Sometimes it seems as if the bodybuilding season never sleeps. Oh, sure, there are a few weeks from mid-December into the new year when there are no shows, but the rest of the time it’s tough to find a weekend when champions aren’t being crowned in the IFBB-pro universe. There are so many shows, in fact, that a humble column like this can only hope to highlight a few of the standouts.
With the women’s physique season in full swing, the number-one attention getter has been West Coast weapon Sabrina Taylor, who earned a pair of victories at the Los Angeles Grand Prix on April 12 and the Emerald Cup on the 26th. Add to that her win at the post-Olympia Titans Grand Prix last fall, and Sabrina is three for three in the 2014 season so far—a record that could stand.
Granted, many of the heavy hitters who beat Taylor at the first Olympia Women’s Physique Challenge last season have yet to make an appearance in 2014 as of this writing. With 16 qualifiers I guess they can afford to. Still, I’d be willing to bet that few athletes in any of the sports will win three shows this year.
I’m so enjoying the way the WPD has brought back the art of posing, specifically women with muscle movin’ and groovin’—-not to mention flexin’—onstage, and the steady drip of fitness athletes trying out physique has made things even more entertaining. Consider the L.A. show, where the top two placers, Taylor and runner-up Venus Nguyen, both came from fitness. Both put on splendid performances–—the artistic Venus outdid herself—but the best show of all may have been third-placer Roxie Beckles’ energetic rendition of “He had it comin’,” from the musical Chicago.
Roxie may have a leg up on the other gals. She studied dance at the schools of the Joffrey Ballet and the Dance Theatre of Harlem and earned a BFA in the discipline from Fordham University. When asked about the routine, she modestly said, “I just like to entertain.”
The wow factor was kicked up another notch two weeks later in Seattle, where fitness diva (and homegirl) Tanji Johnson joined the above-mentioned gals at the Emerald Cup. Beckles moved up to second at that one; Tanji got fourth for her efforts; and the third-place Olympia-qualification points went to Erica Blockman, last year’s Junior National champ.
More Early Spring
Other names that will be on the various Olympia-invite lists will include the champs from these March and April contests.
• March 29 brought an East Coast-West Coast double dip. At the Battle on the Beach in Datona Beach, Florida, ’13 NPC National champ Janet Leyug, my choice for most promising newcomer, picked up a big win. Across the country in Sacramento, the topic at the Governor’s Cup was figure, and the nod went to Jessica Graham, a ’13 USA class winner who topped a lineup of 28 in her pro debut.
• April 12 was a triple threat. In addition to the L.A. Grand Prix, the IFBB also offered women’s physique competition at the Europa Show of Champions in Orlando, Florida. The scores were all over the place for that one, as the saying goes—except the unanimous vote for lean-and-muscular Frances Mendez in first. Joele Smith edged out Leonie Rose for second in a tie-breaker, with Danielle Reardon just a couple of points behind in fourth. Tough show.
At the Show of Champs Bikini, top honors went to Sarah LeBlanc, a saucy lass who had come into her own a month earlier, when she scored her first pose-for-pay victory at the St. Louis Pro.
Last but not least on that date was the Shredderbuilt Pro Bikini, promoted by longtime IRON MAN contributor Dave Goodin in Austin, Texas. Sandi Forsythe put it all together for the win—her best performance since earning her pro card two years ago at the USA.
• The Emerald Cup on April 26 brought figure as well as the aforementioned WPD battle to the pro schedule. Twenty-three quarter-turners hit the stage, with last-minute-entry Dana Ambrose—always a threat for a top spot—walking off with her second pro win.
Kudos to promoters Brad and Elaine Craig, who tried pro fitness in 2005, for taking another stab at adding pro competition to their signature NPC weekend.
And Then There Was the Arnold
Big as the Emerald Cup is, it almost seemed to be lost in the media rush to be all over the Arnold Brasil, an event so big, it has us spelling Brazil with an S. I’ve got to admit, I’m enjoying watching JIm and Bob Lorimer, and of course Governor Schwarzenegger, expanding their brand around the globe—Ohio, Madrid, Rio. When you’ve got a winning combination, flaunt it, eh, gentlemen?
Fitness was the pro bill of fare for the ladies, and the show was doubly important because it’s the second of only four Olympia qualifiers before the big show in September. I’d have bet money on Regiane Da Silva for the win. She was fresh off her best-ever performance at the Fitness International on February 28, when she took second, and considering that the German resident is originally from San Paulo, Brazil, she had the homegirl advantage. So it seemed like a safe wager. Good thing I didn’t, as the panel overwhelmingly favored Bethany Cisternino, from her long X-frame physique to her energetic performance in the routines, granting her a sweeping victory. Da Silva, in second, was the only player who came close to her on the score sheet, and that was a 29-point spread.
Even so, Regiane is a good bet to make it to the Olympia stage this year. With only two shows to go, she’s lengths ahead in the point-count derby.