LAS VEGAS—Great timing, dude. On the same weekend that 'Planet of the Apes' crushed the competition at the box office, homeboy Quincy Taylor routed the field at the NPC USA Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships. Taylor, who has a small role in the film, graduated from Rancho High in Las Vegas in 1987. The USA, held once again at the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, produced the largest number of competitors in the contest's history'144 men, 109 women'and the largest man ever to win a national-level crown.
Taylor, who plays a soldier ape in the flick, played the Man From Mars at the USA, bringing to the stage an oh-my-gosh combination of size, shape and conditioning on his 6'3', 270-pound frame. Taylor will be joined in the pro ranks by veteran Fred Bigot, who moved up from the Light Heavyweight to the Heavyweight division and bested precontest favorite Troy Alves in the process. Bigot then placed behind Taylor in the Overall battle and picked up an IFBB card as well.
After two unimpressive eighth-place showings at the 1999 and 2000 USAs, Taylor, who had celebrated his 32nd birthday two weeks earlier, finally dialed it in. Working with new trainer Hany Nicholls Rambod (see News & Views), Taylor was chiseled when he hit the posing dais, showing off an extraordinarily small waist'sans the distended belly so prevalent on today's stages'a vastly improved back, granitelike abs, huge, separated thighs, gnarly hamstrings and shredded glutes to make sure this contest was no contest by the time the judges tallied their scores.
Fourth at last season's Nationals in the Superheavyweight class, Taylor easily won the Overall crown, topping Bigot, Light Heavyweight winner Johnnie O. Jackson, Middleweight titlist Patrick Matsuda, Lightweight champion Johnny Traynor and the Bantamweights' best, Robert Lutfy, in the process. Here's a closer look at the individual classes:
Bantamweight. Chandler, Arizona's Lutfy came in ripped and ready and scored a solid victory. He weighed 138 pounds, and his extremely detailed physique allowed him to finish ahead of longtime Honolulu, Hawaii, standout Clifton Torres, a guy who always looks splendid. Clifton was the unanimous pick for second place. Speaking of veterans, George Gibson of Atlanta, Georgia, was in great condition, with 140 pounds of etched muscle on his 5'3' frame, and was the judges' pick for third. Lazarus Angulo, a 132-pounder from Miami, Florida, placed fourth, with Portland, Oregon's Thomas Armstrong rounding out the top five.
Lightweight. Johnny Traynor became the first athlete to benefit from an NPC rule instituted this season that changed the judging format in pro-qualifying competitions'and Rey Ronquilio became the first male bodybuilder to suffer from it. In the past the contest was decided at the Friday night judging; Saturday's finals were for the fans.
Starting this season, however, 50 percent of the contest is scored at the judging and 50 percent at the finals. Ronquilio, another Honolulu physique star, was sharp as a tack with 151 quality pounds of muscle. San Diego, California's Traynor also looked superb, and the class left the stage on Friday with Ronquilio holding a one-point edge over the 153-pound Traynor. At the Saturday finals, though, the judges felt Traynor had sharpened up and that Ronquilio had regressed a bit. Traynor got straight ones to emerge victorious by a six-point margin. Brett Campanella, out of Buffalo, New York, was in good condition and edged another Hawaiian standout, Mililani's Roland Aki, by two points to nab the third slot. North Carolina's Scott Siegel was the unanimous pick for fifth place.
Middleweight. California made it two class wins in a row when thick Patrick Matsuda muscled his way to a unanimous victory in this division. Matsuda, out of Bakersfield, showed off 176 pounds of superthick beef to merit his victory.
Does Tito Raymond ever show up out of shape? Not in this lifetime. Raymond, third in the class a year ago, was in his best-ever condition, and that enabled the 32-year-old from Los Angeles to move up a notch in 2001. He was right at the limit at 176 1/4 pounds; look for him to move up to the Light Heavyweight class next year.
Ko Chandetka took 176 1/4 pounds of balanced muscle to the stage in Vegas and was rewarded with a solid third-place finish. R. Troy Moore and Mark Morini both looked good and finished in the fourth- and fifth-place slots, respectively.
Light Heavyweight. The largest class in terms of numbers'44'also provided the most excitement. Premeet favorite Robert Lopez, from Wood-Ridge, New Jersey, jumped out of the box with perfect scores at the judging, then, like Ronquilio, narrowly lost the following night. The decision was even closer than the one in the Lightweight battle. After Lopez scored the Friday night knockout, Haltom, Texas, standout Johnnie O. Jackson did likewise at the finals, forcing a tiebreaker, and broke Lopez's heart with a victory. Lopez, a Flex Wheeler lookalike, has a pretty, symmetrical body, but the 193-pound Jackson was thicker, especially in the chest and thigh areas, and came out the victor when the results were read.
