In women’s bodybuilding the line between winner and too much muscle is a lot like art: You know it when you see it, and everybody sees it a little differently. That goes double when you’re talking about the fans’ vs. the judges’ opinions, and never was it more accurate than at the ’07 NPC Women’s Nationals, which took place in Dallas on November 17.
Rumors were running rampant before the show—at least as rampant as they can be among carb-depleted humans—that soft and “feminine” would rule the roost at the 25th-anniversary edition of the NPC National Bodybuilding Championships. Fueled in part by the results of the USA 3 1/3 months earlier, when symmetrical-but-not-superstriated middleweight Jennifer Sedia took the overall, they proved to be partly true. Two of the four classes went the softer-but-more-aesthetic route, specifically the choices of Beni Lopez in the lightweights and Tina Chandler in the middles. For the heavier-weight classes, however, the winning combination was condition, condition, condition—plus a serious side of muscle—as exemplified by the physiques of light-heavyweight winner Kristy Hawkins and heavyweight champ Bev DiRenzo.
For the overall the judges picked the wickedly lean Hawkins, a 26-year-old doctoral candidate from Pasadena, California, whose notable bodyparts included some very sick quadriceps. Were they being “inconsistent,” as some folks were complaining, or just taking every lineup on its own merits? My vote goes for the latter. Besides, pro cards went to all class winners, so you might say the NPC is sending a potpourri of bodies to do battle with Iris Kyle, Dayana Cadeau et al. on the next level.
To break down the classes:
Lightweight winner Lopez is a recent crossover from figure, so recent, in fact, that her previous competition was the North American Figure Championships in September. Winner of the figure overall at the Lone Star Classic last June, the 40-year-old mother of three from San Antonio, Texas, was languishing in last place before switching tracks. She earned a perfect score (after highs and lows were tossed out) to beat a ripped Galina Serdtsev, the ’07 USA class winner, by a seven-point margin. Evidence of a trend: Maybe, but Serdtsev arguably looked better at the previous show, when she was not quite as lean.
The middleweights were mostly about shape. Chandler moved up from sixth last year (and first at the ’06 USA) with a solid package to cap a four-year climb to the pros. Second went to dynamic Dallas newcomer Yasha, another former figure competitor, who shook the house with a dramatic, uplifting posing routine and some promising muscle.
The light heavies had the closest battle. Hawkins knows that serious conditioning suits her lean, athletic physique, as evidenced here, but she had all she could handle in North Carolina’s Britt Ashley Miller, who moved up from middleweight. Miller has the shape and taper to do go all the way in this division, and with a little more separation she might have made it. As it was, she came within a single point.
Perennial top placer Elena Seiple, second last year (Hawkins was third), also has the goods to win, but on this occasion she simply mistimed her peak. That left a hole for still another Texan, Karen Choat, with her always-classy presentation, to move up to third.
In the heavyweights, too, it was shape vs. in shape, with in shape getting the nod once again in the form of Florida’s DiRenzo, who nailed her conditioning to move up from second last year and make up for her double-drop to fourth light heavy at the USA. Another Floridian, the symmetrical Nekole Hamrick, did not “nail her conditioning” but does represent a more feminine approach to sculpting a physique. Not everyone on hand understood the perfect runner-up score she received. I can’t help thinking that the panel members would have liked to have chosen Nekole to take the class (before the finals I heard from a usually reliable source that she’d won), but she needed to be trimmer than the 161 pounds she carried for them to do it. They liked her total package enough to place her ahead of the uberhard Michelle Neil, who won at the USA, however, which reinforces the point.
Which is what, that every body is different? That the total-package look includes looks? That the best amateur bodybuilders in the land come from the Lone Star State (Hawkins is a transplanted Texan)? Some clues may be found in an interview I did with NPC and IFBB women’s rep Sandy Williamson (posted below). A perusal of our contest galleries will help you make up your own damn mind on the subject, as they say in Texas.
Photos (from top): Kristy Hawkins, Beni Lopez, Tina Chandler, Britt Ashley Miller, Bev DiRenzo, Nekole Hamrick and Michelle Neil.
To see all the contest galleries from the ’07 NPC National Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships, click here: