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2005 IRON MAN Pro and Arnold Classic Kick Off

There’ll be whole a lot of streaking going on at the ’05 IRON MAN Pro come February 19, starting with Chris Cormier. The Real Deal, who put together a streak of four consecutive victories at the contest, from 1999 to 2002, before taking a two-year break from the action, says he’ll be back in 2005. Cormier has more than the $10,000 first-place prize money in mind’a fifth win would tie him with Ken ‘Flex’ Wheeler, the all-time record holder for the annual IFBB season opener.

Both Lee Priest and Marvelous Melvin Anthony say their streaks of doing well but never winning the IM Pro must come to an end. (Priest has been second on three occasions, including 2004; Anthony has been runner-up twice.)

Other standouts’like Troy Alves, my ’03 Rookie of the Year; Mark Dugdale, the ’04 USA champion, who’ll be making his pro debut; former National champion Toney Freeman; and the biggest surprise at last year’s contest, sixth-placer David Henry’have all indicated that they’ll be onstage at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The 16th edition of the IM Pro should be another outstanding battle.

There’s also a chance that Gustavo Badell will return to the contest that put his name on the map in ’04. ‘I really like the IRON MAN, but at this point I’m not sure if I will do the contest again or just concentrate on the Arnold Classic,’ Badell said in early December. ‘But I just may show up and surprise you.’ Yes, Gustavo, surprise me. And what a nice surprise it would be’although you’re no longer a surprise (see News & Views on page 166).

Cormier is coming off a disappointing seventh-place landing at the ’04 Olympia, although he did end the season with runner-up finishes to Ronnie Coleman at the English and Dutch grand prix. He blames his poor showing at the Olympia on a bout of depression.

‘I couldn’t get my mind off another second-place finish at the Arnold Classic,’ said Chris, who has finished second a record five times in a row at the ASC, of his controversial one point loss to Jay Cutler in 2004. ‘It kept lingering, and I could never really get the right mind-set to focus on the Olympia.

‘I’m past that now,’ he continued. ‘I’m 37 years old and don’t have the time to not give it my all in contests anymore. I was encouraged by my look at the grand prix shows, and I plan to improve on that conditioning for the IRON MAN. I won that show four times in a row, and I plan to make it five wins.’

Priest and Anthony both passed on the Olympia last fall to concentrate on the IRON MAN. Priest recorded his third second-place finish at the IM Pro last year, losing only to Dexter Jackson but besting Badell and Ahmad Haidar. The 5’5′ Australian, who weighed 198 last year and went down to 192 for the San Francisco Pro a few weeks later, when he again finished second to Jackson, plans on hitting the stage a bit larger this time. ‘I think I may end up at around 207 to 210,’ he said. ‘That gives me a bigger, fuller look, and I can be just as hard as I normally am.’

Anthony, who finished second to Jay Cutler at the ’03 IRON MAN and scored his first victory as a pro at last year’s Night of Champions, is coming into the event brimming with confidence. ‘I don’t care who does the show; I’m gonna win it,’ he said buoyantly.

Alves finished eighth in his Olympia debut in 2003 but slipped to 15th in ’04. He was not concerned, he said. With a physique that features one of the most aesthetic looks in the game, the 5’9′, 215-pounder from Phoenix said it was just a matter of miscalculation in his precontest prep’and that the real Alves will return for the ’05 season. ALL All eyes will be focused on Dugdale, as the 5’6′, 200-pounder will be stepping onstage for the first time after his unanimous victory at the USA. Dugdale will never be the biggest guy in the lineup, but he’s always one of the most polished, and it’s time to see if he can go pose to pose at the next level.

Henry, the ’03 National middleweight champ, proved last year that he could do it. The 5’5′, 190-pounder finished just out of the money, and most observers thought that Dynamic Dave should have been in the top five. He was eighth at the San Francisco show, but this year, he said, he’s ready to move up a few slots.

Another fella looking for respect in the new year is ’02 USA Overall champ Idrise Ward-El, who hasn’t reached the level of success as a pro that he’and many of his supporters’assumed he would.

After not making the top 15 at the ’03 NOC, the 5’11’, 250-pound Ward-El took ninth at the ’04 IRON MAN but slipped to 14th at the Florida Pro. He said it’s time to get down to business, and he expects to show up in Pasadena displaying the condition he brought to Las Vegas on the night he turned pro.

