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Arnold Time

So weird not to be going. If I were in Columbus, Ohio, right now, I’d be standing in the corridor outside a meeting room at the Doubletree Guest Suites with my little grab shot camera grabbing shots of all the athletes coming from and going into the athletes meetings for the Ms., Fitness and Figure International. Up until last year they let us, meaning the media, into the meetings. Then we were exiled to the corridor, not a serious hardship because if you stand there long enough, everyone is going to walk by.

As I said, however, I am not standing outside a meeting room at the Doubletree with my camera but am instead seated at my desk in what we like to call the IRON MAN Hollywood office with my cat, missing my favorite weekend of the bodybuilding year for the first time since I started going at least 15 years ago. It’s a huge bite, believe me, but it won’t stop this irrepressible observer from expressing her opinions this weekend. With a little help from my friends, including IM photog Roland Balik, I’ll have a few things to say about the three women’s pro physique competitions.

I even agreed to take the Twitter challenge ( There’s some serious wagering going on as to whether I can actually keep it to 140 characters. Heh, heh, heh. Stay tuned.

The IM magazine deadlines were so tight last month, I didn’t get to register my formal “predictions.” Certain of my colleagues love to nail me for not listing my picks or top six (or top 10!) for all three women’s sports. Guess this will just have to be one of those years. A few observations—predictions, if you will—I will make:

I would not be shocked if the current Olympia champions, Iris Kyle, Adela Garcia and Nicole Wilkins-Lee, won tomorrow night. I would be shocked if more than one of them didn’t win. Who could possibly stop them? you ask.

In figure: Can Nicole withstand the attacks from hot newcomers Andrea Watson and Mindi Smith, both of whom won the overall at every NPC contest they entered? It’s Watson’s pro debut, while Smith scored a big win in her own pro debut at the Phoenix show a couple of weeks ago. This is a really beautiful lineup, and anything can happen, but if Wilkins-Lee has a problem coming out on top, it won’t be from someone she’s already beaten.

In fitness: Some very intense stuff going on in this lineup. It’s tough not to pick Adela to win—two rounds or four rounds, she’s still got the total package of physique and routine. Also not tough to predict that the score-sheet dynamic between Julie Palmer, Tanji Johnson and Oksana Grishina will be different from the way things landed in Phoenix, where Jules got the top prize. Or that Camala Rodriguez is the newcomer who could shake up the pecking order. Come to think of it, pretty much anything could shake up the pecking order. With Jen Hendershott and Tracey Greenwood out of the mix, there’s lots of room for mobility. Oksana is always a wild card in the routine round: Every so often (like at the ’07 Olympia) the judges agree with the fans that hers is the best routine.

In women’s bodybuilding: Talk about your beautiful lineups. Check out the head shots for the female flexers at the Arnold Sports Festival Web site.

The burning question is whether Yaxeni Oriquen is mad enough—or lean enough—to give Iris a run for her money. If she’s held her condition from Phoenix, that could be a seriously burning question.

Also whether  Dayana Cadeau is determined enough to get back into top-three-contention shape. Or whether rookie Zoa Linsey, a sensational-shape Canadian flexer who scored the third Olympia qualification behind Yaxeni and Betty Pariso in Phoenix, can crack the upper echelons (Dayana and Debi Laszewski, look out!). There are a bunch of smaller, more symmetrical types in this show as well, including European stars Alina Popa and Elena Shportun. It will be interesting to see if they have a glimmer of a chance.

So many burning questions, all to be answered tomorrow….

Photos (from top): Nicole, Adela and Iris are ready to fight off some stiff challenges at this weekend.

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