Time for a confession. No one would accuse me of welcoming bikini competition with open arms, but now that I’ve seen a few shows I have to admit, I don’t absolutely hate it. As so frequently happens, it was the enthusiasm of the contestants that won me over. I met a bunch of them last month at Lonnie Teper’s NPC Junior California Championships. It’s a contest that has always encouraged beginners, which makes for memorable moments thanks to the varying degrees demonstrated of whatever skill the physique sport at hand requires.
In bikini, the best of the babes take their model walk with what can only be described as an aggressive swagger. When the newbies and those with less hip-to-eye coordination attempt the move, however, it reminds me of the very first fitness contest I ever saw.
It was the original fitness event, the Ms. National Fitness, and I traveled to Las Vegas in 1993— a couple of years before the NPC added fitness to its roster—to find out what all the excitement was about. Athletes in the Ms. Fitness organization were—and are—judged in evening gowns as well as swimsuits and fitness routines. The lineup included more than a few gym rats who were clearly not comfortable clumping across the stage in glittering high heels.
They all learned of course, and so will the women of the NPC’s newest division, some of whom look more like kids playing model in Mom’s heels than seasoned stiletto sirens strutting a runway. (I’m laughing with you, not at you, girls. I sure couldn’t do it.)
One patented pose the contestants all seem to be picking up on involves a bold stride to the side followed by a cock of the opposite hip, with one arm on the uncocked hip. I’m calling it the “stride and snap,” and I look forward to the many renditions we’ll see at the NPC USA in a couple of weeks. It’s not as zippy a name as the “bend and snap,” but, thank goodness, the bikini gals aren’t bending—at least not yet.
By the way, Mia Finnegan, who went on to become the first IFBB Fitness Olympia champ—and as fine an example of a fitness-physique athlete as ever there was—placed in but did not win the ’93 Ms. National Fitness pageant. The judges told her (among other things, I’m sure), that she wore the wrong shoes for her dress.