Perhaps the most interesting scenario will be the return of Shari ‘King’ Kamali to the contest where he made his pro debut in 2001, taking third behind Cormier and Anthony, and, in my opinion, where he looked his all-time best. Kamali, who won the $10,000 award for Best Presentation at last year’s Arnold Classic, knows how to stir up a crowd, both with his routines and his precontest predictions.

Joe Nitiforo, the ’02 NPC National Heavyweight champ, also says he’s doing the show. Bouncing back from a torn quad suffered in October 2003, he made his pro debut at the Show of Strength a year later. Admittedly too heavy there, he plans to carry ‘around 230 pounds’ on his 5’10’ frame at the IRON MAN.

NPC Figure’Plus Awards Galore

Promoters John Balik and Michael Neveux will team the IRON MAN Pro with an amateur figure competition. If history repeats itself, the winner of the NPC IRON MAN Figure show will have an edge in the turning-pro department, not to mention the honor of posing for a photo shoot with Neveux.

Hannah Park, the original IM Figure champion, in 2003, earned pro status by winning the Junior USA a couple of months later; Abby Duncan, the ’04 winner, got her card at the Junior Nationals. Marcy Porter, last year’s medium-class winner, also moved on to the pro ranks, along with Nancy Hirsch, third in her class at the ’03 IM, when they went one-two in their class at the Figure Nationals.

Two icons of the industry, Jim Lorimer and Albert Busek, will be honored at the IRON MAN, with Lorimer receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award and Busek coming all the way from Germany to pick up the Art Zeller Award for Artistic Excellence.

Said IRON MAN publisher Balik, ‘Jim has promoted Olympic weightlifting and bodybuilding in the Columbus, Ohio, area since the late 1950s, and now has created the largest sporting event in the world outside of the Olympics with more than 14,000 athletes participating in the Arnold Fitness Weekend.

‘Albert Busek founded the landmark German bodybuilding magazine Sport Revue in the early 1960s and has been photographing the sport ever since. He’s especially renowned for his archive of 20,000-plus photos of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Albert was the first person to recognize Arnold’s potential and was instrumental in getting him to the United States.’ On to the Arnold

After flying to Pasadena to receive his prestigious decoration, Lorimer will be hopping right back on a plane to Columbus to work on the final details for the ’05 Arnold Fitness Weekend, which, natch, includes the Arnold Classic, set for March 5 at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. We don’t yet know who will get the invites, but it’s a good guess most of the names will be familiar.

Three-time ASC champ Jay Cutler has indicated that he’ll be passing on the contest this year, but that won’t keep it from being a dandy. Most of the top-level performers at the IRON MAN hope to be onstage in Columbus, and, when you add Badell, Dexter Jackson, Gunter Schlierkamp, Markus Ruhl and Victor Martinez to the mix, well, you get the picture. Call it the Big Picture.

Cormier insisted this is the year he’ll leave the Veterans with the $100,000 first-place prize money, the new Hummer and the $20,000 watch that has gone to Cutler the past three seasons. After his one-point loss last time, Cormier, needless to say, has had his fill of being second on the bill. ‘Jay got the nod, but I got the bod,’ he said.

If Cormier does win the ASC, don’t look for it to be a cakewalk. Jackson has emerged as one of the premier flexers in the world and was a controversial third in Ohio last year. He was also on the receiving end of an unpopular bump in placement at the Olympia, dropping from third to fourth’and bumping Badell from fourth to third’thanks to the challenge round.

The 5’6′ Jackson swears he’ll step onstage this year at around 235 and has no qualms about standing toe to toe with anybody in the industry, big or small. This is a man who always shows up in prime condition, so count him in the championship mix, for sure.

The battle for the top six at the ASC could be the most competitive in years: Jackson, Cormier, Badell, Schlierkamp, Ruhl, Priest, Anthony, Alves’not to mention another two or three big names who are likely to get invites.

As Lorimer always says, ‘Fitness is fun.’ With that potential lineup, the ASC should be too.

Editor’s note: For updates on the IM Pro and the Arnold Classic contests, log on to IM

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