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Hendershott?s Shot

Hometown Honey Scores a Hummer of a Win

’05 IFBB Fitness International

1) Jen Hendershott*
2) Adela Garcia-Friedmansky*
3) Kim Klein*
4) Kelly Ryan*
5) Stacy Hylton*
6) Julie Palmer
7) Tracey Greenwood
8) Debbie Czempinski
9) Tanji Johnson
10) Mindi O’Brien
11) Carla Sanchez
12) Kirsten Nicewarner

*Qualifies for the Fitness Olympia.

COLUMBUS, Ohio’One thing you can say about Jen Hendershott: She lays it all out there. Her talent, her ‘tude, her tits-to-the-ceiling enthusiasm are at the heart of every show she enters, wherever she places. Competing in a sport that was owned for years by Susie Curry, with Kelly Ryan and then Adela Garcia-Friedmansky always just ahead of her in the race to unseat Curry, must have felt like swimming in Jell-O at times, especially with Ryan’s seeming lock on the routine rounds. Yet somehow, with Curry retired and Ryan and AGF each winning two rounds apiece at every show, Jen managed to gain on Ryan in the physique rounds, coming in runner-up to Garcia-Friedmansky in the overall tally at the Olympia last fall. Then at the Fitness International on March 4, in front of her boisterous’and numerous’hometown fans at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, the one-time Ohio State cheerleader saw her opening and took it, and before you could say, Go, Jenny, go!, she shot past Adela to score her first ever pro win.

And that wasn’t the only big surprise in the pro-fitness portion of the Jim Lorimer and Arnold Schwarzenegger’produced Arnold Fitness Weekend sports and fitness extravaganza. In the second of two close decisions, Kim Klein, hottest of 2004’s up-and-comers, knocked Ryan out of the top three for the first time at any show since she hit the pros in 1999.

Was Mercury in retrograde? More like a convergence of all-too-tangible events. In terms of performance skills, it was a diva-laden lineup of 12, which made a great show for the audience and a tough time for the judges. Despite that fact’or perhaps because of it’in the end it all came down to the bodies. Guess that’s why they call it physique competition

Bod squad. The big question once the ladies took the stage at the judging for round one, two-piece-swimsuit comparisons, was not who would win the round’that was a given’but whether the Pro Division’s advisory notice requiring a 20 percent reduction in muscle would have any effect. Keener eyes than mine saw the women as smaller across the board. Perhaps I missed it because I was blinded by their high level of conditioning, which appeared to be about the same as it had been at the Olympia for the most part. Since I had figured they were going to ease up by 20 percent on that factor as well, it was a bit unexpected. Needless to say, there wasn’t an out-of-shape figure in the bunch.

Four things were also evident at a glance: 1) Adela, who won the International and the Olympia last year, had the best physique; 2) Jenhen looked at least as good as she did at the O; 3) Kelly’s body was not at its best and lacked the balance and flow-of-bodyparts she brought to the International last year; and 4) Kim’s already popular-with-the-judges look had acquired a new layer of conditioning. Sure enough, Ryan didn’t make the first callout, although the other three did, along with the always shapely Julie Palmer. In both physique rounds the women finished in this order: 1) Garcia-Friedmansky, 2) Klein, 3) Hendershott, 4) Palmer and 5) Ryan.

Top five countdown. No one in fitness has worked harder to keep her act fresh and edgy’and to keep getting her physique closer to its potential’than JenHen. Though she may actually have beaten Ryan at a routine round once, she’s still forced to work around the perception that Kelly is just, well, better. That’s left Hendershott free to take all kinds of risks, entertainmentwise, with her performances. At the past two Olympias, for instance, she’s given us a girl-girl kiss and religion on the line. This time she was dressed to impress and driving the hippest vehicle at the AFW: a baby Hummer decked out for maximum bling. Jen’s funky and exciting performance earned her one point off a unanimous second-place score in the two-minute routines, which, along with her third-place physique scores and unanimous second in the 45-second mandatory routines, put her two points ahead of AGF in the final tally.

Adela finished third in the 45-second routines and gave it her all in a pirate-themed performance full of her trademark flying strength moves and Latin dance steps to take fourth in the two-minute routines. In the past, winning both physique rounds has carried her to victory, but in this case only one of the wins was unanimous. The extra two points she picked up in round four could well be the two that Hendershott beat her by. Ryan did win the two routine rounds unanimously, but she still couldn’t block Klein from completing her tumbling run into third. The 5’2 2/3′ teacher from New Jersey stood on her hands and did feet-over-shoulders pushups to get the panel’s attention. In the comparisons all she had to do was stand there, and Kelly’s fate was sealed.

It was too bad, in a way, because Flyin’ Ryan was in fine form, shakin’ and breakin’ all over the stage. She gave a classic K.R. performance’high energy and done to a turn. The announcement that she’d finished in fourth was a shocker to many in the house.

Fifth place went to a star performer whose name hasn’t heretofore come up in this report’Stacy Hylton. Hot routine, tight body. Is it time to start asking why Hylton isn’t the one moving into the top three?

From sixth on down. Speaking of tight bodies, Palmer’s earned her the sixth-place check, while another veteran whose physique often gets her into the trophy circle, Tracey Greenwood, had to settle for seventh this time.

A dynamic performance by eighth-placed Debbie Czempinski had a lot of people, including the judges, suggesting that the 5′ Australian had been overlooked. So it was not unexpected when Czempinski picked up an Olympia invite a few weeks later at the New York Pro Fitness Championship. Tanji Johnson put on a fun show, as always, but ended up in ninth, a victim of the depth of the competition at the prestigious event. Ditto for Canadian champ Mindi O’Brien, who took the last of the top-10 spots.

Rounding out the lineup were Carla Sanchez, who’d previously announced that it would be her last competition, in 11th and Kirsten Nicewarner, who picked a helluva contest in which to make her pro debut, 12th.

Inside the winner’s circle. Jen is a popular figure in the fitness hotbed of Columbus, and it was her fifth appearance at the International. When Garcia-Friedmansky was announced in second, the crowd gave it up for hometown honey Hendershott, who might well have been the most astonished person in the house. She picked up 25 large of the $50,000 total purse, with AGF taking home $12,000, and cash prizes going to the rest of the ladies who made the top six.

With the sitting champ unseated, speculation started spinning at warp speed. Slim is a good thing in physique competition’except when it refers to a two-point win. Will Garcia-Friedmansky turn the tables on Hendershott at season’s end? Will Ryan get mad’and get even? Will Klein, who won the New York show, leave ’em all in the dust come Olympia time? Be patient, fearless reader. We’ve miles to go before those questions will be answered. IM

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