It was a hot time in Columbus at the ’12 Arnold Sports Festival even though the weather was nippy. Plenty of surprises and not-so-surprises went down in the four women’s shows, including the Bikini International, where the top scores were closer than the competitors bosoms. It’s a great story, when you think about it. Sonia Gonzales wins the first Bikini Olympia in 2010, drops to second at the first Bikini I last year and drops even further to fifth at the ’11 Bikini O. Then she comes back to Columbus, Ohio, for the 2012 edition of the Bikini I and sashays to the top of the runway again.
Sonia looked swell, I have to say. Her physique was sleeker than it’s been at some recent shows but definitely not too lean. She told me she thought it was her presentation that put her over the top, but I have to think her nailing the conditioning—not too hard, not too soft—had something to do with it.
Sonia’s win was actually the second surprise. The first was that Nicole Nagrani, last year’s winner at this show and the Bikini Olympia, didn’t repeat.
That it would go down that way was fairly clear at the judging, where the panel called out four ladies for the first comparison and put Sonia and India Paulino in the center, with Nagrani and Jaime Baird on the ends. Although I’ve learned over the years not to overinterpret the callouts, I took it as a sign. I did think the nod would go to Paulino, however.
India, who was still an amateur when we went to Ohio last year, is a real comer and won the last show of the 2011 season, the Florida Pro. She was a pistol onstage, sassy as it gets, and it was easy to conclude that she’d be moving up even further from her sixth-place Olympia showing. In fact she did—all the way up to second.
Nagrani was third, but, as indicated above, it was oh so close, with but a single point separating Sonia and India and a single point separating India and Nicole.
Baird, sporting her usual classy presentation, took fourth, with Nathalia Melo, second at the O, dropping to fifth here, and Juliana Daniell making a well-earned leap into the top six. Why the drop for Melo? I thought she looked a bit lean compared with Gonzales and Paulino, but that’s me. In her own assessment of the show, IFBB head judge Sandy Williamson says she “would rather see [the competitors] err with a little bit of bodyfat rather than being too lean.”
Olympia qualifications go only to the top three at this show under the IFBB’s new rules, which means, ironically, that the only competitor to earn an invite to the big show was Sonia.
Photo: Sonia Gonzales.
’12 Bikini International
1) Sonia Gonzales*
2) India Paulino*
3) Nicole Nagrani*
4) Jaime Baird
5) Nathalia Melo
6) Juliana Daniell
7) Diana Graham
8) Jessica Paxson
9) Candyce Graham
10) Monique Ricardo
11) Natalie Pennington
12) Lexi Kaufman**
12) Jennifer Andrews**
14) Christina Vargas
15) Tianna Ta
16) Abigail Borrows
*Qualifies for the ’12 Bikini Olympia