Saturday, 12 May 2018

Champions of Power and Grace

No creative effort went into the title of today's post, "Champions of Power and Grace" is actually the name of the IFBB pro show in Raleigh, North Carolina last weekend.

Among the power and grace on show in the Women's Physique line-up were the very gorgeous Allison Schmohl; Figure phenom turned Bodybuilder Jamie Taylor, making her Physique debut at the age of 45(!); Lauren Rutan and her thrillingly shredded legs placing in the top 5 again; and one of my top new swoons of 2018 so far, Sarah Fechter. Each of these women would be worthy of their very own post, as would Figure Olympian Jessica Reyes Padilla in her first (and hopefully not last) Physique show; the shredded glutes (among other parts) of the magnificent Valentina Mishina; Jill Diorio and her calves of plenty; and the ever glorious Katie Lee.

None are getting more than that brief mention today simply because this show had power and grace to burn. There were 29 women in the main Physique line-up, with another 6 competing only in either the 35+ or 45+ Masters Physique classes as well.

The check-in pictures, other assorted candids, plus the weekend's social posts are enough to keep a smile on your face for days. Or maybe that should be for a week.

Among others, these four images have helped maintain my cheesy grin. OK, so Katie gets another mention, hitting her (obligatory) most muscular the night before; there's Sheronica, backstage (where we'd all like to be at one of these shows), not even flexing that mighty shoulder; there's Liz Montalbano with her massive medal and her mighty peaks (note the Bramwell-like under-bicep veins); and here's Melissa Pearo, mature glammed and tanned muscle beauty in glorious, groin-activating close-up.

Anyway, and with extra apologies to all the power and grace we have ended up ignoring completely, FMS has selected five of the competitors for a closer look.

And we may as well continue with Melissa...

(4th, Open)

How this gorgeous hunk of womanhood can be surrounded by empty seats is beyond me. She's as deserving of a permanent, adoring entourage as any Physique dream.

Of course on her Instagram she's not short of compliments. Working on my selfie skills, she claimed in the week before this show. If you get any better at it... responded one of her followers. No need to expand. Melissa is surely well aware of the power she has.

Love how deep her tan always is. So dark, so sexy. Love how she threatens to wear post-show photoshoot outfits onto the flight back home. She can't resist an on stage most muscular either, which is never a bad thing. She's what Physique is all about, reckons another "Pearoist". A beautiful woman with a tight and sexy body. Her muscles - especially her biceps - look so thick and hard when she flexes them.

(8th, Open)

Since she switched to Physique Anne has - perhaps unsurprisingly - got a lot less forum attention than she did during her Bodybuilding glory days. Nevertheless, the mission she and her husband/trainer are on appears (to me anyway) to be pretty much the same - to develop a truly other-wordly physique, to almost become an alien life form!

Here she was as shredded as I've seen her for some time (and when you are talking about Anne that is very very shredded indeed). The toll the final part of her preparation has taken on her is there for everybody to see on her face. I find that kind of dedication, the sheer will to go that far, quite hypnotic. I don't know if I'm attracted or repulsed by this sight, but either way I'm transfixed. I can't stop looking at her!

She makes an interesting backstage comparison with the rising star of the class, don't you think? No such facial toll on Valentina (yet!), and Anne is giving away a few inches and a few years, but if you think Valentina's muscles are massive (and they are) just look at the thickness of Anne's side pec, and how she (at least) matches Mishina's quads. We always meet nice and pretty people at each show, Anne wrote of this meeting. Nice to meet you, Valentina responded. Your condition[ing] is amazing.

(unplaced, Open; 11th, 35+; 7th, 45+)

Candrea is another woman who doesn't get so much attention from the female muscle lovin' community, but she's had me following since the first time I saw her thoroughbred body on stage. My reward has been regular clips of Candrea grunting away in the gym (or anywhere else she can get a good pump on) - my excitement rising as I imagine her making similar, perhaps more prolonged, noises in er, let's say a different, more intimate context. I (and her other 3,000 or so followers) have also been rewarded with regular topless back shots, particularly when she's deep into her prep. The above, taken before last year's Olympia, is just one (special) example.

