LAS VEGAS—They said it wouldn't be done'that the IFBB pro judging panel would never pick Iris Kyle over defending and eight-time champ Lenda Murray in the heavyweight class at the Ms. Olympia competition. That Murray's superior intangibles'lines, looks and the ability to exude charisma while just standing in the lineup'would carry the day even though Kyle, arguably, had the more complete body. They obviously forgot that the adage about Olympia champs having to be knocked out cold to lose the title doesn't apply to the women. Or maybe you-know-what has finally frozen over. Kyle scored a solid class victory over Murray at the '04 IFBB Ms. O competition, which was held on October 29 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, then easily beat lightweight champ Dayana Cadeau for the overall to become the new queen of women's bodybuilding.
Nine lightweights and seven heavies hit the stage flexing at the judging, and there wasn't a seriously mistimed peak in the bunch. As with the Mr. O proceedings, a new format had the women posing individually at the judging before they lined up for the panel. Unlike the format at the men's show, there was no challenge round to spice things up for the fans. Even without it the ladies were bad'and bursting with protein-powder-powered muscle.
Heavyweight. I confess I was blown away when Iris won. To these eyes the two women's physiques looked closer than they'd been last year. Murray was a little better, I thought; Iris was sporting the same excellent package. So if Lenda didn't lose her title last time, when, arguably, Kyle also had the more complete physique, why would she lose this time?
Did the panel members think that the 5'5' Murray was not as good as last year? That the taller-by-two-inches Kyle was a little better? That Murray had 'won enough times,' as she quoted one judge in an interview with Lonnie Teper at IRON MAN's graphicmuscle.com. That if she won a historic ninth title, she would beat Lee Haney's (read: a man's) record? My guess is, all of the above. Once again, both ladies were laden with muscle'and ripped. Once again, Kyle's thigh sweep and calf development were to many eyes superior. This time the panel thought so too. The judges had her winning the symmetry round unanimously, with Murray taking the muscularity round by a single point and a not-even-close final score of 23 to 37.
Though Kyle won the posing round (an odd choice'yes, I know it's about the muscle, but she barely posed), the best display of mass on the move came from Yaxeni Oriquen, who had to settle for third for the third time in her career. With her 5'8' physique at its biggest and fullest, Oriquen made the first callout in both rounds, but conditionwise, she wasn't in the same contest as the other two women. She ended the day with unanimous third-place scores, earning the last automatic qualification for next year's Olympia in this top-three-per-weight-class qualifier.
A pair of Bettys landed only three points apart to earn the next couple of placings. Veteran Betty Pariso brought her patented package of thick, separated muscularity to the posing platform to take fourth, while Oriquen's fellow Venezuelan Betty Viana, in fifth, had the prettiest physique short of Murray's in the class. Lisa Aukland took sixth with another personal-best appearance, while Bonny Priest with her excellent package landed in seventh because somebody had to.
Lightweight. Second to Juliette Bergmann at the '03 Olympia and the winner of the '04 Ms. International lightweight title, Cadeau came to Las Vegas the heiress apparent'and with her homework done. By far Canada's top bodybuilder, man or woman, Dayana was shapely and full, bringing her best V-taper plus some killer cuts to the table. I thought she had the class cold, but the panel gave her only a small margin of victory. As she'd been last year, Denise Masino was next in the flexing order. The 5'3' magazine publisher from Florida was dripping muscle, and like Cadeau she has an elegant presentation, but she lacked the sharpness Dayana displayed. The panel liked her look enough to score her only a point behind Cadeau in the symmetry and posing rounds, however, and six points behind overall to place her in the runner-up slot.
After that it seemed that mass took precedence over aesthetics. At 5'2', Marja Lehtonen of Finland wasn't the shortest bodybuilder onstage'that honor went to Canada's Desiree Ellis, 5'1'but she was, inch for inch, the most muscular. Veteran Nancy Lewis, holding her shape from her Show of Strength win three weeks before, beat Lehtonen in the symmetry round. It wasn't good enough to get her the third-place check or the third automatic qualification for next year's Olympia. They went to Lehtonen, a decision that goes to the heart of the debate about the ideal women's-bodybuilding physique. The 5'3' Lewis had symmetry, flowing lines and spot-on conditioning, but the bottom line was the shorter but more massive Lehtonen bringing home the bacon.
One reason Lewis didn't get a clear shot at those third-place goodies was some strong competition for the panel's attention from another Canadian flexer who had pleasant contours and muscle pouring over her body, Desiree Ellis. The end of the evening saw Ellis just four points behind Lewis, in fifth. ALL Highly aesthetic physiques filled the next two slots. Mah-Ann Mendoza, never the most ripped woman onstage, was just sharp enough to take sixth, with British entry Joanna Thomas muscling her way into seventh ahead of one-time Ms. O heavyweight winner Valentina Chepiga. Chepiga, who had the most entertaining posing routine in either class, kind of reminded me of Cory Everson as she brought down the house with an all-flexing and all-dancing rendition of 'All That Jazz' from Chicago. She's clearly stopped playing the size game but with her structure might have done better if she'd been a little more defined. Vilma Caez looked good but had to settle for ninth in this company.
Overall. So, as it had been at the Ms. International last March, Cadeau looked marvelous until she stood next to Kyle in the battle for the overall. And Iris, who was even bigger, even fuller, even more statuesque than Dayana, had her day at last. We'll have to wait and see what effect that has on the climate.
The total purse for this contest was $50,000, with Iris picking up 10 grand for the class win and another $10,000 for taking the overall. For the first time ever the women's Olympia competitions were broadcast on pay-per-view. IM
'04 IFBB Ms. Olympia
Overall: Iris Kyle
1) Dayana Cadeau*
2) Denise Masino*
3) Marja Lehtonen*
4) Nancy Lewis
5) Desiree Ellis
6) Mah-Ann Mendoza
7) Joanna Thomas
8) Valentina Chepiga
9) Vilma Caez
1) Iris Kyle*
2) Lenda Murray*
3) Yaxeni Oriquen*
4) Betty Pariso
5) Betty Viana
6) Lisa Aukland
7) Bonny Priest
*Qualifies for the '05 Ms. Olympia.