Traditionally, Arnold Classic North America in Columbus, Ohio, will open the IFBB new season. But Arnold Amateur has been evolving in the recent years creating its editions in Europe, South America, Australia, Africa and Asia. The latter two in Johannesburg, South Africa and Hong Kong, China, will be inaugurated events. Taking the above into account, it could be expected that the original event in Columbus would arise a bit less interest across the world but it doesn’t happen! Competitors from 68 countries (a new record of participation!) will come to Columbus this year and there will be over 700 of them!
Some regions (Europe, South-East Asia, Australia) will be represented by less number of countries due to their own Arnolds later in the year but, anyway, some countries entered very big national teams. Apart from the host country, the biggest teams will come from Canada (89 athletes), Brazil (40), Italy and Mexico (31 each), Kuwait (27), Russia (18).
Which are the most popular divisions nowadays? Including masters, Bikini-Fitness is a leader with 207 athletes, then Bodybuilding with 194 athletes, then men’s Physique with 160 athletes, then Bodyfitness (Figure) with 124 athletes, then Women’s Physique with 39 athletes.
What about women and men proportions? Maybe, it will be a little surprise but there are 370 women athletes compared to 354 men competitors. It is not a big difference but, gentlemen, we have reached the times when at "our" bodybuilding contest there are more women than men. Taking into account that women’s physique sports were introduced to the IFBB in the early 1980’s, so 35 years after the IFBB foundation, women needed half a time to reach the same level of popularity like men. IFBB open policy pays off. Will this well-oiled women’s sport machine continue the current fast tempo of development? Time will show but it is clear that women’s desire to have a beautiful, fit and healthy body is amazing.
Who will battle on the Columbus’ stage this year?
This is the most demanding women’s physique sport, with top-difficult fitness routine. There is a not-so-big world fitness elite fighting for awards at the biggest events. In Columbus we will see 12 athletes, with former world champion Vera Egorova (Russia) who won her title in 2008. She came back in 2013 but only on the Russian stages; however, in 2014 appeared internationally and won the IFBB Ladies World Cup in Kiev, placed 3rd at the Olympia Amateur Prague and 4th at the European Championships… just 4 points behind Emma Paveley (United Kingdom) but then Paveley was very successful in 2015 winning bronze medal at the World Championships and finishing 2nd at the Arnold USA and Olympia United Kingdom, while Egorova had the next year of break.
Will Egorova, who turns 40 this year, be able to challenge 12 years younger and still improving Paveley?
On the other hand, very young and promising competitors like former children fitness star, now junior Aleksandra Kepa (Poland) who placed 8th among top stars at the European Games in Baku and Vanessa Bousquet (France) who came to fitness from Pole Dancing and placed 14th at the latest European Championships. Improving their body quality they both will move up in the hierarchy. From US, Toni Wheeler who placed 6th last year. And a couple of new competitors with unknown possibilities from Canada, El Salvador, New Zealand and the USA.
Women’s Fitness open
1. Julie Fortner Canada
2. Vanessa Bousquet France
3. Olena Chekerda Italy
4. Hayley Freeman New Zealand
5. Aleksandra Kepa Poland
6. Vera Egorova Russia
7. Susana Serrano El Salvador
8. Emma Paveley United Kingdom
9. Nicole Neargarder USA (Palm City, Fla.)
10. Beverly Ochieng USA (Columbus, Ohio)
11. Yesenia Perez USA (Miami, Fla.)
12. Toni Wheeler USA (Morehead, Ky.)
Altogether 39 athletes evenly dispersed among three categories.
THE SHORT CLASS, UP TO 163 CM: the Brazilian Armada of four top girls seems to be dominant and, probably, they will fight for top trophies. Priscila Cavilha finished 3rd last year in Columbus but Fernanda Gutilla won the last year’s Arnold Brazil while Evelaine Rocha placed 4th at the World Championships, ahead of Gutilla. And what about Camila Rodrigues who took the 3rd position at the 2015 Arnold Brazil?
