Last week I got a note—and a press release—from Jenny Lynn regarding her announced retirement from competition subsequent to her landing out of the top six for the first time, well, ever, at the Figure O in September. Jenny handled it like the class act she’s always been (that was my sarcasm), but it had to have stung.
It was hard not to notice that the judges dissed not just Jenny but also another former Olympia champ, Monica Brant, who got her worst landing ever in 10th (yeah, I know that it was the Fitness Olympia she won, but she won it in the body rounds). The proof of the dissing—some might call it the irony—is that they both actually looked pretty darned good and could have finished higher with no complaint from the folks who complain about these things. That they didn’t, well, talk about sending a message.
“There comes a time in every athlete’s life when it’s time to step down. After 10 years competing and 31 contests later…it’s time,” Lynn said in her press release. In response to a reporter’s question, she said she was “okay with walking away from the competitive stage” after the Olympia because she was “happy with the physique I presented.”
Clearly the organization has trended toward promoting fresh faces in pro figure over the past year or so. (I won’t say young—Jenn Gates is over 30—but at 25 new Figure Olympia champ Nicole Wilkins-Lee qualifies on that score too.) No one can blame the judges if they’re tired of the same old same old. Jenny and Mo have been around for more than a decade—in fact, Brant competed in the first Fitness Olympia, in 1995. On the other hand, they may not be the only athletes taking a message away.
Masters figure may be the fastest-growing division in the NPC, even faster than bikini. I admit I haven’t done the math on that, but it’s not hard to see how adding it has swelled the competitor ranks at the North American Championships in the past few years and recently at the Team Universe.
If the more experienced athletes are being dropped in the placings, what does that say to the sweet not-quite-so-young things who are faithfully earning pro cards in the 35-and-over and 45-and-over divisions? The one event on the schedule that included a pro-masters-figure contest, the Atlantic City Pro, is reportedly not coming back in 2010, no fault of the ladies, I’m sure. Still, the drop in standing of these two icons of the industry could certainly dim the motivational factor for pros over a certain age, a handful of whom will be among the 25 or so athletes onstage at the Sacramento (California) Pro Figure Grand Prix this weekend.
Note that it is Jenny Lynn who has retired from competition. Mo Brant to my knowledge (and I’m a faithful reader of her e-mail updates) has not said anything about her future contest plans. She didn’t go to Vegas expecting to win the Olympia at this juncture of her career, but still, that was rude.
As for the fitness cougar-ettes who are doing the Sac: Cheryl Brown, who took fifth in her pro debut at the Fort Lauderdale show last month, should do at least that well in California, and a top-three finish would not be completely unpredictable.