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Houston Pro Figure—Less Drama Than Meets the Eye

Speaking of the campaign to keep big muscles at bay in the figure ranks (and when aren’t we?), the selection of the conditioned, symmetrical and not overbuilt Felicia Romero for a second-in-a-row victory at the Houston Pro last weekend was not unexpected, but I had to laugh at an e-mail exchange I had with a friend who is always on the conspiracy trail. My friend, who had attended the show, suggested that Romero’s second-straight win meant that the judges were “sending a message” to figure athletes. Then came the words that got my dander up: “She doesn’t even look as if she works out.”

“Yes, she does,” I wrote back rather sharply. “She is very toned, but she doesn’t have any bodyparts sticking out.” In fact, I’d noticed exactly how nicely conditioned Romero’s upper-body was while posting a photo of her from the Cal that can be found a couple entries below.

I told my friend that I had expected Felicia’s win. “Okay,” came the reply. “So you knew she would win the Houston show cause you knew she (unconfirmed rumor; fill in your favorite one here).”

Astounded at my friend’s obtuseness, I shot back, “No, I knew she would win because she won the Cal looking good and there was no one in Houston who was gonna beat her.”

That Heather French would also get a top-three landing was also a safe bet if you’d seen her at the Cal, and in Heather’s case, at the Pittsburgh, I said. “The surprise was Lenay Hernandez in second. As I didn’t see her get her card at the Junior USA, I had no idea they were going to be so keen on her.”

Despite a preference for more-largely-muscled figures, my friend, who had Hernandez in first, admitted that the lineup of 25 crisp contestants in Houston was chock full of physique talent. After French came Jelena Abbou, in fourth, sporting a physique that was reportedly more balanced than in previous outings; and Paola Almerico, sixth at the Figure International, moving up to fifth.

Getting back to the original topic—the great figure dial-down of 2008: How the physiques that are qualifying for the big show now will look standing next to Jenny Lynn, Gina Aliotti et al. on the Olympia stage is another matter entirely. Both those women arguably carry more muscle than Romero, no matter how it’s conditioned, and Felicia, you’ll recall, languished in the tied-for-18th pool at the ’07 Figure O. It will be interesting to see if her midseason sweep improves her standing when the bodies hit the boards at the Las Vegas Convention Center come September 26.

Next up on the summer circuit, the Jacksonville (Florida) Pro Figure Classic on August 2.


Felicia Romero (top) doesn’t look back after her midsummer minisweep.

Heather French (left) had to move for new-kid-on-the-block Lenay Hernandez.

Photos by Bill Dobbins

Here are the complete results:

’08 IFBB Houston Pro Figure

1) Felicia Romero
2) Lenay Hernandez
3) Heather French
4) Jelena Abbou
5) Paola Almerico
6) Huong Arcinas
7. Krissy Chin
8) Bernadette Galvin
9) Natalie Benson
9) Darlina Brown
11) Jane Awad
12) Liane Seiwald
13) Amy Peters
14) Andrea Dumon
15) Petra Mertl
16) Karen Mullarkey-Barringer
17) Melissa Pearo
18) Candice John
19) Elisha Archibold
19) Susanne Bock
19) Tivisay Briceno
19) Nancy Georges
19) Celeste Gonzalez
19) Patricia Mello
19) Jessica Steffens

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