Incident at the Excalibur
Sometimes it takes a photo to jog your memory. I was at the check-in for the NPC Excalibur Championships in Culver City, California, last week and found myself staring at one of the figure competitors. It was late in the evening—only a couple of classes were left to register. She was talking with another woman and also kind of looking at me. Eventually, she came over and introduced herself: Tycie Coppett.
We shook hands. I looked at her quizzically. “We’ve never met, have we?” No, she said, although she knew who I was.
“Still,” I told her, “you look so familiar.” I searched my brain–she was from out of state—and took a wild stab: “Have you ever shot with Reg Bradford?”
Nothing like bodybuilding geography, I thought. Mystery solved. The New Jersey photographer is always sending me photos of athletes. Somewhere on my big Mac there were undoubtedly images of Tycie that I had looked through a dozen times.
We chatted a bit. Tycie had last been on a contest stage at the ’06 Figure Nationals, where she didn’t make the cut in the superlarge supertall class. What brought her back to competition—and clear across the country from her Atlanta base?
Her sister Tasha Coppett was doing the Excalibur, and Tycie thought it would be fun for them to get onstage together. Besides, she continued, the Excalibur is a prestigious competition that gets a lot of attention.
She had a point. The Excalibur has been a big show for as long as I’ve been in the industry. (I can remember schlepping to Anaheim in the ’90s—it’s now held at the Culver City Veterans Memorial Auditorium—to witness my first men’s fitness competition). In 2010, 290-plus athletes came from all over the country, including more than 170 in the figure and bikini divisions to hit the stage at the Southern California season-finale event. I wished Tycie and her sister good luck and headed for home, making a mental note to call Reg on Monday.
Before I could do that, he called me. Having missed the contest itself due to a Hanukkah party, I was unaware that Tycie had won the whole darned show, taking the overall in the open as well as the masters over-35 divisions. Reg had been perusing the results looking for another name from the past, Deidre Pagnanelli (she was fourth in the F-class), and found Tycie’s. They had spoken, and now we were talking—circle of connection complete. Or was it?
Reg raved about how much Coppett’s physique had improved since that long ago Figure Nationals, and a bell went off at last. I had covered that show. To the photo files, et voilà. I had indeed been looking at her pictures for years, but not ones taken by Reg. (So much for bodybuilding geography.)
So, Tycie Coppett, a.k.a. the girl sitting next to Nola Trimble at the ’06 Fig Nat’s athletes meeting, we have met before. Based on your showing in Culver City, I doubt it will be four years before we meet again.
Amateur competitors who will be looking to gain publicity and pro status in 2011 have a new avenue of opportunity. As announced on the Arnold Sports Festival Web site, “Overall winners at the Arnold Amateur contest in men’s bodybuilding, women’s bodybuilding, fitness, figure and bikini divisions may petition their national federations for pro status in the IFBB Professional League.”
Pro cards at the Arnold Amateur? When news of that development hit a few weeks ago, there were questions as to whether it would apply to competitors from the United States. The above statement now stands on the Web pages for each of the Amateur Arnold competitions, so it appears that all the overall winners at the event will earn the right to apply for a pro card—and that the decisions will be up to the individual federations.
Said Arnold Sports Festival promoter Jim Lorimer in an interview with my colleague Lonnie Teper last week, “It’s not guaranteed, but we feel that if deserving NPC athletes win an overall at our amateur event, they will be rewarded.”
U.S. competitors must have finished in the top five at an NPC national qualifier, the exceptions being bikini and classic bodybuilding.
As it has been in the past, Arnold Amateur overall winners will be invited to compete at the Arnold Classic or Ms., Fitness, Figure or Bikini International competition when they get to the pros.
For more on the big March 3–6 weekend, including the IFBB Amateur Arnold, click here.
Speaking of the Arnold Sports Festival, just when you thought the ’11 Figure International would come down to a return mash-up between ’09 Olympia and ’10 International champ Nicole Wilkins-Lee and ’10 Olympia victor Erin Stern, another two piece has been tossed into the ring. As reported at Hardbody.com last week, ’08 Figure O winner Jenn Gates, who dropped out of the ’09 Olympia just a few weeks out when she found out she was expecting, is putting in for an invite to compete in Columbus.
To review the history, Jen came up the pro ranks quickly and beat out Gina Aliotti, Zivile Raudioniene and defending champ Jenny Lynn to take the O in 2008. Nicole, ninth in ’08, rolled past Aliotti, Heather Mae French and Kristal Richardson to the title in 2009, when Erin, the rookie, took sixth. This year, with Aliotti out of the mix, it was Erin who rolled past the other three to take the top spot. What will happen if Gates, whose third child, Jax, is now seven months old, does take the stage on March 4 along with 2010’s best? I definitely want to think about that before I make any predictions, don’t you?
Thanks to Ron Avidan for the Excalibur pics.
Photos (from top):
Tycie Coppett at the ’10 Excalibur.
Tycie with Nola Trimble at the ’06 Figure Nationals.
Excalibur Bikini Overall champ Ingrid Romero.
Jenn Gates at the ’08 Olympia. She’s coming back.