The folks who send out the invites to the Fitness International competition played it very safe this year, populating the lineup mostly with ladies who’ve trod the boards at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio, before. Only one rookie will be making her pro debut there; only three more who have not previously competed in the Arnold Sports Festival’s prophysique competitions made the cut.
Don’t assume, however, that it will be business as usual when the gals get together on March 6. For one thing, two key players will not be present: Former International and Olympia winner Adela Garcia, who missed a season due to a torn ACL, is doing the figure show; and Kim Scheidler (formerly Klein), the two-time defending champ, has retired from competition (one hopes not permanently). Not to suggest that the key players who will be onstage are any lesser lights—just that removing one key can change the way the numbers fall on the score sheets, and Adela and Kim are both potential winners in the body rounds.
On paper the lineup taps out like this. Routine queen Jen Hendershott, second for the past two years and also the ’08 Fitness Olympia champ, is the obvious favorite, not to mention a fan favorite in her old hometown of Columbus. Having figured out how to get in her figure consistently into the best possible shape every time, Jenhen has only to do it again and come up with killer performances in the routine rounds and the biggest slice of the $55,500 Fitness I pie is hers. Sounds so easy. Picture me chuckling.
Tracey Greenwood, who barrelled past a not-in-her-best-shape Scheidler to take second at the O, is a good bet to repeat that at the International, with callouts queen Julie Palmer as the girl most likely to take third (for the second year in a row) or to beat out Tracey for second.
Tanji Johnson, fifth at the Olympia and completely healed from the war wound incurred during her stint on “American Gladiators,” has the best chance of preventing the scenario described above from happening. Regiane Da Silva, sixth at both of the big shows in 2008, is poised to move up as well.
All that said, if ever there was a show where the situation was ripe for someone to move up, this is it. Any number of the returning players—and newbies in the lineup are capable of moving into an Olympia-qualifying top-six slot. That’s why it’s so much fun on this level: They’re all so fabulous, it’s a great time no matter who wins.
For the record, the returning athletes, other than those previously mentioned, are, in alphabetical order, Tina Durkin, Heidi Fletcher-Sullivan, Bethany Gainey, Oksana Grishina, Shannon Meteraud and Mindi O’Brien. Those making their first appearances at the Fitness International include Nicole Duncan, Erin Riley and Trish Warren, along Jessica Clay, a class winner at the ’08 NPC Fitness Nationals, who was the only rookie tapped, and Nicole Wilkins-Lee, who competed in the Figure International in 2008.