NOT DEAD YET
We know now that Female Bodybuilding's days at the Arnolds were very much numbered, but a look at both the Ms International and the two FBB classes at the Arnold Amateur in 2012 doesn't suggest to me that a terminal decline was setting in. Far from it. In the Amateur show, Hong King's Brenda Lo Kit Ming (above) won the Lightweight class - the first woman from Asia to take an Arnold title - with her impressively muscle-packed physique, and would have been a popular choice for the Overall title judging by some of the contemporary fan forum comments. Instead, the judges handed the Overall prize to Russian blonde bombshell Olga Puzanova.
And meanwhile, the Ms International had, as far as Steve Wennerstrom was concerned, "new life breathed into it" two weeks prior tot the show when a leg injury prevented Iris from competing. Suddenly, Yaxeni was the pre-event favourite, it was "her title to lose". She didn't, bringing one of her best ever packages (in my ignorant opinion), and receiving a unanimous thumbs up from the judges for her fifth, final Ms I win.
Yaxeni needed to be at her best. Debi Laszewski - "buffed and shined to perfection" - and Alina Popa, with "all the qualities of a star in the making" were right behind her. Wennerstrom felt Debi was unique in the way that after 16 years as a Female Bodybuilder she was still improving year in year out, while Alina, he said, provided "a beacon of what is in line for the future of women's bodybuilding". His report in general couldn't be more positive and less foreboding. Both in terms of the contest and the 14-woman line-up, this was as good a Ms International as there had been for many a year.
Perennial top six finishers Lisa Aukland, Betty Pariso and Dayana Cadeau were, along with Iris, all absent or had "retired" over the previous couple of years, but the women making their Ms International debuts in 2012 provided further cause for optimism, not least those who were graduates of the Arnold Amateur - Geraldine Morgan (14th, two-time top 3 Amateur Heavyweight), Alevtina Goroshinskaya (7th, 2011 Amateur Overall), Maria Segura (12th, 2008 Amateur Overall), and Rita Bello (8th, 2010 Amateur Overall). It's easy to forget that as recently as 2012 the "system" of having Arnold (and Olympia) Amateur Female Bodybuilding to feed competitors from outside the US into the pro ranks was working so very nicely.
Also lining up for the first time at the Arnolds was Mmmmonique Jones, drawing comparisons with none other than Lenda Murray (but bigger!) and leaving Wennerstrom and "most anyone" at a loss to why she failed to place higher than 10th. Instead, the debutant who made the biggest splash was Kim Buck, whose "streamlined, finely-tuned physique" was well worth the 5th place she was awarded.
Brigita Brezovac was another, more fancied pre-contest, woman making her Arnold debut. Like Yaxeni, she deliberately arrived at the show smaller (ie. at a lower weight) than she had recently competed at in order to boost her definition. Unlike for Yaxeni though, the drop didn't pay off. Having had a meteoric rise in 2010-11 (three pro contest wins plus a 3rd at the 2011 Olympia) Brigita had to settle for 6th here.
Looking back to this contest now, it's clear that there was nothing inevitable about the cancellation of the Ms International the following year (and later the Ms Olympia), and on top of that, one of the justifications trotted out - that the women had got "too big" - is somewhat undermined. Both the 2012 Ms International champion and one of the sports brightest new stars showed that less muscle more defined was not something they were averse to and the judges treated them differently. "Brigita will no doubt have many more invitations to this event in her future," Wennerstrom wrote, clearly believing the future would in no way be as bleak as it actually turned out to be.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
In other divisions, however, clearer signposts can be found. In the Amateur show, for example, the Overall title went to future multiple Bikini International and Olympia winner Ashley Kaltwasser, so for the first time I find myself looking at the Arnold Amateur Bikini champ and saying, "Ah yes! That's what Bikini looks like."
And if you've been reading all the Arnold posts since Saturday (thank you), you'll be aware of my pet theory about Figure becoming ever more muscular during the period, and here's the latest update. Nicole Wilkins (winner for the third year in a row in 2012) is still nowhere near as muscular as her 2017 self, but compare her to 2010 (left) I think it's clear that she (and by association the whole division) is growing.
No change in the Fitness champion - Adela Garcia again - but if she was looking over her shoulder, she would have seen the future coming towards her in the shape of the woman who would become the next, even more dominant force in the division. 3rd was by far Oksana Grishina's best Fitness International placing at her 5th attempt - she had never previously finished higher than 5th, and had been a lowly 8th in 2011.
Yes! Also in pro Fitness, where Kizzy Vaines (pretty in pink, 7th) gained her best ever and Britain's best pro result at the Arnolds since the days of Gayle Moher.