Saturday, 25 June 2016

Oh Canada! Janeen Lankowski

My entire life revolves around fitness, I’ve never known anything else.

She really hasn't. Born in 1974 in Kitchener, Ontario Janeen's parents got her enrolled at a local gymnastics club at the age of 2. She dedicated herself to her sport, trained hard. I won many titles in my early years, she says. Gymnastics showed me a way to success. She was good enough to have realistic expectations of making the Canadian team for the Seoul Olympics, but a training injury prevented her from actually competing at the trials. As a result, she needed to do something different, and she began weight training in her early teens, "playing around with the weights" as she puts it. Eventually I entered a bench press contest at my school and won. And that’s when I realized that I really had a passion for the way the body works.

She went on to obtain Personal Training and Fitness Consulting qualifications at university and to teach Gymnastics for 11 years, after which she decided the time was right for a change. She chose Fitness and began preparing to compete, but once again she was to have her plans thwarted by an accident. A very serious one. With my first show only two weeks away, I was involved in a head-on collision with another car. She sustained severe internal as well as external injuries. Doctors explained that her athletic background had probably saved her life, but recovery was long. Undergoing physiotherapy after the accident, she devised a plan that got her back to training with weights. This time her goal was to get to where she could start training seriously enough to compete. And in September 2003 she entered her first show.

It took about five years for her to reach national level, and it was around the same time that the female muscle lovin' community began to take notice of this "amazing", "very very hot" young bodybuilder from Canada. They raved about her "great big stripey delts", her "mega biceps". Such a fantastic, hugely-muscled physique! wrote one forum poster, reflecting the views of many of the silent majority. I'm just glad to see that pure bodybuilding (no implants, no toning down size) is still alive.

And it was Janeen in roaring contest condition that most impressed us. A REAL female bodybuilder, they called her, again referencing her lack of enhancement in the chest area. Her body looks like a sculpture, a masterpiece! wrote one fan after seeing her at the 2011 IFBB North Americans, the show after which this "masterpiece" turned pro. "A sexy beast", with "absolute power" carrying "raw muscle"... You get the idea.

The brethren were excited, and you might well be feeling quite excited yourself right now, whether you're revisiting these images or seeing them for the first time. But even if you're immune to her charms, make no mistake. Seeing Janeen Lankowski in 2011-12 was, for many fans, like seeing their muscle woman dream come true.

If fans were judges, Janeen would certainly have enjoyed a lot more success than the little she did as a pro bodybuilder. She was 6th in Toronto on her debut and a promising 3rd in Tampa the same year - with only Sarah Hayes and Sheila Bleck beating her, and the likes of Kim Perez, Tazzie Colomb and Debbie Bramwell trailing in her considerable wake. But in 2013 and 2014 she never placed better than 13th in the four shows she graced, and half the time she did not place at all.

But if fans were judges, the majority of female bodybuilding shows would, I guess, have different results. So just because Janeen wasn't getting much love from the judges in 2013-14, there was still plenty coming from her devotees, who continued to heap praise on their "smokin' hot goddess", her terrific pecs", her "back that could stand toe to toe with Iris" (you know what they mean). She's so underrated, reckoned one forum poster. One of my all-time favourites. One of the best physiques ever.

However, towards the end of 2014, Janeen had some news. From 2015 she was going to be competing in Physique. This was not what a lot of fans wanted to hear. But nevertheless, when she turned up for her first WPD show in Orlando, yes, OK, she was smaller than she had been, but saying anyone is smaller than Janeen Lankowski the bodybuilder is never saying much. She still had the shoulders, she still had the pecs, and the back. And she still didn't get much love from the judges. Her highest placing in any Open Physique class remains to this day a lowly 14th at that first show.

But Janeen still had the power to send jaws all the way to the floor. In the lobby I got high watching Janeen Lankowski, one fan who attended the show confessed. The V-shaped back, bulging glutes and monster calves. Another warned would-be audience members to be on their guard should they ever make it to a show. These women will literally drive you insane. I keep forgetting how big some of the Physique women are. In Tampa Janeen was the most impressive in terms of muscle, particularly her broad, deep chest. She looks like she could bench a Mini Cooper.

And this year, as I was looking through the galleries of the New York Pro, admiring Shanique and Asha and all and working my way down the placings, one fine woman after another, I clicked on Janeen's name, and her gallery came up. I was stunned, pure and simple. Here was female muscle at its most thrilling. Its most raw.

I've looked at the images of Janeen from that show over and over since then. And they thrill me every time. Her hands above her head as she prepares to hit her abs and thigh, she's not even flexing and her arms are impossibly thick, showing me her gorgeous muscle pits backed by her thick, wide lats. On her knees, back facing the judges at the start of her routine, her bronzed skin shimmering with oil, the straps of her suit straining to surround those lats, cutting into the muscle almost - as if they could! Lying back on her shoulders, her legs pointing skywards, toes curled, her glutes and thighs so thick and powerful. And the most muscular, her shoulders, arms and chest exploding, a bodybuilder's upper body in everything but name.

You may have wondered where Janeen was in our 100 Canadian Muscle Goddesses on Thursday. Well, I didn't forget her. How could anyone forget her once they've seen her? And here she is, competing as a Bodybuilder, competing in Physique... Whatever. Here she is in all her raw and raging muscular glory.

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