Saturday, 23 September 2017
When, after the Chicago Pro this year, Wendy McCready had guaranteed her qualification for the Rising Phoenix, I did a bit of a full bio, thinking that this would probably be the high point of her competitive year. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't assuming Wendy would automatically do poorly in the placings, I just didn't imagine her in the first callout. Lisa Cross, on the other hand, well, as regular readers will know, I get a bit patriotic when Lisa's on stage, and after she had looked so amazing in Tampa, my mind had started to race. What if Alina's plan for her client was all about peaking not for Tampa in August but for the Rising Phoenix in September? Lisa had been at her best ever in Tampa, absolutely resplendent. What if, I wondered, she could look even better in Scottsdale? Could our Lisa win the whole thing? Bring it home for Britain for the first time since the one and only Andrulla Blanchette?
I dared to dream.
As I watched the live feed, it became apparent I should ditch any thoughts of Lisa winning as the names for first callout were announced. But Wendy McCready was there, beaming with pride as she stood next to Helle, with Sheila and Yaxeni the only other women at the front of the stage. We had to wait for the 3rd callout to see our Lisa, and as she gradually flexed her way into the centre of it, this Brit was cheering her on.
After Tampa, I imagine Lisa was probably aiming for the top 5, or at least going one better than her 7th last year. She knew full well what her callout position meant. I have a lot of catching up to do, she wrote before the evening show. Ultimately she placed 9th, behind Aleesha, behind Kim Buck, behind Rita Bello, and behind her 2016 self - the first time her upward curve under Alina Popa's guidance has dipped.
I, quite obviously, have no expertise, but with the greatest respect to the other competitors, I couldn't while watching the live feed, and still can't see what it was that made the judges call her out after Irene Andersen, or indeed place her below Rita Bello and Kim Buck. To me she looked as good as she had in Tampa, and deserved better; but these were different judges, this was a different show, and it wasn't to be Lisa's night after all, despite my (and her - and probably too Alina's) dreaming.
However, Lisa may, I hope, perhaps take some comfort from the fact that while this wasn't such a great day for her, her mere presence with Wendy in the line-up made it a historic day for British Female Bodybuilding - the first time in 16 years that the UK has had more than one competitor at the sport's premier professional event.
Wendy's 4th place was as well-deserved as it was surprising. Her rear double biceps was as good as any in the show, and she didn't put a foot wrong. All the years she has spent accumulating competition experience paid off on this night, by far her biggest ever success. I still can't believe it! she exclaimed afterwards. 4th in the world!!!
And this was the best result by a British woman since Andrulla was 2nd in the Lightweight class in 2001. And if you're talking about an Open class, well, Lisa, at last year's Rising Phoenix, and Andrulla, at the Ms Olympia in 1999, were the best ever placed Brits. They both placed 7th. So now the record belongs to Wendy.
Tomorrow, some of FMS' favourite images from the show, the 16 other women who competed and who we haven't focused on yet this week, and our inexpert, possibly incoherent take on the 2017 Rising Phoenix, and what it might tell us about the current state of the sport and the Wings of Strength regime. Bet you can't wait!