COLUMBUS, Ohio'It's too bad we couldn't buy stock in Jenny Worth last summer, 'cause we'd be cashing in big about now. Even as the Dow Jones Industrials and NASDAQ were tumbling faster than the speed of DSL, Worth's performance at the Fitness International on March 2 would have sent her share price shooting upward. The 5'1 1/2' fearless flyer from Jupiter, Florida, sailed past defending champ Kelly Ryan at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium to score a classic upset victory, ensuring herself blue-chip status as the journey to the '01 Fitness Olympia gets under way. That left Ryan, second at the '00 Olympia, to face another disappointing bridesmaid finish, with Adela Friedmansky riding her own rapidly rising stock into third and Kim Chizevsky refusing to be undervalued by commandeering sixth in her much anticipated fitness debut.
With 22 of the fitness world's top groovers and shakers in the lineup, promoters Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer gave the sold-out crowd the biggest International ever. The downside to that milestone is that a lot of worthy talent, especially in the rookie ranks, was bound to get lost in the front splits and big-time crossovers into fitness.
Top five. Ever since she got the physique thing down last year, there's been no stopping Jenny Worth's rise in the rankings. She was first at the Jan Tana, third in Pittsburgh'and at the Olympia'and now queen of Columbus, where the judges loved her tight and smoothly proportioned physique enough to slot her first in both the two-piece and one-piece comparisons. Jenny's American Indian'themed fitness routine was stylish and fun as she tumbled back and forth across the stage and danced on her hands to Queen's 'We Will Rock You.' It just didn't have the energy'or the strength holds'that infuse Ryan's and Jenny Hendershott's exhibitions, and she finished third in both performance rounds.
Not surprisingly, the competition came down to Worth's physique vs. Ryan's superior fitness routines. Kelly was fabulous as usual in her long program, seemingly changing directions midair as a funky Charlie's Angel. The big surprise'other than the message revealed when she was upside down and backward'was her physique: She'd added seven pounds of fullness since last year's Olympia, which convinced the panel that hers was the third-best combination of curves and tone on the stage. That matched Worth's thirds in the routines to give them two rounds and two third-place finishes apiece, but it was hardly a draw. The score sheet said, She who has the best bod wins. Thanks to a solid 12-point lead, Worth got the title, the $20,000 first-place check, the roses and the traditional flustered moment at the microphone with Arnold. Ryan got $12,000 along with the runner-up trophy.
The second-best physique belonged to Adela Friedmansky, whose 5' 1/4' of finely proportioned curves have also become a blue-chip commodity in the past year. Adela moves well'preferably to a Latin beat'and wisely plays to her strengths in her routines. Her hard work, particularly on strength moves, is paying off, and the panel had her fourth in both fitness rounds. Some might argue that the judges were overly influenced by their fondness for her physique in those decisions. Friedmansky, who placed third overall and picked up $8,000, probably figures the slow-and-steady approach is winning the race.
Another interesting development is that the folks in the IFBB blazers are getting hip to the Hendershott factor, placing the other Jenny within a point of Ryan in the 45-second mandatory routines and within two points in the floor exercises. Hendershott's high-voltage combination of skills, polish and imagination is the first real challenge Ryan has had for a while. A couple of sixth places in the physique rounds averaged out to fourth overall and a $5,000 prize for the hometown Columbus favorite. If they start noticing Jenny's physique, there's no telling how far the 5'3' choreographer and cheerleading coach can go.
Fifth-placed Timea Majorova was not having a good day. She was much too lean, gaunt almost, and her execution of the mandatory movements lacked the crispness and confidence she displayed last year. As a result, she had to settle for for fifth ($3,000). It's too bad because a top-of-the-line Timea could have made a big difference in all of the above.
Notworthy debut. A lot of the preshow publicity went to four-time Ms. Olympia Kim Chizevsky'as in the top woman bodybuilder in the world'who went on a reincarnation diet and came back as a fitness competitor. Could she shed enough of her infamous mass to be a credible player in the fitness arena? Would she have a decent routine? The answer to the first question is yes. Kim still had more than enough muscle for fitness, but her condition was not at all extreme'a key indication that the formerly uberripped Ms. O had changed her ways'and her 5'8' physique was still very well put together. Based on the callouts, the judges had a tough time deciding what to do, finally placing her fourth and fifth in the two-piece and one-piece comparisons, respectively.
As for her fitness skills, no one expected a Kelly Ryan performance, but how far up or down the food chain would she be? Chizevsky took the tumbling slow, but she turned in some credible strength moves, including four feet-over-shoulders pushups. That said, it may be that the judges were so fascinated with Kim's transformation, they failed to notice some of the performers they ranked below her 14th-place finish in the long routines (Lisa Lowe in particular comes to mind). Chizevsky was sixth overall, earning $2,000, the last of the money placings.
Best of the rest. Tying for seventh place, Amanda Blank, 11th at the Fitness International in 2000, and Shena Forkner, 11th at the Olympia, gave notice that they plan on being contenders for a while. Ditto for Melissa Frabbiele, who brought a lot of energy to the stage to earn ninth-place honors. Nicole Hobbs nailed the best placing of the half dozen rookies making their pro debuts by coming in 10th, while Elizabeth Streeter got some attention in the physique rounds to take 11th. Laura Mak tied for fourth in the fitness routines to earn 12th-place honors, while Cynthia Bridges and Stacy Simons got enough enthusiasm for their performances to round out the top 15.
The rest of the lineup was ranked as follows: April Carpenter, 16th; Lisa Lowe, 17th; Carla Sanchez, 18th; Christine Bergeron, 19th; Christina Kelstrup and Julie Palmer, 20th (tie); and Beth Horn, 22nd. In addition to Lowe, the overlooked contingent included Carpenter (a fresh face), Sanchez (a welcome return) and Bergeron (one for the photographers).
With Hendershott breathing down Ryan's neck, figuratively, in the fitness routines, and at least a handful of people who can give Worth serious competition in that area, I can't wait to see what the women will do to outdo themselves at the Olympia. Add reigning Fitness O champ Susie Curry and, possibly, '99 winner Mary Yockey to the mix, and it boggles the mind. One easy prediction: She who has the best bod will win. IM