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Roving Reporter at the USA

Okay, I lied. I said I would blog from the Team Universe a couple of weeks ago, but every time I had the opportunity, it was a choice of writing or catching a few z’s, and the z’s kept winning. Now we’re at the USA, and I’ve only got two contests to keep an eye on (women’s bodybuilding and figure) vs. five at the T.U., so there’s no excuse.

As always, this is a huge event, but with more than 400 competitors, promoter Jon Lindsay is going for some kind of record. This morning was the women’s bodybuilding judging and the second round of figure judging, and for the first time ever I tried my hand at shooting competition photos. My colleagues in the press pit who are real photographers and have been doing this for a long time were very nice and only razzed me a little. Anyone who thinks those guys have an easy job should try holding a camera for a couple of hours in front of a parade of large, flexing humans.

I only shot the bodybuilders. With 187 figure contestants I wasn’t sure I was in shape for that long a siege, but I had my hands full trying to capture the 54 female flexers who hit the stage at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, this morning. By the time we got to the light heavyweights, I’d figured out how to avoid cutting off their heads more or less. (That’s not as bad as it sounds; the light- and middleweights were smaller classes.) Still, it’s not likely you’ll be seeing my competition shots in the gallery anytime soon.

My video reports, however, will be up after the finals tonight. Look for Melinda Williamson, Tricia Travis, Galina Serdtsev and Bethy Wachter to be among the top placers; and in the middleweights my money’s on Diana Tinnelle, who switched from figure to bodybuilding after last season and won the Los Angeles Championships a week ago, to take the top trophy.

The light heavyweights could be the toughest battle of the contest, with last year’s winner Angie Salvagno, a slimmed-down-to-light-heavy Bev DiRenzo, Christine Szabo and Star Blaylock among the top contenders. The heavyweights—the largest class at 20—featured notable performances from Candy Canary, Sheila Bleck, Julia Stamper and Michelle Neil. Talk in the press pie was that Bleck, a popular athlete with a superb posing style could pull it off. I will wait and be pleasantly surprised if that happens.

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