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Figure Olympia—Not So Easy to Figure

819mp0276I’m looking at a photo of the top five finishers from the ’08 Figure Olympia, thinking about predicting the winner of the upcoming ’09 competition, which is set for September 25 and 26 in Las Vegas, and it’s like the old insurance commercial where people’s faces keep disappearing from the family photo (or maybe that was Back to the Future). Jenn Gates, ’08 champion, expecting a baby in the spring—out. Zivile Raudonienne, ’08 third-placer and ’09 Figure International winner, reportedly embarking on a career with the WWE—out. Mary Elizabeth Lado, fifth in ’08, focusing on other aspects of her life at present—out. That leaves two-time winner Jenny Lynn, who fell to fourth last year, and ’08 runner-up Gina Aliotti, who’s been close so many times, to fight it out for the crown. It also leaves a huge opportunity for some up-and-coming symmetrical sweetie to snatch it away.

And that’s what I think is going to happen.

That’s right, I’m going against the common wisdom that it is Gina’s time. Gina has a wonderful, worthy physique, but—call me crazy—I can’t help thinking that if the ’08 Figure International victor was going to win the Olympia, it would have happened by now.

I’m also going against the common wisdom that Jenny can never get back to where she was two years ago. Watching her svelte up over a pair of shows this summer—the Jacksonville and Europa pro events—I would not be surprised to see the Jenny Lynn of old, or close to it, onstage at the Olympia Expo and the Orleans Arena, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her beat Gina in any event. A feeling, however, says that someone else will come from behind to gobble up the first-place love the way Gates did last year.

Who could that be? A photo study of the genetic gifts belonging to the oft-mentioned contenders suggests, at least to these eyes, that the possibilities include, in alphabetical order, Heather Mae French, Amy Fry, Jessica Paxon-Putnam, Kristal Richardson, Erin Stern and Nicole Wilkins-Lee. You can add Mo Brant to that mix, but we all know she isn’t going to win.

Poring over the photos even further, I’d knock off the last three names, which leaves Heather, at 5’ 1/4”, the most symmetrical peewee on the planet after Jenn Gates; Amy, who’s a Mary Lado–style X-framer; and Jessica, who has already beaten Jenny (and Erin) once this year.

I say she could do it again. Paxson-Putnam and her curvy, heart-shaped torso had just enough added upper body to win over the judges at the Jacksonville show. She’s also got a high quotient of what we like to call mainstream appeal, but that isn’t usually what sways the folks with the score sheets.

I’ll take a lot of ribbing about this—particularly if Jessica is not a top finisher—but I think the 26-year-old Tennessee belle, who’s been a champ-in-the-making since she turned pro in ’05, will do a divide and conquer on the point counts of the familiar names and win the big one. Good news for the familiar names: I have a terrible track record at off-the-wall predictions.

Two caveats regarding the following top-10 projection: 1) Among the 23 women scheduled to quarter-turn in Vegas are any number who I haven’t mentioned who could easily score a top-10 placing; and 2) I really don’t know where to put Nicole Wilkins-Lee.

The Iron Women’s fantasy Figure Olympia picks:

1) Jessica Paxon-Putnam
2) Jenny Lynn
3) Gina Aliotti
4) Amy Fry
5) Krystal Richardson
6) Monica Brant
7) Heather French
8) Erin Stern
9) Nicole Wilkins-Lee
10) Sonia Gonzales

Or, if that doesn’t work for you, move everyone up a slot and slip Paxson-Putnam in somewhere near the bottom of the top 10.

The rest of the prospective Figure Olympia lineup includes, in alphabetical order, Teresa Anthony, Huong Arcinas, Krissy Chin, Meriza DeGuzman, Jamie Ford, April Fortier, Alicia Renee Harris, Patricia Mello,  Larissa Reis, Felicia Romero, Sherlyn Roy, Brenda Smith and Kristi Tauti.

Catch my Figure Olympia wrapup-video after the show at

Photo: Jessica Paxson-Putnam.

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