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Figure International—Nicole Seals the Deal

There are two kinds of “close” in the world of physique competition. The first is when the scores are close, as in this year’s Bikini International battle, won by Sonia Gonzales, in which the top-three finishers were but a single point apart. The other is when all the judges think the two contestants are really, really close onstage, but they all end up voting for the same one, who then wins “unanimously.” That pretty much sums up the contest at the ’12 IFBB Figure International, in which Nicole Wilkins earned her third consecutive title—even though 1) she was, arguably, not at her best, and 2) her loyal opposition, Erin Stern, was, arguably, at hers. That’s how it looked at the judging, and afterward folks were remembering that the panel hadn’t hesitated to make Erin the champ the last time Nicole was not at her best, at the ’10 Olympia. So it would likely do that again, right? Obviously, not, because, as mentioned above, Wilkins, who appeared a little tighter at the finals, cleaned up in the voting.

Wuz Erin robbed? Conversations with panel members suggest that Nicole just dazzles, and it’s a big factor. For sure, structure comes into it—as always. Wilkins, at 5’5 1/2″, has more curves and fine proportions. The 5’8″ Stern, a track-and-field athlete who is no slouch in the looks department, has a longer, more athletic physique. Bottom line (pun intended): Though Stern looked wonderful and was a little more conditioned (but not too conditioned), Wilkins looked good enough and dazzling enough, and they tipped it to her. The take-away message here is that the judges don’t hesitate to reward a softer—but not too much softer—look if all the other elements are in place. People are always asking what the judges are looking for. That’s what they’re looking for. See also the choices of Gonzales, India Paulino and Nicole Nagrani as the top three in bikini: In addition to their other fine qualities, they’re not the leanest ladies onstage.

But I digress. Up-and-comer Candice Keene slid into third by a single point ahead of Ava Cowan, reversing their placings from the Olympia. Candice had a lot of fans in the press pit, but I could have seen Cowan winning that coin toss.

Fifth went to Heather Dees, a member of the NPC Class of 2011, who’s been refining her physique and presentation and was rewarded for it. Sixth was Teresa Anthony, who I thought looked radiant (speaking of sparkle), but the competition was just too tough.

Speaking of refining her physique. Huge props to Krissy Chin, who might have been at her all time best. Krissy has been chiseling away at her tad-too-muscular bod for a couple of years and finally has achieved a balance that just wasn’t there when she was carrying more size. I might have had her a little higher than 10th in this group, where almost everyone was in top shape, but that’s how the panel saw it.

On the subject of the ’12 Figure Olympia. This is a top-three qualifier now, but as all of the top three—in fact the top four—already earned their invitations, no one new made it to that coveted list from this show.

Photos by Roland Balik
Top: The Figure I winner’s circle, all dazzling (from left)—Heather Dees, Candice Keene, Erin Stern, Nicole Wilkins, Ava Cowan and Teresa Anthony.
Nicole Wilkins.

’12 Figure International
1)  Nicole Wilkins*
2) Erin Stern*
3) Candace Keene*
4) Ava Cowan
5) Heather Dees
6) Teresa Anthony
7) Larissa Reis
8) Cheryl Brown
9) Gennifer Strobo
10) Krissy Chin
11) Jelena Abbou
12) Latisha Wilder
13) Sue Knott
14) Raquel Hernandez
15) Gloria Keplinger Tarpley
16) Alicia Harris
*Qualifies for the ’12 Figure International.

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