The 2016 Rising Phoenix was a good day for...
SHEILA BLECK (2nd, Best Poser Award)
Now this was a surprise to many, and a shock to some. For a moment, Sheila became the focus of much ire from those who felt their own personal faves were robbed. She was called a "NUT" on the forum whose first rule is... (though how this was quite relevant to the judging was not explained), where another irate poster claimed she hardly qualify [sic] as a bodybuilder... but instead would suit better in the physique division. Even her Best Poser Award was belittled - it was intimated she'd only won it because her "best friend" Melody Spetko had sponsored it via MuscleGirlzLive.
"Most muscular for my fans who simply enjoy muscle". Sheila days before RP2016
They should look at the images, see her magnificent (as ever) conditioning, the beautiful lines of her body, and her fantastic proportions. They should look at some of the comparisons. She's taller than you think, and bigger than you think when you see her with the rest of the top four. They should visit Muscle Memory and look at Sheila's contest history. The Olympia aside, she has been first or second in every pro show she has ever competed in, and she came into the Rising Phoenix off the back of a win in Tampa - the show Margie Martin warmed up for RP2015 by winning. And they should look at all of Sheila's routines they can find, routines which she routinely receives best poser awards for. And while enjoying her athletic, artistic and sensual performances, they should recall how much work Sheila has put into these few minutes, even to the point of commissioning original music for them.
Surprise? More of a surprise that she never placed higher than 4th at the Olympia.
NANCY CLARK (9th)
The 2012 Canadian Masters champion has enjoyed by far her best season as a pro, and ended it on a high by finishing 9th, one of the two women over 50 in the top 10.
As I mentioned recently during one of our RP2016 previews, I had to admit - after looking at the pics (Sheila critics take note) - that her balance and conditioning at the Toronto Pro earlier in the year were spot on, and she brought much the same qualities to the stage in Scottsdale, and looked bigger than I remember seeing her before.
Nancy signs her contract before the weekend of the show, and poses with the champ
She gave the impression both before and during the weekend that competing here was like being in a dream. To be doing what she's doing at her age is amazing. I'm rather pleased that her dream had a happy ending. She quite obviously deserves it.
KIM BUCK (6th)
I am so excited to have the opportunity to compete with some of the best female bodybuilders in the world, wrote Kim Buck, via social media for a change. What a wonderful day at all the events at the Rising Phoenix! All before the day of the show had even arrived. And that day turned out to be pretty wonderful for her too.
Most competitors have a lot of people to thank after a show, but not Kim. It's not out of a lack of gratitude, it's just that she's a regular one-woman contest prep show. Trains herself, designs and makes her own suit (and names them - for the evening she wore "Ice Blue Masterpiece"). And, on the day, she does her own hair and make-up.
And the overall package she (herself) brought to the stage in Arizona was deemed good enough to break into the top 6 by the judges, and even higher by many who witnessed the show. You looked great Kim, congratulations, wrote Melody Spetko (yes, her again) after the show. Nice and full. I had you higher. And that's exactly where Kim is aiming for next time around. It's back to the drawing board, she replied to Melody. And I don't think she meant the one she uses to design her beautiful suits on either!
IRENE ANDERSEN (8th)
Irene had finished 4th in Norfolk at the new Lenda Murray show, but, as we noted on the blog, was at her biggest and best ever at the recent Tampa Pro. After receiving one of those "special invites" soon before the Rising Phoenix, she brought that same Tampa package to Arizona, and deservedly improved on her 2015 placing of 14th.
No surprise that the woman who is the star of the documentary about the "killing of female bodybuilding" is one of Wings of Strength's most vociferous cheerleaders. Too Big for the World premieres tomorrow coincidentally, in... Beverley Hills!
Good luck to Irene and all concerned with that. And we hope the film will go on to get some distribution around the world. The production team behind it are certainly a high quality group, and the trailer looks very promising. If Too Big for the World does come to a cinema near you, I'd get out and watch it there. How often does the female muscle lovin' community get the chance to collectively gather and show support?
YAXENI ORIQUEN (5th)
You would imagine, of all the women on stage at the Rising Phoenix, that Yaxeni Oriquen would feel the absence of the Ms International and Ms Olympia the most, given her illustrious history at both shows. It's been telling that while her erstwhile nemesis Iris Kyle stepped away from the sport in 2014, Yaxeni carried on.
Her 4th place at last year's Rising Phoenix came after a year where she'd struggled with various injuries. This year, pre-qualified for RP2016 though she was, she turned up and competed in Puerto Rico, Omaha, and at the Lenda Murray Pro-Am (where she got another 1st place to add to her mighty collection), showing her support for female bodybuilding's new regime and her fellow competitors in the process. She's been in fantastic shape all year, and this show was no exception. Once again it was great to see our old friend the black posing suit fighting for its life as she hit her poses, and though she has placed higher at more illustrious shows among legendary names of the sport, she had no complaints about her placing afterwards, just compliments for the women she stood alongside and the organisers of the "best female bodybuilding show".
¡Felicidades Yaxeni, en tu 50° cumpleaños!
LISA CROSS (7th)
And last, but by no means least, our Lisa.
I always get the feeling that no one has as much fun on stage (or off for that matter) as Lisa does, and I've seen nothing before, during or since the Rising Phoenix to make me change my mind about that. But though I could go on about her pink posing suit and her obvious excitement again, instead let's put her placing into context. The last time a British female bodybuilder placed as high as this was in 2004, when Joanna Thomas came 7th in the lightweight class. To find the last time a UK FBB finished 7th in an open class, you have to go all the way back to Andrulla Blanchette in 1999.
Quite an achievement. And she was well worth it too, looking as big and hard and ripped and sexy as she's ever done, no one was complaining about the judges' verdict on Lisa. I was hoping she'd crack the top 6, but I get the feeling she likes her placing fine. "The 006 Best FBB in the World" just doesn't sound quite right, does it?