With the 2018 edition of the Arnold Classic opening its doors next Thursday (1st March), we thought it might be both a good time and interesting to look back at what's happened there over the last decade. It's seen a lot of change since 2008, much more than we had imagined truth be told, and not simply because of the death of the Ms International. Over the next ten days we'll be seeing how that change has come about and why the 2018 contest will be very different from where we start today - 2008.
BRING ON THE AMATEURS
What sets the Arnolds apart from the Olympia is that it is both a pro and amateur show and has been since 2008, when, for the first time, amateur FBBs were given the chance to compete. 27 took the chance, and were divided into three weight classes - Light, Middle and Heavy. Joanne Stewart of New Zealand (above) won the 12-woman Lightweight class; in the Middleweight class Holly Nicholson edged out Alicia St. Germaine (both below); but there was, according to contemporary reports, a clear winner in the Heavies, and she was to triumph in the Overall posedown too.
Maria Carmen Gomez Segura dominated the Heavyweight class not only with her physique, but by her stage presence as well. The Arnold Expo spectators came alive during Segura's routine and stayed around to cheer her Overall award later. Her closest competition among the Heavyweights was from the blond Canadian Mary Lynne MacKenzie, although Segura was really in a class of her own.
Fitness and Figure also featured (Celeste Bonin was one of the Figure competitors - you may have heard of her!), but in terms of where the Arnolds are at now, the fact that the Arnold Amateur began with Maria Segura, one of the biggest beefiest amateurs we've ever seen, walking off with the Overall crown kind of makes it sound like it happened in a different dimension rather than a mere 10 years ago, doesn't it?
REMEMBER THE ONE-PIECE?
And adding to that sense that I was digging up pictures from the dim and distant past was my rediscovery of the Fitness and Figure one-piece. I'd forgotten all about this!
Not a bit missed by this female muscle fan nor, I would imagine, by the competitors themselves. In Figure - why would you not want to see their abs? Fitness - isn't it enough to parade these poor women around the stage once, sapping the little strength left in their depleted bodies before they perform their impossibly demanding routines? Making them parade twice - and change in between! - seems almost sadistic now.
Kim Klein (top left and above) was #1 in a 12-strong Fitness line-up that included Mindi O'Brien. Gina Aliotti (top right and middle) beat 15 other women to the Figure title. Two names with better days at the Arnolds ahead both finished way behind Gina that day - Nicole Wilkins (11th) and Juliana Malacarne (12th).
IRIS' BUMP YEAR
This was the Ms International where Iris finished 7th despite being at the height of her powers and undefeated at the Arnolds since 2002. The reason, for some time, remained a mystery. I’m still quite puzzled, said Iris many days after the show. I have received no feedback, leaving me with thousands of unanswered questions. I made a couple of calls but I couldn’t get through. Only much later did the Head Judge Sandy Ranalli confirm a rumour that "bumps" were responsible for Iris' placing during a radio interview. Her shoulders were a little bit, you know, distorted. There were distortions in her glute area, she said. At this level of competition, [there is] not a big difference between athletes, those things come into play. It was the distortion.
As these things went in those days, Iris didn't win so Yaxeni did. Just my opinion, but one or two of the rest of the top 6 might well still feel they could have got the nod instead.