Who can try to challenge them? Maybe Susan Rebello (Bermuda) who won medals of all colors of at the CAC Championships but it was between 2009 and 2012? Maybe former bodyfitness stars like Sabrina Burgess (Bermuda) or Michelle Powell (Aruba)?
Women’s Physique (short class) up to 163 cm
1. Michelle Powell Aruba
2. Sabrina Burgess Bermuda
3. Susan Rebello Bermuda
4. Priscila Cavilha Brazil
5. Fernanda Gutilla Brazil
6. Evelaine Rocha Brazil
7. Camila Rodrigues Brazil
8. Saundra Griffin Germany
9. Oosawa Naoko Japan
10. Ivonne Garcia Mexico
11. Maria del Carmen Mexico
12. Jeannique Sillie Netherlands
13. Ariell Rosenblad Norway
THE MIDDLE CLASS, UP TO 168 CM: There are three competitors with more successful contest history. Marjorie Beck (Brazil) is the current World Championships runner-up and Olympia United Kingdom winner. It counts. But there is another big star: Singapore master champion Joan Liew who, like Egorova, turns 40 this year. Liew won 2014 Arnold USA and placed 3rd last year. Moreover, she is a four-time Asian champion and South-East Asian Games winner. The battle will be tough and the third powerful player, Giuditta Magazzino (Italy), who turns 51 this year but still display perfect body conditions, will have the chance to play an important role.
The others? Maybe the next master champion Jane Ackerman (USA), former top three at the North American Championships? Maybe her team-mate Kate Warren, finalist of the 2013 USA Championships? Maybe Erin Duggan, 4th at the 2014 NPC Nationals?
Women’s Physique (medium class) up to 168 cm
1. Marjorie Beck Brazil
2. Claudia Laval Canada
3. Hronn Sigurdardottir Iceland
4. Giuditta Magazzino Italy
5. Joan Liew Singapore
6. Jane Ackerman USA (Golden, Colo.)
7. Nicole Boyce USA (Oklahoma City, Okla.)
8. Erin Duggan USA (Avon, Conn.)
9. Amy Kozle USA (Brighton, Mich.)
10. Sandy Peterson USA (Belvidere, Ill.)
11. Ivette Sheer USA (Sharpsburg, Ga.)
12. Allison Sinisi USA (Jeanette, Pa.)
13. Stephanie Stomp USA (Hilliard, Ohio)
14. Kate Warren USA (Tucson, Ariz.)
THE TALL CLASS, OVER 168 CM: The battle will be not less interesting. Two competitors may be considered favorites: Paola Sanchez (Dominican Republic), who finished 2nd last year at both Arnolds: in Columbus and in Madrid. For sure, Paola’s dream is to be at the top this year. Her main opponent should be 2015 European Championships runner-up Liudmila Goshko (Russia) who lost the gold medal by 2 points only and displayed perfect body lines and quality.
Then 2014 bronze medal winner Oksana Pyari (Russia). Who else? Maybe 2015 Orlando Show of Champions winner Ashley Hromyak (USA)? Or former semifinalist, professor of German studies at the University of Manitoba Dr. Alexandra Heberger (Canada)?
Women’s Physique (tall class) over 168 cm
1. Sonia Dominique Canada
2. Dr. Alexandra Heberger Canada
3. Andrea Leipert Canada
4. Paola Sanchez Dominican Republic
5. Oksana Pyari Russia
6. Liudmila Goshko Russia
7. Julia Föry Switzerland
8. Justin Albert USA (Apollo, Pa.)
9. Tina Chinchic USA (Warren, Ohio)
10. Alesia Chuchkevich USA (Madison, Wisc.)
11. Ashley Hromyak USA (Lithia, Fla.)
12. Belle Munroe USA (Gulfport, Miss.)
In my next preview: Men’s Bodybuilding. A big sensation: the world overall champion will be there!
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