She wasn't, in my own ignorant opinion, at her absolute best here, but that is quite a chassis she has, and she is always a glorious sight from behind. In my own personal version of the washed-up-on-the-island-of-Amazons fantasy, the Queen, the most dominant of them all, looks very much like Candrea. Her dark, powerful body is decoratively painted (as is their custom, and she - as Queen - has the most beautiful decoration) but otherwise she's naked, and her muscles glisten in the hot sun...

Power and grace personified, an "ebony powerhouse" as one forum poster puts it, her body "hot and delicious". Here she is a few days before her previous show, crying out to be oiled right up (I imagine!). I do like how she adjusts her clothing in these shots.

Winner, Open

The big winner on the day was the pre-show favourite, the gorgeous Sheronica looking powerful and graceful both on the day and as she prepared for her first contest of 2018. Her 5th at last year's Olympia means that she didn't need the automatic qualification that came with first place here, and, as she explains at the end of the clip (you may not have got that far) the Olympia may be the only other show she does this year.

She really is a class act these days, and despite what some moaners have been saying on the forums about her victory here, Sheronica's rise to the upper echelons of the Physique world has coincided nicely with her rise into the top 30 of the Hot and Hard 100 - one of those rare occasions when fans and judges are in agreement.

She rather plays down her devastating sex appeal on her Instagram, but in the last year or so this endearingly quiet, modest muscle beauty has also been doing more and more glamour work, including this welcome addition to a mini-genre that (as far as I know) goes back to (real) fire-fighter Sandy Riddell. I don't think Sheronica is actually a firefighter, but such hotness does carry a fire risk, so there is a link there... just.

12th, Open

"Shero" may have gone home with the title and the (not very sizeable) cheque, but for FMS - and, it seems, many in the female muscle lovin' community - the Queen of Power and Grace was, on her pro debut, the utterly glorious Jessica McKenzie.
Jessica's (Bodybuilding to Physique, amateur to pro) progress
Top: (left) 2015 Jr USAs, (right) 2015 Nationals
Bottom: (left) 2016 USAs, (right, Physique) 2017 North Americans

We've followed Jessica since she first flexed her mighty biceps into the collective consciousness with three national level shows in 2015. Comparisons with a young Lenda Murray were noted, as were forum comments such as "she has the most shapely biceps I have ever seen". The following year we were rather upset when the judges failed to give Jessica a placing that came with a pro card at the NPC USAs. What a woman, we gushed. What a LADY she is! And after last year's USAs we hoped her switch from Bodybuilding to the (much more competitive) Physique class would herald a change in fortunes for her. It didn't at that show, but at the IFBB North Americans soon afterwards, a runner's-up spot in her class made her an IFBB pro.

The irony is that since moving to Physique, Jessica has (to my eyes anyway) actually got bigger. Competing as a pro for the first time here she had obviously done a lot of work on her legs (to thrilling effect), and also came in as ripped as I've ever seen her. Perhaps this is why she placed so low (although in a 29-woman line-up, 12th on your first pro outing is certainly no disgrace), perhaps it was the "oops! sorry, forgot - I used to be a Bodybuilder" close-fisted double biceps that kept her out of the top 10.

As always though, Jessica places far less emphasis on the placing than the experience, and she had a very good time. OH WHAT A NIGHT! she exclaimed (her caps). For years, I have dreamed of stepping on the pro stage; tonight that dream came true. To hear my name called out among 30+ of the best pros from all over the world is something that mere words cannot explain. Being up on stage performing tonight made me feel free. Free to express my passion for the art of Bodybuilding.

What a lady! What a QUEEN!!!

Check out all the power and grace on NPC News Online.


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