Fan favorite 'Sting' Ray Arde, a thick 5'6', 196-pounder from San Jose, California, finished in third place. As with Raymond, Arde's days in his current division are numbered, and a move to the Heavyweight class appears imminent. P.D. Devers has been a finalist many times in national-level contests, and this was no exception. Devers was thick and symmetrical at 198 1/4 pounds but, as in the past, wasn't as tight as he needed to be to score a class victory. P.D. has what it takes to win this one of these days.
New Mexico ace Joe Ntiforo looked very good and was able to land a fifth-place finish.
Heavyweight. The Swami had picked Troy Alves to take this class and the Overall, with Quincy Taylor as the dark horse selection. The Swami was half right. What he didn't see in his crystal ball was the fact that Fred Bigot would not be passing on the USA to concentrate on the Nationals'or that he'd be moving up from Light Heavyweight to Heavyweight. Bigot, a 29-year-old from Derry, New Hampshire, was more detailed than ever and won the showdown with Alves when the two titans turned to the side and to the back. Bigot's etched physique dominated from the rear, and he earned straight ones on both Friday and Saturday nights; his lower back brought a Christmas tree to the 110 degree desert in July.
Phoenix, Arizona's Alves tipped the scales at 213 and once again displayed a beautiful upper torso that had the many pros in the audience clapping. But it was the same story as last year at the Nationals, when he lost the crown to Victor Martinez: His glutes and hamstrings were too smooth. Florida's Marcus Haley was very impressive. His symmetrical 219 pounds gave promise of great things to come. Haley, a former Southern States champion, finished third, ahead of Hawaii's Mike Dragna, another guy with a championship look. Abbas Khatami, who placed fourth in the Heavyweight class in 2000, dropped one notch this year. Like Arde and Raymond, Khatami has an extremely difficult time making weight, and the 5'8', 225-pounder knows he must move up to the Superheavyweight class in 2002.
Superheavyweight. As mentioned above, this was the Quincy Taylor show. But that's not to say others weren't impressive. New Yorker Jeramy Freeman was in his all-time-best shape, and the 6'0', 248-pounder rode his outstanding condition to a solid second behind Taylor. Art Atwood, a 234-pounder from Milwaukee, was able to erase the three-point leads accrued by Erik Fromm and Idrise Ward-El on Friday night to earn third place on Saturday. Fromm, second in this class in '99, was tied with Ward-El, the '01 California champion, for third after the judging, but 24 hours later neither was as tight. They were passed by the improved Atwood. All four gents who placed behind Taylor have to be considered threats at the Nationals in November.
Overall. All the class winners were impressive, but Taylor was just too big and too hard to be challenged. Taylor, who said he weighed 275 by the time he stepped onstage, is one of the most exciting new pros to hit the stage in a long time. With his unusual size and shape, matched by riveting definition, Taylor should do damage in the pro ranks immediately.
Bigot was the right pick for runner-up, and his move to the pros is overdue; many people felt Bigot earned that right a year ago, when he was the Light Heavyweight champ, but Bob Cicherillo and Tevita Aholelei got the nod.
LAS VEGAS'Mah-Ann Mendoza retired for about five minutes after taking fourth at last year's USA and again after her runner-up finish at the NPC Nationals. Fortunately, nobody took her seriously, certainly not the judges, who took one look at her perfectly peaked and valleyed physique at the USA on July 28 and scored her a perfect 10 points. It was ones across the board'not a single second-place vote to be tossed out'for the 41-year-old from Keizer, Oregon, who swept the Middleweight class with a beautiful 132-pound parcel of thick, rounded muscle, small joints and excellent separation. She was smoother than she'd been last year'but not too soft'with a whorled back, split calves and abs and shape, shape, shape. Mendoza was the clear choice for Overall honors as well, handily defeating Lightweight winner Pam Kusar and Heavyweight champ Collette Nelson to earn the one pro card up for grabs at this competition.
A record 57 women bodybuilders took the stage at the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall, and you have to think that the NPC's sticking by its guns regarding the new judging standards for women's bodybuilding had something to do with the response. The word is out: You don't have to be the biggest, hardest, gnarliest muscle babe on the block to take home the trophy. Here's a rundown of where the shots landed in Vegas. Lightweight. Five-time Team Universe Lightweight champ Pam Kusar has been judged third in the world, but the highest she'd ever finished at a pro qualifier was second, at the USA in 1997 and 2000. An improved lower body, with fuller quads, did the trick for the 5'1', 110-pound personal trainer from Akron, Ohio, who was also sporting hard, bulging biceps, jutting triceps and the thickest, most detailed back of the bunch. Although she missed out on a pro card, the '00 Team U champ was scheduled to represent the United States at the World Games in mid-August.
