Introducing a new feature here at the Pump & Circumstance blog—20 questions with an athlete I’d like to get to know better. First up is Canadian figure pro Natalie Waples, a symmetrical lass I first met a couple of years ago at the Cal Pro Figure and have watched, mostly from afar, as she’s worked her way up from the bottom of the lineup to just knocking on the door of top placings. Will she make it to the next run on the ladder? As evidenced in the following conversation, she’s certainly got the motivation:
• Before we even get to the basics, straighten me out on the correct pronunciation of your last name. Does it rhyme with maple?
Yes it does! Waples like maples, staples and Naples :-)
• Now the stats—your age, height and weight?
32, 5’7, 130 off season and 120 on season
• Hometown and current residence?
Hometown: Espanola, Ontario, Canada
Current Residence: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
• How did you get from there to here (where you live now)?
Home of the mountains, the Vancouver Canucks and the Olympics.. How could I not live here?!
• What’s your day job?
I work as a Senior Human Resources Officer for the Canadian government, and I also train clients on a part-time basis for competition preparation—bikini and figure.
• What’s your athletic background?
I played basketball, baseball, volleyball and track and field in school and was also in figure skating. When I hit university, I played volleyball and joined the varsity cheerleading squad, which is also when I started weight training, as it was part of our team’s workout program.
• What or who got you into figure competition?
Mindi O’Brien (fellow Canadian and an IFBB fitness pro) was a judge at a fitness modeling competition I entered in Toronto, Canada, and told me after the show I should try figure. I’ve never looked back!
• Your first contest: What was it and what was it like?
My first contest was the Western Ontario Figure Championships in 2006. I placed 1st in the tall class and then took the same title two weeks later at the Eastern Ontario Championships. I had no idea what I was doing, but the girls were great, and winning really fueled my competitive fire for the sport.
• Where did you turn pro and how long did it take you?
I turned pro at the 2008 North American Figure Championships. As most people in the industry know, turning pro in Canada is extremely difficult, as there are only a few pro cards given out a year (even fewer back in ’08), so after placing fourth at the 2007 NACs, I went back and took top spot in my class and was then one of two pro card winners amongst the six height classes (Georginia Lona got the second). It took me just under two years to turn pro.
• What has been your best competition so far, and why?
My best competition to date was definitely the 2011 California Pro. I had been working with my coach, Tad Inoue, for five months, and in that time had been able to streamline my physique, get my conditioning on par and finally place top three and earn an Olympia qualification—the first Canadian in three years for figure! It was a great show. And being referred to as “the leggy Canadian” by you was also quite flattering.
• My pleasure. But what about the opposite: your biggest disaster?
I wouldn’t name any particular show as a disaster per se, more of a learn as you go. Prior to working with Tad, I always battled with conditioning but have been able to improve upon that a lot, and in turn have placed top five twice this year.
• What did it mean for you to get that Olympia qualification (finishing third at the Cal) and compete in Vegas this past year?
I have to be honest in that when I qualified for the Olympia at the Cal Pro this year, I almost cried. The closest I had come to a top spot prior to that was seventh at the 2010 Border States, so qualifying for the Figure Olympia was a dream come true for me. Competing in Vegas, in front of 8,000 people, was an unbelievable experience and one I will never forget. My friends made “Go Waples Go” T-shirts with the Maple Leaf on them to wear at the prejudging… So amazing!
• Any comment on your placing there?
I have no complaints about my placing at the Olympia. It features the best in the IFBB for that year, and I was one of 29 girls on that stage, so I am so honored to have been up there. Plus the pictures are priceless.
• Regarding placings, over the past year you have moved solidly into the top 10, if not the top five. What happened at the Houston Pro on October 15?
At the Houston Pro the show was running late, and so the judges did not do comparisons and went straight to callouts after modeling presentations. I was not called out at all and was told afterwards that it was an error, in that my number was supposed to be called during the second callout, but they literally missed it—human error. Unfortunately they did not rescore us at the night show, and so I was left with a NP; i.e., 16th versus a top 10 spot. It was a disappointing experience; however these things happen, and I just had to move on and focus on the next show.
• Two weeks later at the Border States you were back in fourth, which is where you ended the season—getting closer but still right on the cusp of being a top-tier athlete. What’s it feel like to be right there right now?
Being right on the cusp of an Olympia qualification at the 2011 Border States was bittersweet, but I was also in a great group of athletes and was extremely happy with a top five placing. The promoter and my coach also surprised me with birthday cupcakes onstage right after the top-five medal ceremony, so all in all I was really happy.
• What do you do next in terms of improving your physique?
Tad and I are confident that we will be able to get my physique where it needs to be to compete for a top spot this year. I am going to focus on back and delt development in the off-season and make sure to give myself adequate recovery so that my muscle can grow, instead of doing too much cardio (which I have been guilty of).
• What’s your contest strategy for 2012? Will the new, more stringent Olympia-qualification rules affect your choices?
My strategy for 2012 is twofold in that I do plan on submitting an application for the Arnold [Figure International], which if accepted, will change my off-season duration and gains, but would be an amazing opportunity. Otherwise I will be focusing on doing a few shows back to back in the early summer and really focus on conditioning, poise and presentation. I love to compete and will do so despite the new Olympia-qualifying rules. Yes it makes it more difficult, but that just means I have to work harder!
• The International is a tough show—strictly invitational with limited spaces in the lineup. Twenty-eight competitors besides the gal who won made it to the Olympia in 2011. Why should Jim Lorimer pick you?
The Figure International is just that, an international event, and there hasn’t been a Canadian in the it for three years—I want to break that streak! I believe that with my placings this year (third at the Cal Pro, my showing at the Olympia, fourth at Border States), combined with magazine features (publications like Oxygen, MF Hers, FLEX and Inside Fitness Magazine), as well as promotional work for my sponsors Nutrabolics and SunLove Athletics, I have been a very visible Canadian in the industry and try to be a good representative of the sport. It would be an honor to be selected to compete at the 2012 Figure International.
• You make a big deal out of your Canadian-ness. I found at least two blogs where you write “Canuck” news and feature Canadian athletes. Patriotism or a way to make yourself stand out?
I am very proud to be Canadian, especially in a sea of American competitors, so it is in no way a “gimmick.” I started the “Canuck Corner” for RX Girls because I wanted to showcase Canadian athletes and events, as well as some of the little things that make us different, such as our use of the metric system, saying “Eh” and spelling words like *tonne the British way—and no, not taking canoes to work or living in igloos. Those are primarily false ;-)!
• What do you want for Christmas?
For the holidays I would like an Arnold invite (and may just do a happy dance if my name appears on that particular list). I have had a great year and am looking forward to spending time with family and friends.
• Besides that?
Besides that I just want a happy, healthy 2012. Cheesy but true!
Okay, that was 21 questions if you were counting. Find Natalie’s Web site at www.nataliewaplesfitness.com.
Photo: Natalie at the ’11 Figure Olympia—”a dream come true.”