Changes regarding pro qualifiers in fitness, enacted in time for the 2008 contest season, bode well for the sport of fitness. Operating under the premise that if you give a pro card, they will come, the NPC has increased the number of fitness contests awarding those elusive entries to the IFBB Professional League to three overall. Specifically, the Junior USA and Junior Nationals are now pro qualifiers in fitness as well as figure: One card to the overall winner at the Junior USA and three cards, one to each of the class winners, at the Junior Nationals.
The big fitness show at the Team Universe remains the same, with pro status going to the top two in each of the three classes, but it’s reverting back to the original name: the Fitness National Championships. (How many besides this anal-retentive reporter can recall that the Fit Nat’s originally were held at the T.U.?) As I said three fitness qualifiers, that means no fitness at the big Nationals, at season’s end, where promoter Steve Karel will be joining the figure bonanza by replacing it with—drum roll, please—the Figure Nationals.
Now, I don’t want to get sidetracked talking about the 33 opportunities NPC athletes will have to earn pro cards in figure this season. (Suffice it to say that the Team Universe will still have a big figure show too—it just won’t be called the Nationals.) We’re taking about fitness here, a subject very dear to my heart. You may point out that the organization will actually be giving out two fewer cards in fitness than previously, but I say that’s not necessarily an unfortunate development. For one thing, more opportunities to compete are more opportunities to compete. For another, it should add some quality control to keep athletes from breaking through to the next level until the moment is right.
Given the competitor numbers at fitness pro qualifiers the past few years, it wasn’t difficult to see that some kind of change was coming. The influx of new talent we saw at the Team U and the Nationals this year has given fans hope that this best-of-both-worlds sport (you can be a beauty queen and knock ‘em dead with your act) will continue to attract quality competitors. The next word has to come from the athletes. Promoters Tres Bennett (Junior USA; www.NPCJrUSA.com), Pam Betz (Junior Nationals; www.NPCJrNationals.com) and Steve Weinberger (Fitness Nationals, www.BevFrancis.com) are providing the venues—in Charlotte, South Carolina; Chicago and New York. Now is the time for all good women who’ve been thinking about getting into fitness, or getting back into fitness, or coming over to compete in NPC fitness, to support their efforts.
Find the complete ’08 national schedule at www.NPCNewsOnline.com.
That brings up an interesting tidbit I heard when I ran into four-time Ms. Olympia Kim Chizevsky at the Nationals last fall. We were discussing the All Star Pro Fitness, which Chizevsky and hubby Chad Nicholls have promoted for the past two years in Little Rock in conjunction with their amateur NPC Arkansas Championships and which they decided to skip this year. It came down to not getting enough support from the athletes, explained Kim, who was strolling the lobby outside the Fairmont Hotel ballroom in Dallas with 15-month-old Morgan James, brother to two-year-old Dominic, in tow. They’d chosen a date that was two weeks after the Europa Super Show last year thinking that women who were competing at the big weekend in Dallas would come on over and do the All-Star as well. But, she pointed out, “We got 14 athletes, when there were 26 at the Super Show.”
Though their NPC contest does well, attracting good competitor numbers for a small state like Arkansas, “You don’t make sponsorship money on the pro show,” said Kim, who noted that she and Chad had been promoting amateur competitions since 1992. They “had planned to grow the pro contest to include all the women’s sports,” she concluded, “but with 13 girls competing the first year, 14 the second year was not enough growth.”
As I ogled the baby (what a cutie! I swear he was flirting with me with those big, beautiful eyes) and we talked of other things, I couldn’t help wondering what was up with the ladies not flocking to Little Rock. With a dozen new pros per year coming from the NPC alone—prior to the changes discussed above—and only six open qualifiers on the ’07 schedule, you’d think they’d have cartwheeled at the chance to get noticed at a lesser known contest that was not overloaded with big names and that, incidentally, was offering a larger total purse than the Europa—eight grand vs. six.
Though the Houston Pro Fitness in early July has risen to take the All Star’s place on the ’08 IFBB schedule, there will still be one fewer opportunity for fitness pros to compete this season—the Santa Susanna event, which attracted only six contestants in ’07, is also a no-show so far. It could be worse, but make no mistake. As with the amateur end of things, it’s now up to the athletes to make the most of 2008 and get onstage.
Find the complete Professional League schedule at www.IFBBProfessionalLeague.com.
Photos (from top):
Kristina Rojas, ’07 Fit Nat’s class winner, brings new blood to the pros.
Violet Mundy impressed a lot of folks with her debut at the ’07 Nationals.
Kim Chizevsky and Morgan James Nicholls.