Saturday, 17 December 2016

2016 Review: June

The contest season was under way all over North America and Europe.

There is always time to a flex in every gym in any country, is the philosophy of Danish muscle exhibitionist Therese Vilrik Bruun, who kicked off June on FMS pretty much flexing in a bunch of gyms in a bunch of countries, and strutting her Bodyfitness stuff across Scandinavia and beyond. And meanwhile, Shanique "The Future" Grant proved our suspicion that there's a lot of muscle in pro Figure by moving up to the Physique division and promptly outmuscling the field at the New York Pro.

And we also swooned all over another Physique winner, amateur, Cassandra Hogue, who joyfully took class and overall titles home from the NPC Pittsburgh show.

For a blog that aims to celebrate female muscle in all its forms, and particularly to support British female muscle, the best result we reported in early June was that of Scotland's Nina Ross in Bikini at the Mozolani Pro. This not only meant she had become the first UK Bikini competitor to win a pro title, but also that she would be the first UK Bikini competitor to grace the Olympia later in the year. The British media, despite all their "fat to fit" stories in the first few months of 2016, ignored Nina's triumph completely. We think that's a shame, but Nina didn't seem to mind!

At the end of May, the new-look Puerto Rico Pro had included Female Bodybuilding for the first time. Six women made history, and ahead of the more fancied Yaxeni Oriquen (3rd) and Isabelle Turell (2nd), it was Kim Buck, in a posing suit she'd designed herself, who booked her place at the 2016 Rising Phoenix.

There was a lot of category switching going on one way or another in 2016. Shanique had too much muscle for Figure, and that particular progression became the move of choice for the majority of competitors, but there were also Physique to Bodybuilding switches going on as well. The vascular forum Physique favourite Trisha Smick, for example, was told by the judges at the NPC Jr USAs that she needed to be "softer". I'll choose the path of my own design and I love being lean and hard, was her defiant response. If the judges don't like it, instead of compromise, off to Bodybuilding I go!

Nice! And we were delighted when one of FMS' absolute favourite swoons, the gorgeous Asha Hadley, booked her Olympia debut with her first pro win at Louisiana's Optimum Classic. We'd never seen her look better - or more muscular - and we should know, we really pay attention to what Asha's doing! The right result for a change, and no complaints about being in the wrong division or having "too much muscle".

Sometimes it happens. Sometimes...

The muscle kept on coming. The finest European Physique physiques flexed hard at the Mozolani Pro, and ahead of Spain's Paloma Parra and Joanna Romano, the former World Amateur Bodybuilding champs Jana Stockelova and Olga Belyakova, perennial favourite Minna Pajulahti and more, it was the most muscular woman of all, Branka Njegovec, who won the title. Meanwhile, at the Jr USAs, the return of a very familiar face sent the fan forums into meltdown. Shannon Rabon is back!

And at the Toronto Pro, Laura Carolan pretty much sent me into meltdown...

This, it seems to me, is female bodybuilding at its most visceral, its most extreme, its most unapologetic, and in all its freakish glory. Imagine trying to explain what exactly it is that appeals to you about Laura's body to - for example - your best non-female muscle lovin' friend. What could you say? Where would you begin?

We were inspired. The rest of June was taken up by beef. And Canadians.

Size (still) Matters

There was, of course, the Behemoth. British beef was provided by Christal Cornick, and we noted how much Elena Oana Hreapca had gained under the tutelage of Alina Popa. There was Robin "Triple Dee" Hillis, who had competed alongside Laura in Toronto, and for the first (but not last) time on FMS, we met Pauline Nelson.

We could barely breathe!

However, it wasn't all good news. Spare a thought we said, for the ambitious European FBB. Your options are extremely limited with your division completely removed from amateur IFBB contests such as the World Championships... It's no surprise then that many have instead chosen to compete within the burgeoning Physique division, and some - as we have seen recently on FMS - are enjoying great success, but for others, it's not going quite so well, and I'd definitely count the size-obsessed Greek powerhouse Vasiliki "Vaso" Dimitraki among the less fortunate.

At a recent Greek national show she had been in the shape of her life but finished outside the top 3. There were no complaints from Vaso, just determination. She's young, she has time, but isn't it a shame that in order to become a great pro FBB, she might have no choice but to turn herself into a great Physique competitor first?

We couldn't end the week on a down note though. Reminder here.

Oh Canada!

All in all, we gave you 106 reasons to love "Maple Muscle", 100 of them in a single day!

They included new discovery Amanda J. Smith and rediscovery Lise Thexton (above); and the gorgeous Krissy Rains and stunning Tara Ostafichuk.

And while noting the not inconsiderable differences in the physiques of Janeen Lankowski and Jodi Boam, we discovered both had gymnastics backgrounds.

And we finished the month with some good news for British female muscle fans, some not so good news for fans all over, and a much-discussed guest posing routine.

First, the good news.

Rosanna Harte - professional record: played one, won one.

After Nina Ross' triumph in Slovakia in the Bikini division, our Rascal went Stateside and gave us another IFBB pro win to celebrate. The UK media were as silent as they had been about Nina's victory, but there was plenty of social media chatter among the UK bodybuilding community in praise of Rosie's achievement, including FMS fave Linda Gartside. The most splendiferous news! she wrote. So proud of you Rosie!

But not such good news was confirmation that Rene Campbell, after having had some health problems the last time she had competed, was going to retire after one last hurrah at the Chicago Pro. In the end, that last hurrah was the Norfolk (aka Lenda Murray) Pro. Rene finished 5th, and will be much missed by fans all over the world.

And last, but by no means least, the very problem facing Euro FBBs that FMS had highlighted with Vaso Dimitraki led to one of the highlights of the female muscle lovin' year. Elena Oana Hreapca's guest posing routine at the Omaha Pro.

Watch here.

I reckon June would not be a bad "Groundhog Month".

But time's arrow and all that. Tomorrow, July.

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