COLUMBUS, Ohio—How quickly they forget. In its write-up of Iris Kyle's dominating victory at the Ms. International on March 5, the Web site of another physique publication described it as 'her first major championship.' Guess that Ms. Olympia heavyweight win in 2001 doesn't count for much when compared with standing center stage at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium with Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger and your hands full of Ms. I bling. In truth, Kyle's recent contest history has seen her ultracomplete package of muscle, shape and conditioning weather a string of second-place finishes: second to Vickie Gates at the Ms. I in '01, second to Yaxeni Oriquen at the Ms. I and Show of Strength in '02, second to Lenda Murray at the past two Olympias. You have to think that Iris geared up for her trip to Columbus in 2004 with one thing on her mind: Not this time.
Dayana Cadeau was also looking for redemption'or at least some first-place money. Winner of the lightweight class at the '01 version of this show, Cadeau followed that up with a couple of couldn't-find-her-peak performances, including a fifth-place-landing in the heavyweights at the '02 Olympia. Fourth at this contest last year, she came back to end the season a worthy runner-up to the incomparable Juliette Bergmann'not too shabby'and a favorite once again at the season opener.
Both ladies got what they wanted, and promoters Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer got a slam-bang bodybuilding battle, featuring as shapely and muscular a pair of female physique champs as ever posed down. At the prejudging, which was held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, five lightweights and eight heavyweights hit the expo stage flexing. As the scores reflect, the choices were pretty clear-cut. Most of the athletes were in spectacular shape, and those who weren't, didn't get a break from the panel. Here's a rundown of the bodies beautiful: Lightweight. Favorite or not, Cadeau had her work cut out for her. Last year's winner, Cathy Lefrancois-Priest, had taken herself out of the equation by switching to figure, but Dayana would still have to beat Denise Masino, who was coming off her best year ever as a pro, and a short-but-solid lineup that also included Fannie Barrios, Angela Debatin and Sophie Duquette.
Cadeau brought home the bacon by bringing it all down, presenting a 123-pound version of her 5'5' body that was leaner, harder and more honed than ever before. That brought down her waist and legs and did wonders for her taper, not to mention leaving nothing to doubt about the anatomy of her gluteus maximus. She was an easy pick for first, winning all four rounds with a not-quite-perfect final score. Did she sacrifice a little too much mass'in the thighs, say?'for all that leanness and dryness? Not for the class lineup, but that might become an important question later. Leaner and harder was the name of the game in this competition, and Duquette had those qualities in spades. The '99 overall Canadian National champ showed tremendous potential at this show in 2002, despite an eighth-place finish. A lot of muscle, good shapes and an inventive routine'if she could only bring her taper in, folks thought, Sophie's 5'3' physique could be a contender. She could, and it was. This time Duquette had the body and the routine. Taking advantage of a new rule that allows pro bodybuilders to use props in their posing routines, she pumped up her biceps'and the audience'with a special version of 'All That Jazz' from Chicago. Her runner-up finish made it two for two for the French Canadian contingent. (Note to Jim Lorimer and the Gov: Now that the Arnold Classic has evolved to the point of rewarding the Best Presentation in men's bodybuilding, not to be confused with the posing round, how about a few drachmas for the best woman's presentation'and maybe a peso or two for fitness?)
Speaking of great sets of glutes, Masino was hard but not leaner, and her 5'2' bundle of muscle and curves lacked the etched definition and best-ever V-taper she displayed last year at this show. With plenty of muscle all over, particularly all over her back, she looked good but not good enough to finish higher than third. Interestingly, size vs. midsection flow is an issue for all three of these athletes. The accompanying photos tell the story of who did best on that one.
Fannie Barrios was also playing it leaner this time around, and she brought her balanced, symmetrical 5' 1 3/4' physique to the stage in excellent condition. She was softer than usual'or so it appeared at first glance'and in fact she tied with Masino for third in the symmetry round. As Fannie flexed her way through the compulsory poses, though, honed became the operable word, at least for most bodyparts. The fact that the Venezuelan pumper had to settle for fourth in this lineup is a tribute to the level of competition.
