Thursday, 21 September 2017

FMS@RP2017: IFBB Arizona Pro

Lest we forget amid all our excitement over the Rising Phoenix, the IFBB Arizona Pro is a uniquely all-division all-female show, and the women who came out to compete in Bikini, Fitness, Figure and Physique (all well-aware they were playing second fiddle to the FBBs, and some of whom would be going on to compete at the Olympia the following weekend) deserve credit for choosing to do so at this particular show.

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Despite doing what looks suspiciously like a bicep flex, Jennifer Ronzitti took home the big Bikini sword, while in Fitness Ryall Graber (sadly no routine pics I can find) added this title to the one she took in Chicago earlier in the season. Both are now already pre-qualified for the 2018 Olympia. Winning this competition was a great honor for me, gushed our Fitness champ afterwards. A dynamite weekend!

FIGURE

As always, the Figure class contained plenty of muscular treats, Slovak beauties Adela Onrejovicova and Lucia Kosecka among them. Adela (top left), a two-time Olympian now, finished 4th, while Lucia (top right), 7th on her pro debut after winning the IFBB Worlds this year, did plenty of not-so-surreptitious tricep flexing. Nice.

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After winning her class at the Jr. Nationals last year, glamorous "Muscle Goddess" (she says, and she's right) Devoné Martin (bottom left) has been busy collecting top 3 finishes in her first pro season, although she could only manage 12th here. In contrast, Beckie Boddie (appropriate name or what?!) has been a pro since 2013, but her 6th here was one of her best ever placings. Swell digs the definition all over that Boddie.

Superstar!

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Once again, the Arizona Pro attracted one of the Figure phenoms FMS has dubbed "The Freaky 3". Last year Candice Lewis-Carter took home the title, this year it was the turn of the gorgeous Cydney Gillon. It was beautiful to be a part of my first ALL WOMAN pro show! she said afterwards. So much camaraderie, muscle, and grace!

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Big week for Cydney, it turns out. Turning 25, winning her fifth pro title here and... well, let's just say that the following week things got even better and wait for our Olympia review next week to fill in all the details of just how much better.

PHYSIQUE

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Just as the Rising Phoenix was a battle between two women, so the Arizona Pro Physique title was hotly contested by two of the divisions top bodies in 2017.

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In her first Physique year after a few in Figure which included two Olympias, Jennifer Taylor already had wins in San Antonio and Tampa to her name. She was, however, conscious that Arizona would be her biggest challenge yet. I knew this show was going to be exciting because the competition was getting tighter heading into the Olympia, she said. I was ecstatic to be in the mix with these incredible ladies.

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Ultimately, Jennifer had to settle for 2nd, with the (as we noted recently on FMS) hulkier-than-you-think Heather Grace taking her second pro title of the year. Heather never does less than all she can to make sure the judges get an eyeful of her devastating rear, and it was no different here, the first pose of her presentation presenting her gluteal assets in some style. Like Cydney, our Figure winner, Heather was at pains to praise this unique event afterwards. The Rising Phoenix Show is special in that it showcases the Female Bodybuilding World Championship and celebrates the female divisions of the sport, she said. The energy is incredible from the sheer number of dynamic women, and there is never a shortage of iconic athletes to inspire and provide a dose of historical perspective. Her personal favourite "iconic athllete"? With that back and that bum who do you think? It's Lenda Murray, of course!

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Elsewhere in a packed (and jacked) Physique field of 21 women, FMS swooned to the how-have-I-never-heard-of-her-before charms of Karin Hobbs (3rd) - it's beause she's not competed in nearly three years, at least that's my excuse anyway - and the thoroughbred frame of Candrea Judd-Adams, who placed 4th. One of the most notable things about the Physique class here was the copious beautiful bicep peaks on offer, and of those, the ones belonging to the evergreen Jodi Miller and the hot and hard Olga Belyakova were probably the peakiest, most swoonworthy of all.

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Heather and Jennifer took the top two places in the Masters Physique class as well. And there was a Masters Bikini class (won by Iveth Carreon, 8th in the Open class) and a Masters Figure class (the very tight Karen Noorlun, 10th in the Open) too.

