At the age of just 25, and in only her third ever contest - and only her second as a bodybuilder - Maryland's Holly Pisarcik won both her class, the overall title and with them her pro status at the NPC Nationals. Now you may or may not be aware that Holly's victory has been somewhat controversial. I don't know whether it was unpopular with the crowd at the show, but I do know that since her win just about every female muscle forum poster and a whole lot of (more or less qualified) commentators - both those who write about female bodybuilding and those who focus on bodybuilding in general - have been sharing their thoughts online. And the vast majority are most definitely not in agreement with the judges' decision on the day.
So, for those of you who haven't yet got wind of all this, a little game to help introduce what this controversy has been all about. Below are six of the women who won classes and overall titles at the Nationals. One of them is Holly Pisarcik. Which one?
Which, do you think, competed in BODYBUILDING?
There's only one, and it's Holly.
Decided? OK, I'll tell you...
Holly is on the right in the centre row. Blue posing suit.
Surprised? Confused? You will be...
Top row is Alyssa Stroud (herself a former bodybuilding competitor), who won the Physique D class, and next to her is the B class winner, Indrell Thomas. Bottom row, two more Physique winners - on the left the C class and overall champ Stacia Woods, and on the right the A class winner Traci Ivey. In the centre on Holly's left is Tamika Irvin, class and overall winner and new IFBB FIGURE pro.
So I hardly need to spell out to you exactly what the controversy has been all about. How, they cry, can the Bodybuilding champ be carrying less muscle than not only all the Physique winners, but also less muscle than the Figure division winner as well?
She is nowhere near bodybuilding, not even in the same universe, was how one forum poster reacted, and his comment was more polite than most, but not untypical.
So how did Holly compare to the other Bodybuilding class winners?
Holly posed down for the overall title with middleweight Nicole Gray (top right), light-heavyweight Carla Rossi-Roan (bottom left), and (bottom right) Tischa Thomas - who defeated Theresa Ivancik, just, to claim the heavyweight title.
Here the controversy wasn't so much about the decision to award Holly the win, but more to do with the state and, in one case, the identity of the women that she was posing down against. David Baye (Muscular Development), for example, thought the overall standard of the female bodybuilders at the show to be "atrocious, with almost no leg detail", and that the judges had made the wrong decision in the heavyweight class and left themselves no choice but to award the overall title to Holly.
Bodybuilding is all about size, symmetry/proportions and conditioning, he wrote. The lightweight winner smoked most of the other girls on two of those. She was my pick for the overall although Theresa should've won the heavies and the overall.
All of which leaves me feeling a bit sorry for the little lady (5'0", 108lbs) with the big trophy. I doubt she's too worried about all the chatter, but as she's the first lightweight to win the overall title since Michele Ralabate in 1994, and only the fourth since 1982, it would be a shame if she were not given the credit she deserves.
Holly at the Jay Cutler Baltimore Classic, her only previous appearance as a bodybuilder
Step forward the great Wennerstrom. Holly, he tells us, had only decided on entering the Nationals just four weeks before the event. And even then, having committed to it, she faced the kind of personal challenges that would have had pretty much everyone else on the planet giving the show a miss and saying "Maybe next year..."
Her husband was in hospital throughout her prep, recovering from a liver transplant no less. She spent everyday with me, he told Wennerstrom after the show. I was out of hospital, then readmitted, yet she pushed on. Then this past week her grandmother died, and on Thursday, while in Miami, I got a call from my doctor saying I needed to go for testing because I could be rejecting my liver. Didn't phase her.
And despite the limited prep and the family traumas, her look made it, Wennerstrom reckoned, not only "an easy decision" for the class win, but also "a unanimous decision" for the overall title. With very good overall conditioning, a terrific side chest pose and nice quad separations, she was the best - if not biggest - package in the show.
Whether Holly's stature will allow her to have any chance of succeeding against the pros in open contests is kind of beside the point, but with a smooth prep and no family tragedy to contend with, who knows how much better she might be able to look? Here she won the big trophy because she managed - against very serious odds as it turns out - to present what the judges agreed was the best package overall in the show.
She looks proud of herself and she should be. Congratulations Holly!