Monday, 5 June 2017
One of the most pleasing aspects of the Wings of Strength-led mini-resurgence in pro Female Bodybuilding is that women who seemed "retired" for one reason or another feel that the time is now right to compete again. Isabelle Turell is probably the best example in that she had roughly seven years' off before her comeback, but there's also Cathy Lefrançois, Bonnie Switzer (Pappas), and Laura Carolan to name but three. And a few days before the Toronto Pro, I noticed yet another familiar name who I hadn't heard of in a while was there on the competitor's list - Maria Mikola.
As is so often the case, the fact that I hadn't heard anything about her didn't mean she'd not been "active". Far from it, in fact. It's true that she did take 2014 and 2015 off, but having competed every year for the 17(!) years previous to that (at least 17, it may be more but the earliest record I can find of her in a contest is 1997), I reckon she was due a wee break. But she was back on stage last year, competing twice.
When she'd last competed in 2013 it was in the Physique division, winning her pro card at the IFBB North Americans, and it was in that same division that she competed last year. Looking at the images of her from both those shows, but particularly from the Europa Phoenix (above), where she placed 11th, I have to say that 1) I'm sorry I missed them at the time, and 2) that she doesn't exactly look very Physique!
Canadian Natural National Champion - 2009
Previous to 2013 Maria had always been a Bodybuilder, with her career (to date) probably peaking around 2009 when she won the Overall title at the Canadian Natural Championships. By that time she'd been a pro in other natural federations for some years - her IFBB pro card is, I believe, the fifth of her career. She was forum famous for her arms, a killer most muscular (not, apparently frowned upon in natural bodybuilding!) and for looking about 20 years younger than she actually was.
She was also famous for picking up more than her fair share of Best Poser awards. The best part of competing for me is getting on stage and being able to perform my routine, she told Promoting Real Women in 2010. Audiences and judges alike who have seen Maria perform would probably agree it was the best part for them too.
So she arrived in Toronto, "my own backyard", with plenty of pedigree behind her, but absolutely none of it as an IFBB pro Bodybuilder. And proceeded to steal the show.
I'm not saying that the judges' favourite, Kim Buck, wasn't worth the decision, nor that any of the other six women in the line-up were better or worse than Maria. But I am saying that in her pleasingly old-school-style posing suits (not too blingy, and more importantly not covering half of her upper body - what is it with this fashion nowadays for covering up?!) with a physique honed to perfection over a period of twenty years and the knowledge and commitment (still) to make sure that magnificent physique was shown off at its absolute best, Maria was pure class. No contest best abs and thigh in the show. In any division. By some distance. I've checked so you don't have to.
She's pushing 50, you know.
And the best news is she'll be back this weekend at the Omaha Pro, and I have absolutely no doubt she will flex those muscles as marvellously as ever.
Follow her prep on Instagram.