Friday, 26 May 2017

Never Better: Gillian Kovack - Toronto 2012

4th, 2012 Toronto Pro

Gillian was one of FMS' Women of the Year in 2012 on the back of her performance in Toronto (and her blond to brunette transformation, and a Female Muscle Clips preview where all she does is walk!). So, despite her having had some (all too rare but) very strong showings since then, most notably her two 4th places in 2015, when we think of Gillian's best, we can't get beyond her smouldering 2012 pro debut.

And, believe it or not, I'm pretty sure Margie Martin would agree. One and a half years ago, wrote Gillian in 2016, one of the 2014 Toronto Pro athletes approached me near the SkyDome to introduce herself and tell me that she had one of my pictures from 2012 in the album she keeps to help motivate her to perform at HER best! She was, of course, Margie, and some time later on her own Instagram, Margie showed us that picture. It was Gillian's back, on stage in Toronto two years before they met.

I doubt, however, me and Margie were the only ones squirrelling images of Gillian's beef away in our special albums. That year, Lisa Giesbrecht took the title, Kim Buck was 2nd, and Britain's own Wendy McCready a career best 3rd. All great, all looked fantastic on the day, but I've looked back at the pictures and the video available from the show (all in the name of proper research you understand), and honestly I couldn't understand then and I still can't understand now why Gillian didn't win.

She's big. A big girl, noted George Farah on the MD play-by-play during prejudging. She's thick, he noted during her routine. Anyone else get the impression the man had lost a little of his usual eloquence while watching Gillian? Can't blame him if that is the case. That's certainly how she generally affects me, and he's looking at her in the flesh!

For me (and probably Margie too), Gillian was magnificent here. Magnificent width on her shoulders and that back. Big, beefy quads and glutes, and thick, thick hamstrings. She hasn't got the smallest waist but with her shoulders and legs she doesn't need one. She's magnificent (did I say that already?) And those deep, dark, smouldering eyes...

We really like Gillian, said FMS back in 2012. We really like her a lot. And we've continued to do so since then, even when she hasn't been at her best (and gone back to being blond). She's got that thing, whatever it is. Her struggles - financial, mental - eloquently (if only briefly) documented by Gillian on her blog - have only made us admire her more. She spoke back in 2016 of wanting to focus more on the coaching side of things, of wanting to continue her education, and refusing to become just another "Instagram fitness bimbo". She updated the blog once. Then it went quiet. Gillian, so often so good, doesn't seem to be about to return to competition.

I think that is a real shame. And Margie would probably agree.

Watch FMC's Gillian walking preview here.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Never Better: Simone Oliveira - Toronto 2014

Winner, 2014 Toronto Pro

I wasn't (more's the pity) there or anything, and I don't have the eye-witness testimony of anyone who was, either, but I can't help thinking that when Simone Oliviera stepped - or perhaps "thundered" would be a better word - onto the stage for prejudging at the Toronto Pro three years ago, there were more than a few gasps. I imagine she might well have persuaded a few gentlemen who had perhaps come to the show for the other female divisions to make damn sure they weren't going to miss her routine that evening, and most of all I imagine more than a few female muscle heads who were there specifically to see the Female Bodybuilding line-up having to remain seated until the auditorium was almost empty before they scuttled back to their accommodation for a change of underwear before the evening show commenced.

You wouldn't necessarily have expected Simone to cause such a stir. In a line-up that included Lisa Giesbrecht, who had won in Toronto in 2012; the massive international presence of Christine Envall and Virginia Sanchez; and exciting new pros Margie Martin and Alana Shipp, Simone wouldn't have been among the favourites if judged on past form, which suggested she wouldn't have the class, even if she did have the size, to win her first IFBB pro title at her very first attempt.
Simone's previous best: Brazilian champion (left) and 5th at the Arnold Classic Europe in 2011

She'd first come to the attention of fans back in 2011 when she'd won the Brazilian title and then gone on to finish 5th at the Arnold Classic Europe. The following year, however, she'd been bigger, but not better. Her conditioning was poor, and she'd finished way down in 10th. So it had been nearly two years since she'd competed, but on the other hand she was now being coached by Anne Freitas' (now) husband, and Anne had just won in Omaha, breaking the glass ceiling for Brazilian FBBs in the US...

The scorecard reveals judging in the first round was close, with the super-shredded (but considerably smaller) Alana Shipp just one point behind Simone at the halfway stage. Simone was a unanimous winner in the second round though, leaving her with half as many points as her closest rival (that's good in case you didn't know). She had delivered a routine for the ages. One we've featured before here on FMS. One of the best posing videos I've seen (and I've seen plenty), reckons the reader who requested we feature Simone's performance on the blog. Anyone who thinks that female bodybuilders aren't sexual needs to take a long, hard look at Simone on stage.

I doubt you, dear reader, fall into the "thinks-FBBs-aren't-sexual" category, but I'm sure you were up for the long, hard look. Personally, I've watched Simone's performance here over and over again, and I have to say that the question that keeps popping into my head is: "How on earth does that posing suit stay on?!"

