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No Damper in Tampa

841rb0680Always catching up here in the IM Hollywood office. Though the Pro Bodybuilding Weekly—a.k.a. Tampa Pro—Women’s Bodybuilding Championship was the female-physique excitement of a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t let the event pass without a comment or two.

The headline is that veteran flexer Betty Pariso, at 53, scored a solid victory, It was also her first solo win on the pro level, although she did take first in the heavyweights at the ’01 Jan Tana Classic, with no overall awarded.  As I didn’t find that result all that surprising, the big story for me was  ’08 Masters National champ Gale Frankie’s taking second and nailing an Olympia invite in her pro debut. Also that ’07 National Middleweight winner Tina Chandler landed in the number-three spot to qualify in her second pro show.

Spots in the winner’s circle also went to Nicole Ball, in fourth, and Klaudia Larson, fifth—the first- and second-placers at this show last year.

Angela Salvagno
, who’d won the ’09 USA Overall title two weeks earlier, jumped right into the pros to finish a respectable sixth in this lineup of 15 flexers who heeded promoter Tim Gardner’s call to the Florida event. Myriam Bustamante, Bev DiRenzo, Carmen Knights and Irene Anderson, in order, rounded out the top 10.

Now for the commentary. I heard two types of rumblings after this show. The first topic of concern, that after all the drama of saving the PBW Tampa Pro Women’s event for 2009,  only 15 women had showed up to compete, seemed a little forced. Yeah, the lineup could have been a little bigger, but 15’s a respectable number. Not to make too much of the comparison, but the pro-fitness lineups are mostly running around 15 athletes these days, and no one’s crying about the fact that the new fitness pros aren’t jumping right into competition.

783rb1205It’s too bad the ladies didn’t have a double-dollop of shows to shoot for this summer, as they did last year, but the Europa Super Show, ironically, promoted by Betty and Ed Pariso, dropped women’s bodybuilding from it pro-show program for 2009.

Which brings me to the second topic of postcontest rumblings: That the judges had awarded mass over aesthetics and that last year’s winners, generally acknowledged to be more aesthetic types, had been overlooked (dare I say screwed?)—which set off another round of the symmetry girls and the old-style-muscle mamas going at it online.

As my brother likes to say, What’s your point? Not that I’m agreeing with the above assessment of the placings. From the photos I’ve seen, I can appreciate the way the scores tapped out.

Yeah, Betty is an OSMM of the highest order, but she is also a top-six Olympia vet. If she brings it to Tampa—in the absence of anyone who can beat her in the Olympia or International lineups—she likely wins.

And bring it she did. Good for Betty, who displayed enough bodypart flow onstage stage along with her patented mass to get the nod. And good for Gale Frankie, a standout flexer whose beautiful muscle first caught my eye when she finished fourth in the heavyweights at the ’06 Nationals.

797rb0482In choosing Chandler for the third qualifying spot, the judges showed that they weren’t ignoring aesthetics, just calling it as they saw it. (The scores weren’t close—an eight-point gap between Chandler and Ball was the closest, indicating that Nicole did have some fans on the panel.)

To those who bemoan the fact that the old-style-muscle mamas still rule at the top of the sport, remember that it’s not just any hunk of extralarge female muscle who can make it to the upper echelons. Balance, symmetry and flow—in addition to extraordinary muscle—are what mark the physiques of the Olympia top six: in 2008, in case you’ve forgotten, that was Iris Kyle, Betty Viana-Atkins, Yaxeni Oriquen, Lisa Aukland, Dayana Cadeau and Cathy LeFrancois (Betty was seventh).

How the sport evolves is anyone’s guess. Keep an eye on the ratio of OSMMs to symmetry girls being elevated to the pros, and you might start thinking of what could happen in a perfect world. (Hint: the judges at the USA chose symmetrical sensation Akila Pervis, the middleweight winner, to get the second pro card over heavyweight champ Holly Geerson.)

In Tampa, as at the USA, however, the judges’ usual adage applied: They could only judge the physiques in front of them, and that goes for figure and bikini, by the way.  I guess if there was ever a show for which the afterbuzz wasn’t about how the judges got it wrong, it wouldn’t be women’s bodybuilding.

Find the complete score sheet for the ’08 Pro Bodybuilding Weekly/Tampa Pro Women’s Bodybuilding Championship at

Photos (from top): Betty Pariso, Gale Frankie and Tina Chandler.

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