Yesiree, the Swami is back! Not only did Evan Centopani take the Supers in Dallas, Texas, the Italian Battalion won the Overall as well. And, so did Kristy Hawkins in women’s bodybuilding, as predicted in my News and Views column several months ago! And, don’t forget the correct call on Jay Cutler defending his Mr. Olympia crown back in September.
Whew–was getting worried there for a while. As people (with delight) have been pointing out of late, I’ve been in a bit of a slump. Why does everybody notice when my selections are off base, but nary a word when the crystal ball is right on?
That’s why I’m here to remind everyone the Swami hat stays with me, and will not be passed on to either Ron (Yogi) Avidan, who has been begging for the crown since the Arnold Classic, or Isaac (Bull Market) Hinds, who was hotter than a Saturday night special in some shows, colder than the latest snowstorm in his Denver, Colorado hometown in others.
And, I did it under the most severe conditions. Moments after the contest began, my right contact lens–used for reading no less–popped out of my eyeball. Cool, calm and collected, I told the crowd what happened, then inserted it right back in. I spent the next three hours hoping the darn thing didn’t bolt from my cornea during the remainder of the event; my wish was granted.
The 25th Anniversary of the Nationals marked the 15th year in a row I’ve been at the podium for this event. Wait a minute–was it really 1993 when I made my Nationals debut, and announced Mike Francois (“He wanted to be a Priest, now he’s a beast”) as the Overall winner?
Centopani, only 25, seems like a nice kid. From Trunbull, Conneticutt, the 5’11”, 250-pounder reminds me a lot of Mike Matarazzo in physique, with the huge calves and guns (speaking of Mike, best wishes for a speedy recovery from the recent pace maker insert, which followed Matarazzo’s triple bypass operation a few years back). A fresh, young face with a great future moves on to the pros.
My pick from a year ago, A.D. Cherry, finally made me look like I know what I’m talking about with his win in the Heavyweight class. Cherry is an enigma; he was “off” at both the USA and North American this year, but somehow, after being forced to diet for over six months, nails it in Texas. Love the man’s physique, with that tiny waist and all. A.D., at 5’10” and 235 with great lines, can be a great pro if he can nail his conditioning.
Charles (Mason) Dixon, crushed after his controversial loss to Stan McQuay, was a very happy man this time around as he bested Peter Putnam, coming off a class win at the USA, in the Lightheavyweight division. Dixon is one thick dude at 5’3″ and 195 pounds.
Jose Raymond has been spectacular in his long NPC career but was never better than he was at the Nationals as he swept the Middleweight class. All the way with Jose. Wins the USA and Nationals in the same year, the Overall at the Team Universe in 1986….shoot, there are way too many titles for me to list.
Kudos also to Welterweight champ Carlo (the Muscle Chef) Fillipone, Lightweight winner Leonardo Ortiz and Bantamweight titlist Dave (Sugar) Candy.
A very special moment came after Hawkins was handed the women’s Overall crown; after head expediter Steve Stone rounded up all former NPC men’s Overall winners in the house, we brought them out on stage, along with NPC Prez Jim Manion, to join Kristy in a photo op.
The fella who started it all back in 1982, Lee Haney, was joined by Shawn Ray (1987), John Sherman (1992), Don Long (1995), Victor Martinez (2000) and Bill Wilmore (2005). Gary Strydom (1986) was at the show, but we couldn’t locate the 48-year-old wonder so he missed out on the photo opportunity.
By the way, Yogi and I did NOT do any video interviews in the men’s bathroom at this event, just in case you’re wondering.