Simone went - with Anne - to the last ever Ms Olympia. She finished down in 13th, her conditioning (and posing suits) no match for the package she had brought to Toronto, and no match for the best of the best. She is rumoured to have stopped competing for health reasons, she is rumoured to have stopped competing at the request of her new husband. The truth may be that both (or neither) of these explanations are correct, but what we do know is that she has dropped off our collective radar completely.

She shone all too briefly, and not always very brightly. But in Toronto on the weekend of 31st May-1st June 2014, Simone Oliveira shone brighter than the majority of FBBs ever have or ever will. Inesquecível! as they (probably) say in São Paulo.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Never Better: Rene Marven - Toronto 2013

8th, 2013 Toronto Pro

Rene started out in Figure a decade ago, and Figure is where we have seen her most recently, at last year's Dayana Cadeau Classic (above). She was, she said, "less nervous on stage", and loved being in heels again. She was happy with her new look. Not so some of Rene's many fans, who were doubly offended that she'd dropped not one, but two divisions down. Not even another Physique class sell out! raved one such forum poster, managing to offend two divisions-worth of competitors in just seven words.

Three years earlier she had made her professional IFBB debut at the Toronto Pro, and at the time she seemed to be on a one-woman mission to bring back the supposedly outlawed "most muscular" pose to Female Bodybuilding. The judges had overlooked this indiscretion as she'd won her pro card at the Nationals in 2012 hitting the pose, and here it was again, bigger and better, this thrilling eruption of female muscle.

The Muscular Development play-by-play from the show, however, mentions the pose not once, instead complimenting Rene on her back development and her "great quads". Compare that to Real Female Bodybuilding's take on Rene's showing: Serious female muscle! Rene Marven treated fans to an eyeful of one of the best most muscular poses in the world. She didn't make the top 3 and may not have been the biggest girl on stage but as she hit the classic hardcore pose she looked magnificent!

Ironically too, given that we now know she felt much more nervous when she was posing as a female bodybuilder than as a Figure competitor, the MD commentator, Adina Zanolli, makes a point of saying that Rene's seems to "love being on stage", and I certainly get that impression too, as always with Rene on stage during her FBB years.

I wonder what her next move might be. Since pro FBBing did away with weight classes no amateur FBB from outside the Heavyweight class has made much impact in the Pro League, and Rene was a Middleweight. She is way too bulky for Figure it seems, so she might find Physique provides her with more opportunity for success, if that's what she's after. Meanwhile, happy and healthy, she continues managing Iris Kyle's Bodicafe in Las Vegas, and recent evidence suggests that no matter how hard she tries to "downsize", those biceps of hers are never going lose their thickness or peak.

Follow Rene on Instagram.

Tomorrow, we stay in Toronto for another personal best. Guess who!


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Never Better: Skadi Frei-Seifert - Essen 2011

Runner-up, 2011 FIBO Power Pro Championships

Once upon a time, the best female bodybuilders in Europe could strut their stuff in a pro show on a European stage. Six years and one month ago, ten of them - including a returning-from-career-threatening-injury Helle Nielsen, Italians Giusy Caputo and Claudia Partenza, big beasts Daniela Sell and Roberta Tuor Zazzaron, and Greek beauty Elena Kavva (plus Cathy Lefrançois, whose name is kind of European anyway) went glute to glute at FIBO Power. Just six years ago.

It was a triumphant return for Helle, but she has gone on to bigger and better things (and a name change). However, for Skadi Frei-Seifert, ex-basketball player, Sports Science graduate, former manager of the Swiss national cycling team, mother, PE teacher, and namesake of a Norse goddess, this was by far her finest hour.

Pretty beefy in pink for the prejudging, Skadi seemed to have had several more applications of Pro Tan before the night show, where she was absolutely spell-binding with a flower in her hair, showcasing her her beautiful body with a routine that lives long in the memory - for me, one of the best of the decade. Let's remind ourselves...

An edit (albeit a skillful one from friend-of-the-blog jlelmariachi), and obviously not the original music, but you get the idea. Reminiscent of the down-and-dirty posing routines of the late '80s and early '90s, before the IFBB (in their infinite wisdom) told the ladies off and ordered them to downplay the sexy. Skadi's not for that though, her finger to her lips, those legs-across-the-body moves on the floor (I'm so jealous of a judge's POV sometimes), gyrating hips, the steamy looks over the shoulder...

She'd started out in Bodyfitness seven or eight years before this, graduating to Female Bodybuilding around 2007. By 2010 she was a German champion and competing in pro shows in the US, her best result a top 6 finish (in a field of 19) at the Europa Battle of Champions in Hartford. Her runner-up spot at this show qualified her for her one and only Olympia appearance. She briefly returned as a Physique competitor in 2013, reviving the same routine as she had performed here, the same gorgeous, sexy woman, but wearing a lot less muscle (and Pro Tan). Something of a forgotten woman, I would say, she's now Skadi Töpken, but she's still the same damn fine-looking woman.

Tomorrow, Rene Marven. Can you guess which contest?