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Excluding the Rising Phoenix itself, that makes a grand total of seven different all-female classes, with, by my reckoning, eighty-five more or less muscular female physiques for the audience to get excited about. And that makes for quite a show.

Back to the main event tomorrow!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

FMS@RP2017: Evergreen

Age cannot wither her...

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Yaxeni, Ms International (left) and Ms Olympia 2005

She made her Olympia debut in 1998. It beggars belief that she finished tenth then, and the following year. By the end of 2003 though, she had two consecutive Ms International and two other pro titles to her name, but that, and two more pro wins in 2004, was just the prelude to the remarkable 2005 she had - Ms International for a third time and her one and only Olympia triumph, the last non-American to hold the title. She added two more Ms International wins to her CV before that, and subsequently the Olympia disappeared. She could have retired any number of times and it would have felt like she was bowing out at the top of her game, but no, she kept going. Iris sneered at the new Wings of Strength-led regime in 2015, but Yaxeni turned up at the inaugural Rising Phoenix despite having been beset with injury problems, and claimed 4th place. Then, last year, as she turned 50, she competed more often than she had done any time since 2010 - two shows (and a win at the Lenda Murray/Norfolk Pro) before taking up her pre-qualified place at the Rising Phoenix, placing 5th.

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Norfolk Pro 2016

Would she call it a day now? 50 years old and nothing left to prove, guaranteed to be remembered as one of the very greatest competitive Female Bodybuilders ever. No, she probably hadn't even thought about retirement. Yaxeni was back on stage again, more than a quarter of a century since she first put on a posing suit and flexed her (probably slightly less mighty than now) muscles. And, for the first time since the 2012 Olympia, she was flexing those muscles to a place in the top 3. What a legend!

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And once again she was in her trusty black posing suit. I still don't know how it has withstood being stretched to its limit by all that beautiful beef, year after year!

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It's the vibe, she says of the show, the energy! We all want to be there. On the live feed she came out and for me was as exciting to watch as ever. Seriously big, seriously ripped, and seriously sexy at the age of 51, and still a serious contender for the title. She'll be 52 this time next year. I doubt I'll be writing about how much I missed her at the 2018 Rising Phoenix. More likely I'll be writing about how she made the first callout once again. And how her black posing suit continues to defy the odds.

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¡Viva Yaxeni!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

FMS@RP2017: The Comeback

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After the Omaha Pro and the resulting fallout (see FMS passim), and the threat we'd never see her on stage again. After the Facebook slanging match with her "iron sisters" (see also FMS passim), Aleesha Young's retirement came to a thankfully premature end right here. And didn't she do well - Top 6 plus the "Most Muscular" award.

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#toobigfortheifbb no more!

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She had promised her fans she wouldn't let up on the training during her time away, and she was as good as her word, so when the "special invite" came, she was already looking trouser-threateningly good. The package she brought to the stage was (I think) her best ever, and it got her the same 6th place she'd taken at the 2015 Rising Phoenix.

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I want to thank all of my fans and supporters of Female Bodybuilding, she said afterwards. You guys near and far motivate me more than you'll ever know and I truly appreciate the words of encouragement and support, especially through this contest prep as it certainly proved to be my most difficult to date. I'm forever grateful to all of you, and any role you have played in getting me on stage. Thank you again.

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Can you feel the love?

It flowed right back, and not just from the likes of me and you ("Nobody had legs like you, or glutes, or upper body mass... nobody! I would have placed you way higher, top three for sure! Congratulations for this tremendous showing!!!"), but also from her peers, Isabelle Turell ("so powerful") and Anne Sheehan ("so proud of you").

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And also there was love from the new Queen herself - Proud of you, Helle, having recovered from her celebrations, wrote on Aleesha's Instagram. Great look you came with and it paid off. I 100% knew the Most Muscular Award belonged to you.

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Praise indeed! And I'm very happy she's back. The Rising Phoenix can't afford to lose class acts like Aleesha, wrote one forum poster after the Omaha judging debacle.

I reckon she proved him right.