Second place in the Lightweights went to Shannon Rabon, a hot blonde with a terrific form who's bound to start ringing the old familiar this-is-what-women's-bodybuilding-should-be-about bells. She probably got notes from the judges to tighten up her legs and put a little size on her thighs and shoulders.
King Raub, a 118-pounder from Campbell, California, was also sporting a socko shape, and she was in sharper condition than Rabon'with the biggest smile in any class. Choice muscle and fine balance plus suits that set her physique off to a tee made Raub a solid option for second, but the panel saw it decisively the other way. She finished 12 points behind Rabon and 10 points ahead of fourth-placer Tracy Mason, with the closest competition in the standout class being Mason's battle with fifth-placer Tricia Travis.
Middleweights. The decisions in this class reflected the fashion for pleasing package over extreme muscularity, starting with Mendoza's big win. The placing of Michelle Ivers pretty much said it all: Though she dropped a weight class after a sixth-place Heavyweight finish at last year's Nationals, Ivers was 132 pounds of old-fashioned muscle, hardness, balance and vascularity'and she came in fourth. Even so, the votes for second through fourth were close.
The NPC's new rule for pro-qualifying competition'under which the second physique round is actually judged at the finals'had its effect on this class. The tally after the prejudging saw Dawn Riehl in second, Ivers three points behind in third, and Tonia Williams two points behind that in fourth. After the night show it was a different story, as Williams, who was sixth in the Heavyweights at this show last year, flexed her 131 pounds of still-serious muscularity into second. Detailed back and delt development and thick quads led the list of Williams' enviable bodyparts, but the panel had her 19 points behind Mah-Ann.
Taking third, Dawn Riehl brought her own beautiful bundle of muscles and form to the stage. The lightest lass in the class at 127 pounds, she was just too smooth to match her second-place finishes at the '99 and '00 USAs. That left Ivers in fourth, with Angie Salvagno in fifth.
Heavyweight. Big, bloated bodies may be out, but big, bloated classes are coming back into style, as exemplified by the 27 women who took the stage in the Heavyweight division. The judges quickly whittled them down to 15 and then to five, with New York's Colette Nelson flexing her thick, proportioned physique to a solid win over the shapely and symmetrical Michelle Tuggle. The sixth-place Middleweight at last year's Nationals, Nelson pumped up the volume to the tune of 13 pounds, displaying a dense upper body with outstanding arms and shoulders and nice overall form and demonstrating considerable flexibility by performing full splits.
Nevertheless, none of the decisions was unanimous in this group. Nelson's scores ranged from first to third in both rounds before the highs and lows were tossed out, while Tuggle's ranged from first to fourth and those of third-placer Beth Roberts were all over the top five. Tuggle, who hails from Mililani, Hawaii, was eighth at this contest last year and tied for 16th at the Nationals. With six more pounds on her frame she had the right stuff to challenge for the title, starting with her own brand of dense muscle. Despite her cubed abdominals, thick quadriceps, excellent symmetry and the smoothest-flowing contours of the class, Michelle was just too smooth from behind to prevent Nelson's ultimate seven-point victory.
Roberts was sculpted from top to toe, another solid package with a well-honed midsection. Her condition was significantly harder than Tuggle's, but Tuggle's superior shape kept Roberts five points behind in third. Kelly Felske powered her veteran muscle into fourth place, while Sherry Smith landed in fifth.
Overall. For Mah-Ann Mendoza, who won the Middleweight class at this contest'and, rumor had it, would have taken the Overall'but failed to return to the auditorium on time for the finals, it was a better-late-than-never victory. You looked mah-velous, Mah-Ann. Aren't you glad you didn't really hang 'em up?
LAS VEGAS'When Jon Lindsay holds a fitness pro qualifier, the talent comes from far and wide. At the '01 NPC USA, with six pro cards at stake and the muscle media present en masse, searching for the new season's hot new faces and forms, 52 tapping and twirling tamales lined up at the Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall to give it a whirl. Whew. That's a lotta tamales, a lotta talent. Enough to populate a Vegas-style fitness revue.
I can see it now: Jenny Lynn stars as the Gold Rush gal from Sacramento who strikes a mother lode, a.k.a., takes the Tall class and Overall. Alti Bautista costars as a Jersey jumper who wins the Short class body and soul, and Sharon Christian is the Arkansas traveler who dominates the Medium class.
Here's a synopsis of the three-act spectacular that played out on July 27 and 28.
