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T.U. Women—Quinn Is In

It must be a little galling to newly crowned Team Universe Women’s Bodybuilding champ Gina Quinn that everybody’s talking about Haley McNeff, the 21-year-old heavyweight she beat for the overall title (along with middleweight winner Joy Henderson) last Saturday night in Hackensack, New Jersey, but it can’t be helped. It’s difficult to recall the last time such a dynamite combination of looks and structure as Haley has to offer blazed into the women’s bodybuilding firmament. That said, the overall crown, along with the right to a pro card, went to the best bodybuilder in the overall posedown, and that was Gina.

A mother of four who started bodybuilding at age 40, Quinn took second in the lightweight class in 2007 and third last year. She beat out a tough field of eight, including runner-up Laurie Smith, and last year’s class champ, Maria Carolina Davis, who had to settle for third,

McNeff, who’s in her first year of national competition, reeked potential from the minute she got onstage but was not exactly crisp in her presentation, as we like to say. When the judges awarded her the heavyweight title over gals who were clearly in better condition, it caused quite a stir—but can you blame them if they thought she was the best package to represent the United States at the Women’s World Amateur Championships in Mexico this fall (if, in fact, they think that way?)? A lot of training can happen between now and September 30, when the games begin.

Heavyweight runner-up Alisa Allen showed excellent potential as well, and third-placer Karen Gatto brought a nicely conditioned package.

Henderson, who was the only middleweight, displayed a super set of biceps but was no match for Gina in the battle for the overall. As there are only two weight classes at the World’s, we’ll have to see how the U.S. team shapes up.

It’s a dayum shame in general that more women don’t want to enter these trials for the World Amateur Championships. Yeah, I know they’re drug-tested (I covered the show for a lot of years), but I’m willing to bet that numerous athletes who could have been very competitive here will turn up later this month at the USA, if not the Masters Nationals.

So what is it about the T.U. that keeps many likely contenders from entering it? The class winners get to compete abroad—and it’s a pro qualifier. The move from New York to a less expensive New Jersey location didn’t seem to boost the numbers in the women’s division—there are 18 competitors listed in the final results. Since anecdotal evidence suggests that women’s bodybuilding is anything but dead, I have to wonder what’s up with that.

One of the main reasons that I haven’t been to the Team Universe/Fitness Nationals/New York Pro Figure in a couple of years is the shrinking bodybuilding lineups—men’s and women’s. It’s become a marathon weekend for figure and bikini, plus fitness, not a bad thing, but our reason for covering the T. U. was always to highlight the drug-tested bodybuilding nationals. When the travel budget got cut, well, you can finish that sentence.

So my hat is off to all the female flexers who have the body and the guts to enter the Team Universe. Here’s hoping there will be more next year, ’cause I love covering this show—even if it means going to New Jersey.

Photos (from top):

Gina Quinn got the big trophy, plus pro status.

Haley McNeff got the award for best potential.

Joy Henderson got the no-guts-no-glory award.

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