nationals (42 vs. the 72 who came to flex last year), but there were a lot of new faces. I have to agree with Steve Wennerstrom, who pointed out that only two of the ladies in this lineup had also done the USA in July and suggested that the numbers may be directly related to the economy: The bodybuilders, who tend not to compete at every show, are keeping their travel budgets tight. That said, the numbers in figure were about the same as in 2009, 184, and bikini, which was a brand new sport last year, was up by 53 contestants.
The figure and bikini competitions each graduated six class winners into the pros. In figure, Arkansas’ Monica Specking topped the largest class in any of the women’s divisions, the 40-gal-strong C-class, before earning overall honors in that sport. Monica has been riding an upward trajectory since getting into figure a couple of years ago, finishing fourth at the ’09 Junior Nationals and seventh at the ’10 USA, and her win here seems like a natural progression. Also taking their classes and moving on to the pros were Sarah Dominguez, Danielle Reutter, Heather Dees, Amy Vetter and Michelle Bates.
Speaking of upward trajectories, Kentucky’s Jennifer Andrews‘ experiences as a cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals prepared her for a rapid rise in bikini, and she ran with it. Winning her class at the ’10 NPC Coastal USA earlier in the year and at the IFBB North American Championships in early September, she was poised for an entry into the pro ranks sooner rather than later, and she didn’t disappoint, topping the D-class and the entire lineup of 126 to take the overall. Also getting their cards were class winners Veronica Byrd, Jennifer Pemental, Barbara Bolotte, Laura Caulderon and Abigail Burrows.
Find complete results and photos from the ’10 NPC Nationals here.