Act 1: Short class. In two little words, Alti ruled. What a beautiful, tight 5'2' body she displayed. What outstanding strength, balance and flexibility she demonstrated in her routine, and what a smooth presentation. Bautista's condition straddled the fence between lightly etched muscularity and definition, and she did a lot of balancing in her act as well, standing on her hands, shifting her weight from one hand to the other and spinning on them during a straddle hold. After winning both physique rounds and taking second in the routines, she'll be shifting her act to the pro ranks. Also moving up to the dance-for-dollars circuit was Jennifer Cook, a perky blonde from Austin, Texas, who earned unanimous votes for runner-up in the physique rounds to finish 19 points behind Bautista.
This class was particularly strong in the fitness round, with the first- through fourth-placed routines all falling within 11 points of one another. Bebe Giraldo, another smooth mover who brought tremendous energy and skill to an entertaining routine, took third in the round. Like Bautista, she was in super condition, in her case perhaps a little over the fence toward Definitionland. Fifth after round 1, the two-piece physique comparisons, she finished third overall, 15 points behind Cook.
In fourth Stacy Jensen made an impression in the physique comparisons, while Nita Wilson, mother of two, propelled herself into fifth with the number-one routine, easily pulling off the season's hot new trick'pushups done with both feet over the same shoulder'along with some class-A flipping and flopping.
Act 2: Medium class. The opening number of 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' comes to mind here: Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe singing 'We're just two little girls from Little Rock.' In this version, though, it's the brunette bombshell from the Arkansas capital who sweeps the judges off their feet. Sharon Christian had the total fitness package: drop-dead-gorgeous looks, a lean, balanced, just-toned-enough body and a good-enough routine to put her over the top. With decisive firsts in both physique rounds she managed a 15-point win over Lori Kimes, the blonde-bombshell half of the Little Rock duo. Kimes displayed fabulous energy in winning the fitness round, jumping into pushups and pushing her way into the judges' hearts. The next thing you know, she'll be pushing into pro lineups.
The scores for the second- through fifth-placers were very close in this class. Missing out on a trip to the pros by two little points was Bethani Terrell, who pumped up her routine and moved up from fifth at the '00 USA to third, while Kimberly Lyons looked and performed like an angel in taking fourth at her first big NPC competition. Lyons was five points behind Terrell and two in front of Dana Maurer, who parlayed second-place scores in the physique rounds into a top-five overall finish.
Act 3: Tall class. This was the largest class and the closest competition, with a challenger from the East, Delaware college instructor Tracey Greenwood, losing to the California Gold Rush gal in a tiebreaker. Even so, their tied scores were high'51 vs. Bautista's 20 points in the Short class'which indicates that there was a lot going on in the Over-5'4 1/2' group.
As the third- and fourth-placers at last season's Nationals, respectively, Lynn and Greenwood were the obvious favorites going into the show. They both came to Vegas looking full and nicely peaked and got good marks for it. The 5'5' Lynn caught the panel's eye with a well-blended fusion of fitness-style muscle and balance. Carrying a little more size than the others, particularly in the shoulders and quads, she won both physique rounds hands down, and that probably made the difference when the judges went to break the tie. The 5'7' Greenwood was third at the prejudging, then moved up to second in the one-piece-swimsuit comparisons after taking fifth in the extremely competitive fitness round.
Rounding out a good-looking top three, Floridian Nicole Caballer traded off runner-up spots in the physique comparisons with Greenwood, while Amy Haddad also looked good in her swimsuits to finish fourth.
High-flying moms were the order of the day, it seemed, as Montana's Bridget Newell, mother of four, whipped out a blindfold and leapt into a tumbling run with her eyes covered. The panel chose her unanimously for first in the routines, which says something, as the 23-woman Tall class was loaded with sparkling performances. A couple of noteworthy siblings from nearby Henderson, Nevada, Lea and Sara Waide, danced barefoot into the second and third slots, respectively, finishing seventh and eighth overall. Also getting the judges' attention with a high-wired performance was Luciana Bell, who landed in fourth in the round and 10th overall.
Finale. If ever a trio represented the spectrum of fitness-style physiques, this was it. Short-class winner Bautista had a tight physique and etched muscle, Medium-class champ Christian had the looks and body that will grace magazine covers, and Tall Jenny Lynn, no slouch in the attention-from-photographers department herself, had more physique and fewer etches. That's what got the nod, and the only protesters were the fans who couldn't take their eyes off the brunette bombshell from Little Rock. Interestingly enough, before picking up their pro cards in fitness, Christian, Lynn and Kimes entered the NPC's first National Figure Championships, which were held on August 3 and 4. To see how they did, turn to Pump & Circumstance on page 214. For more photos of the USA, visit www.ironmanmagazine.com. IM