I must be getting soft, but my reaction to the overall winners of the NPC Team Universe Figure and Bikini Championships, crowned last Saturday, July 10, in Hackensack, New Jersey. was, “Adorable.” Of course, there are many wonderful words that could be used to describe figure champ Jackie Hoppe and bikini topper Nicole Nagrani, but in a weekend in which I duly and truly came to understand why Nicole Wilkins-Lee is the top pro figure competitor in the world (a conversation for another entry), it was good to see the NPC crown a couple of cute-as-a-button contenders at this pro-card-bonanza competition.
Pro cards are awarded to the top two in each class in figure and bikini at the T.U. Figure and Bikini Championships, in addition to two per at the accompanying National Fitness Championships. There’s also a pro card for the overall winner of the masters figure division, so you can see why this show is a magnet for babes of all ages. As the numbers show, however, despite bikini’s growing popularity, it won’t be overtaking figure anytime soon: 162 in the figure lineup, plus 69 in the masters, some of whom were crossovers, vs. 77 in the bikini field.
Jackie Hoppe was deemed the best of 37 in the figure C-class before snatching the overall from Tiana Gonzalez (A-class), Teresita Morales (B), Charmayne Jackson (D), Mona Muresan (E) and Michelle Battista (F). Pro cards also went to runners-up Shala Singer (A), Kiana Phi (B), Joanne Murphy (C) Mikaila Soto (D), Patricia Nguyen (E) and Kristen Nagrani (F). The latter, by the way—and in case the name sounds familiar—is the mother of bikini champ Nicole Nagrani, mentioned above, which makes them the first mother-daughter duo ever to turn pro on the same day in the NPC. (Although for my money it’s hard to top Lee Priest’s winning the Australian national mixed-pairs-bodybuilding title with his mum back when he was a teen.)
As so often happens in pro-qualifiers that include masters events, crossover competitors earned pro-qualifying spots in both divisions. Thanks to changes in NPC procedure, the nonmasters winners were announced first, and those who got their pro cards were taken out of the running for the over-35 pro card. That led to a couple of ladies moving up to the head of their classes, including masters C-class runner-up (to Soto) Elizabeth Earhart, who ended up winning the masters overall and getting a card.
At the other end of the spectrum was Nagrani the younger, an 18-year-old former cheerleader and fitness competitor who’s got a great look and, I’m guessing, displayed some smooth moves in winning the bikini B-class and overall. Pro cards also went to: Natalie Abrheim and Kelly Gonzalez (A-class, first and second), Lindsey Morrison (B-class, second), Vanessa Campbell and Bianca Binno (C), Juliana Daniell and Nicole Guerrero (D), Juliette Primak and Chady Dunmore (E) and Jenny Drennan and Kristal Martin