They call it Figure in the US and Canada, and Bodyfitness in Europe and (most of) the rest of the world, but whatever your name for it, FMS is going to spend this week with a selection of some of the finest ladies from the division. Women like Zsuzsanna Toldi, Tina Nguyen, Diana Schnaidt and Shanique Jones have drawn us into the world of Figure, and though the final two on that list are now Physique competitors, Maria Luisa Baeza Diaz and Natalia Coelho (to name but two) are keeping us there.
And we begin our Figure journey today at the very top.
There were 30 competitors at this year's Figure Olympia, the finest Figure line-up ever, according to many commentators - which is, I suppose, the way it should always be, better every year, but this year people were saying it a lot, so maybe the difference between 2015 and 2016 was more marked than usual. Anyway, by common consent on the live play-by-plays I was following at the time and also in the post-contest reports I have read, it was as though there were two competitions that day, one among the top 3 for the title, and another for the other 27 for the placings below them.
Whether that is entirely accurate or not (former Ms Figure Olympia Nicole Wilkins, who came 4th, was only three points out of 3rd place, but there was a big drop to 5th place after her), these three women are now at the pinnacle of their division. They are currently the paragons of the Figure division, their shape and muscularity for many women representing an inspiration, and for some, the ultimate goal.
The Freaky 3 (+1) at the 2016 Figure Olympia
And with their copious genetic gifts in mind, I've christened them "The Freaky 3".
After a slightly disappointing Arnold Classic result earlier in the year, Cydney cut a swathe to her 3rd consecutive Olympia (previously 9th and 8th in 2014 and 2015 respectively) by winning shows in Miami and Pittsburgh relatively early in the season. Then she got to work refining a body that has been good enough to win four pro shows in all and get a top 10 Olympia look into one that would challenge for the title.
She actually began her competitive life as a champion junior bodybuilder, so she knows what it's like to do a close-fisted double biceps on stage. Maybe that's why she always seems to manage some kind of cheeky flex into her presentations - previously FMS has spotted a deliberate tricep pop in Miami, for example.
Perhaps it was her former life as an athlete that honed her "ridiculously narrow" waist, but it's her ever expanding width at the top, and the quality of the what's below that waist that have kept her Figure career on an upward trajectory since she turned pro in 2012. Her secret? Any improvement is an improvement and a step towards your goals, she says. Make moves and never settle. And she's still only 23!
Follow Cydney on Instagram.
Ten years older than Cydney, Candice has been at the Figure peak for a few years now. This was her third consecutive top 3 Olympia placing but her first time as runner-up.
But even before she was one of the faces and physiques of the Figure division, Candice had plenty of experience of being looked up to, and revels in the role. As the oldest of ten sisters and brothers, I was pushed into being a role model at a very young age, and this taught me to lead by example, she says. I’m dedicated to improving women’s lifestyles and empowering them with strength and confidence to be their very best physically and mentally. And she does it with considerable grace as far as I can tell, always coming across in interviews as a most intelligent, eloquent and classy woman.
The kind of woman who warms up for the Olympia by competing at the Arizona Pro and supporting Wings of Strength and their five division all-female extravaganza.
Candice may credit the improvements she's made in the leg department for her elevation to #2. I'm no expert, but they do look absolutely sensational in the contest photos - long, shapely, defined and covered with thick muscle. But those two spectacular assets are far from her only charms. Check out her Instagram for more.
She turned pro after the NPC USAs in 2013 and the following year won her first pro show. It was the Tampa Pro, no small potatoes. The same year, at her first Olympia, she was 5th in only her 5th pro outing. 2015 started with top 5 finishes at the Arnold Classics in Ohio and Australia and ever since then she's been unbeatable. 2015 Figure Olympia (the first African-American to win it, by the way); 2016 Figure International; 2016 Arnold Classic Australia; and now, for the second time, Ms Figure Olympia.
The greatest Figure phenomenon of them all! It’s pretty unreal, she says. It’s amazing. I’m just so honoured to be acknowledged, that the work I put in is being recognized.
The greatest humility as well, it seems. And unlike some Olympia champions, Latorya isn't one for taking her title home and hiding away until it's time to go back to Vegas again. I want to change all of that, she says. There are women who are so inspired by me, that are motivated, that have hope because of me. So why would I hold myself back, and not let them see me? I love being onstage, I love doing what I do, so I’m not going to let the title of being Ms. Olympia hold me back from competing.
Watch Latorya doing her work on Instagram.
Now I'm never convinced any women read my little blog, but I'll take a punt anyway...
Whether you've recently finished 4th at the Ms Olympia, or you're just starting out on your Figure/Bodyfitness journey. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a wannabe amateur, these are your role models. This is what the top of your sport looks like.
Be inspired. Be very inspired.
The Freaky 3. Movie star quality. Swell's Angels anyone?