It's almost like one of those 'What if...?' games you might play in idle moments, pairing your favourite muscle babes past and present on stage in a kind of fantasy posedown.
Valentina Chepiga vs. Katka Kyptova anyone? Well, as it happens...
...Valentina AND Katka did indeed grace the same stage at the Emerald Cup in Washington state at the end of April. In the 'What if...? game, of course, they both would have been at their peak, but unfortunately this was not Valentina in her Ms Olympia winning pomp against Katka in her dark and sultry bodybuilder phase that so excited FMS back in 2011. However, compete against each other they did.
I should at this point confess that I was, until about ten minutes ago, under the impression that the Emerald Cup was Valentina's big comeback, but as I began to source pictures of her from the contest I saw that she had, in fact, already competed as a physique pro once, last year at the Titans Grand Prix in California - incidentally in the same line-up as Mindi O'Brien. I can only beg your forgiveness for not being sufficiently on the ball to have noticed that Valentina, one of only four Europeans to have won the Ms Olympia crown, had returned to competition then.
Now it's easy for us female bodybuilding fans to feel disappointed when our favourite competitors 'downsize' to physique, but in this case, surely, we can have nothing but admiration for Valentina. Whether it was by accident or design, she took to the stage (again) in 2014 on the weekend of her birthday. Her fifty-second birthday!
All my mates who are approaching the big five-o (and as I enter my 40s there's more and more of them) are boring the tits off me by repeating (in a kind of 'if I keep saying it, it'll be true' way) that 50 is the new 40. Well, I don't know about you, but if 50 looks like Valentina does at that age, it might as well be the new 30, or even the new 20! Just think of some 50-year-old women you know, then have another good gander at Valentina's 52-year-old bod. Incredible, n'est-ce pas? Try again. Picture a few 40-year-old women you know. Do any of them even come close to Valentina? What about the 30-year-olds in your life? Maybe there's one or two who could hold a candle to her, but not for much longer I'd bet. I'm struggling to think of any women in their 20s that I personally know who look half as good as Valentina does at 52!
Granted, those are some genes Valentina has - genes she has always had - but to be the age she is and still have the sensational body she does (without, to my untrained eye at least, resorting to any kind of surgery for help) can only serve to inspire women of all ages to adopt bodybuilding as the tool in the fight against the ageing process.
Katka: bodybuilder, 2011 vs. physique competitor, 2014
And then there's Katka. Poor Katka. Once upon a time, well, actually about three years ago, she was probably the most lusted after young female bodybuilder in the world - the Shannon Courtney of the day. She had everything - the body, the face, the attitude... But she kept getting beaten. You may remember that she was a controversial runner-up to Elena Shportun at the Arnold Europe in 2011. She returned the following year and came tantalisingly close again, losing out to Jay Fuchs on that occasion. I said around the time she announced her move into the physique division that while I was somewhat disappointed, you had to sympathise. She had tried for so long to get her pro card as a bodybuilder and come so very close on a number of occasions. Perhaps she felt she had a better chance as a physique competitor.
So, she switched. Then she got her pro card anyway, one of those that are awarded on merit rather than on results. Her dream had come true at last. Except she now finds herself in the most competitive pro division right now (and if you don't agree it's the most competitive, check out some of the other ladies who were on stage with Katka and Valentina at the Emerald Cup while you remember that this was a relatively minor show in the pro physique calendar). So Katka still isn't winning. Poor Katka.
Opinion among us female muscle heads is divided over whether she was better as a bodybuilder or as the physique competitor she is now. She needs to go back to bodybuilding, her body type and muscularity suits it, says one fairly typical forum post. But in another fan's opinion, Her body doesn't put on mass as easily as some of the shorter, more compact women. I think she's better suited for the less demanding physique category. And there's no shortage of those who would agree with that either. Personally, I think that Katka is one of those women who would have flourished as a lightweight or middleweight bodybuilder but unfortunately for her she came to bodybuilding only after the golden era of weight classes (days when Valentina had been crowned Ms Olympia - in her weight class!) had long since passed.
Poor Katka finished 6th at the Emerald Cup (and 4th in a field of just five a week later at the new Mozolani Pro contest in Slovakia). It is, indeed, a very competitive division these days. And Valentina? Well, at 52, Valentina Chepiga came 11th.
You can judge for yourself who would have been the happier...