Ditto for Angela Debatin, who came to Columbus with her well-proportioned 5'3' package in very good but not her best-ever condition to finish fifth.
Heavyweight. Speaking of contenders who missed their peaks, this battle came down to Kyle's 5'6' body in top form vs. an off performance by Oriquen. Iris is a bodybuilder's bodybuilder. She's got the big three'muscle, symmetry and proportion'in abundance on a physique reminiscent of Flex Wheeler's, but with calves, and she was definitely on here. Her delts were big and round, her lats were wide, her waist was tiny, her abs were popping'and that was just her upper body. Iris may never beat Lenda Murray at the Olympia, but plenty of pure-bodybuilding fans will say she should have. In this contest she earned a perfect score. End of story: Yaxeni didn't have a chance.
The defending and two-time overall champ weighed in at 174, and it was too much of a good thing. Missing the conditioning that made her 5'8' mound of majestic muscle unassailable at the International for the past two years, the Yaxinator had to settle for the runner-up check.
Betty Pariso, who was second to Oriquen in '03, strutted one of her best-ever contest conditions in front of the panel. Lean and hard'there's that phrase again'she was perhaps a little dryer than last year and at the very least duplicated the physique she displayed at that event. With Kyle in the mix, however, she was pushed down to third. With both Kyle and Oriquen already qualified for the Ms. O thanks to their scores in '03, she picked up an invite anyway.
The delight of the show was the performance of brand-new pro Annie Rivieccio, the 41-year-old not-such-an-overnight sensation who won the '03 NPC Nationals after a 15-year career in the amateurs. When Rivieccio finally got it down last November, she got it down for good, and she dialed in her 163 package of thick, shapely muscle just right to get the panel's attention for a fourth-place in-the-money finish in her pro debut.
Third in the heavyweights last year, former lightweight winner Brenda Raganot stuck with that impulse and dropped to fifth. A good 10 pounds heavier than her 135-and-under days, Raganot still has one of the most pleasing'and feminine'bodies in the business. A little sharper and she'd have pushed for a higher placing here.
Speaking of symmetry, Canadian sensation Christine Roth had put on several pounds since officials were so moved by her runner-up performance at the '03 Canadian Nationals that they awarded her a pro card. She did herself proud at her pro debut, finishing sixth. Roth's achievement was particularly impressive considering who she beat.
As mentioned above, nobody who was not in shape got a break at this little showdown. Case in point: Betty Viana, who was way off the fast-track-for-success form that earned her a pro win a year for the past three years. Smaller, lighter and a ghost of her former definition, she finished at the bottom of the lineup in a tie for seventh. Bonnie Priest, who knocked 'em dead at the NPC USA last summer, shared that dubious honor with Viana. Priest, who was in fine condition in her pro debut, now has a good idea of where she needs to tweak things to make it on the next level. It's not the last we've heard from either of them.
Overall. As fabulous as the newly slimmed Cadeau looked in the lightweight lineup, she just couldn't cut it standing next to Iris. Bigger, fuller, more complete, killer Kyle brought home the aforementioned bling, including $7,000 of the $50,000 total purse for the class win, $10,000 for winning the overall, a huge, shiny crystal Ms. International trophy and a $20,000 'T3' watch. IM
'04 IFBB Ms. International
Overall: Iris Kyle
1) Diana Cadeau*
2) Sophie Duquette*
3) Denise Masino
4) Fannie Barrios
5) Angela Debatin
1) Iris Kyle*
2) Yaxeni Oriquen*
3) Betty Pariso*
4) Annie Rivieccio
5) Brenda Raganot
6) Christine Roth
7) Betty Viana (tie)
7) Bonny Priest
*Qualifies for the Ms. Olympia.