A quiet weekend on the pro circuit made the perfect time to switch focus to the amateurs, specifically the upcoming of debut of women’s physique competition at the Junior USA in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 21, promoted by Tres Bennett and Shannon Meteraud. Some of the preofficial chatter about this new sport that will bridge the development gap between figure physiques and women’s bodybuilding raised a lot of questions. Most were answered when the NPC issued its official statement and criteria late last year.
Skipping the discussion of how this exciting new competition opportunity for women is very different from “men’s physique” competition (or how their names create a linguistic logistical nightmare for anal-compulsive editor types like yours truly), I still had a few lingering questions. And, not surprisingly, I wanted a woman’s perspective.
A short time ago I talked with women’s head judge Sandy Williamson, who is the NPC/IFBB’s top female official, to get the scoop:
RS: A couple of years ago, when Betty Pariso proposed something very similar to this new division, I thought, well, it’s a nice idea, but they’ll never go for it. Bikini was just starting up, and all the focus was there. So the question is, Why this division? Why now?
SW: Because so many women that compete in figure and have a little too much muscle for figure refuse to compete in bodybuilding when it is suggested. Also our numbers continue to grow in all disciplines so even though this was suggested before, I think everyone now realizes that there seems to be the numbers to support another new division.
RS: What kind of response have you had from athletes?
SW: Tremendous. It is really encouraging from the initial response. We won’t know for sure until the actual competitions take place and we see the number of athletes, but so far it looks very good.
RS: From the criteria—routines, mandatory poses and no heels—physique seems to be a gentler, kinder variety of women’s bodybuilding. Are you hearing more from figure competitors or bodybuilders?
SW: I am getting e-mails from both, but I would have to say more from figure.
RS: Over the past few years the judges have been slowly but consistently dialing it back in terms of ”big, ripped and shredded” for women bodybuilders moving on to the pros. How will the new division affect that trend?
SW: I don’t think that will change. This is going to be a different look than you see in bodybuilding.
RS: Do you think athletes like Sarah Hayes and Amber DeFrancesco and other recent new pros will, ultimately, be competing in physique?
SW: It is hard to say until we actually have a contest and see which athletes decide to compete in this new division. I am sure some of the more recent new pros will compete [once the pro division is added], but they will have to change their look, since ripped, shredded, etc., is not what we will be looking for.
RS: During all the chatter that took place about what women’s physique would be, a lot of names were being bandied about as being the ideal physique physique. I have to admit, I was starting to get the idea that unless someone was as hot as Sharon Bruneau, Juliana Malacarne or Gladys Portugues, she should forget it. So I’m just checking when I ask about the phrase ”beauty/flow of physique,” which appears a couple of times in the official criteria. It’s talking about beautiful lines and flow of the bodyparts, right?
SW: Yes, but we will also be taking into consideration the overall appearance, which includes hair make-up, etc., like we do in figure.
RS: To what degree will physical beauty play a part—about the same as figure?
SW: I would think so.
RS: Will it attract a lot of new women to NPC competition or redistribute those who are already participating?
SW: I would imagine some of both.
Wise woman that she is, Sandy refused to take the bait when I asked her to name some athletes she feels would be good candidates for women’s physique. She expects to be in Charleston for the birth of this new sport next month at the Junior USA. As we always say, stay tuned.
Photo: Sandy Williamson