Reported March 3, 2003
New Champs for Old: Two Repeat Winners—and Two First-timers—Score Big at the Internationals
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Women’s day at the Arnold Fitness Weekend brought a slew of female physique athletes who were in the best shape of their lives to the Greater Columbus Convention Center and the Veterans Memorial Auditorium on February 28. Despite repeat wins by Susie Curry in the Fitness International and Yaxeni Oriquen in the Ms. International, the events furnished plenty of surprises, including an upset victory by Jenny Lynn in the IFBB’s first-ever pro figure contest. Here’s a breakdown of the Columbus hot bodies of 2003:
While Oriquen’s repeat domination of the Heavyweight class was a foregone conclusion the minute the ladies stepped onstage, the Lightweights gave the judges—and the fans—a bit more to ponder. The lineup included two past winners, Dayana Cadeau (’01) and Valentina Chepiga (’02), but the presence of Cathy Lefrancois-Priest and Denise Masino in their best-ever conditions, along with the awesomely auspicious pro debut of Brazilian bombshell Karina Nascimento, relegated those wonder women of the sport to lesser roles. Sporting heretofore unheard-of hard muscle and cuts on her 5’ 2" frame, Lefrancois-Priest took three of the four rounds to score a 10-point win over runner-up Masino, who earned her best score in the posedown round. Nascimento was the panel’s solid choice for third, with Cadeau and Chepiga, neither of whom was close to her best-ever condition, landing in fourth and fifth, respectively. Also relegated to also-ran positions were Fannie Barrios, sixth; Nancy Lewis, who dropped down from Heavyweight size, seventh; Angela Debatin, eighth; Mah-Ann Mendoza, ninth; and Yaz Boyum, 10th.
Interesting developments abounded in the Heavyweights as well. While Oriquen duplicated her condition of 2002 to take the class with a perfect score, Texas titan Betty Pariso roared into Columbus pumped and polished as never before to claim the runner-up slot. She finished ahead of ’00 Ms. I Lightweight winner Brenda Raganot, who put on a few pounds of mass—and a few cuts—to move up a class and land in third. A less-than-peak Vickie Gates picked up the fourth-place prize, while a big and symmetrical Heather Foster rounded out the top five. Also posing their butts off were Gayle Moher, sixth; Kim Harris, seventh; and Lisa Aukland, eighth.
The top two in each class also earned invitations to the ’03 Ms. Olympia lineup, which was great news for Pariso and Masino, as Oriquen and Lefrancois-Priest qualified at the GNC Show of Strength last November.
Can anybody beat Susie Curry? While it’s probably possible, this was not the night it was going to happen. Curry is a consistent performer and continues to do well in every round. She won the one-piece-suit comparisons, took second in the two-piece and the 45-second mandatory routines and finished third in the two-minute routines to end the evening 14 points ahead of another consistent performer, Adela Garcia-Friedmansky. Kelly Ryan, who won this contest in 2000 and was second in ’01, landed in third, a slim two points behind AGF. Ryan can thank the intensified competition in the routine rounds, particularly the two-minute free-posing performances for that. She won both of them—but with scores of seven in each, not perfect fives—and therein lies the tale.
The Fitness I is a top-three Olympia qualifier, but with Curry, Garcia-Friedmansky and Ryan already invited due to their top-five finishes in 2002, Stacy Hylton, who got props for her trim physique as well as her outstanding routines to finish fourth, will likely get the call. That left Jenny Hendershott, third last year, to round out the top five, despite her having landed only two points behind Ryan in the long routines.
The rest of the top-notch lineup included Tracey Greenwood, sixth; Anna Level, seventh; Stacy Simmons, eighth; Nicole Rollolazo, ninth; Shannon Meteraud, 10th; Lisa Reed, 11th; Laurie Vaniman, 12th; Laura Mak, 13th; and Amanda Doherty, 14th. Tanji Johnson, who’s capable of shaking things up, particularly in the performance rounds, had to drop out just days before the event due to a torn Achilles tendon.
Speaking of competitors dropping out, it appeared that the inaugural Figure International would be somewhat less interesting after four-time Ms. Olympia Kim Chizevsky withdrew, denying fans the highly anticipated match up with ’98 Fitness O champ Monica Brant. That was before the 13-woman lineup took the stage—and the judges got a look at another refuge from pro fitness, Jenny Lynn. In the eyes of the fans and many media members it was an extremely close battle; not so the judges, who awarded Lynn perfect scores in both rounds—after the high and low votes were tossed out. Third place and the third qualification for the Figure Olympia in October went to ’01 NPC National Figure Overall champ Davana Medina, with ’02 National Short-class winner Mari Kudla in fourth and ’02 National Overall champ Kristy Robbins in fifth.
Canadian newcomer Elaine Goodlad took the sixth spot, with Jaime Franklin, seventh; Sharon Christian, eighth; Lesli Russell, ninth; Patty Garner, 10th, Lena Johannesen, 11th; Adrian Chastain, 12th; and Renee Masi, 13th.
I’ll have plenty to say about the results of the Ms., Fitness and Figure International competitions in an upcoming issue of IRONMAN. In the meantime check out the Arnold Fitness Weekend photo gallery on this Web site and see how you would have called them.