The huge Olympia Weekend on September 18-21 is now a part of bodybuilding lore and tradition, and the Women's Bodybuilding division once again chipped in with a flair for creating an ongoing re-writing of its own history. Of course the major story came by way of the fact that this year's Olympia was the 50th anniversary of an event that has long been recognized as the premier showcase for the finest physiques in the world. NBC had even jumped on board to televise the Mr. Olympia on this special weekend.
Just ask IFBB North American promoter Gary Udit if he has seen positive growth in the Women's Physique division of the North American Championships since moving the contest to Pittsburgh and he'll quickly quote the numbers of the open division.
In 2012 when the event still offered three height classes the contest drew 32 contestants as Jill Rudison captured the overall title. Last year the event swelled to 53 entrants with the addition of a fourth height class and Desunka Dawson winning the overall crown. This year, however, the proverbial dam broke as 76 women lined up to take a number in the four height classes. As is often said, numbers don't lie. And that magical number of 76 didn't even include those women who had also opted to enter the Masters Over-35 and Masters Over-45 Physique divisions.
While Americans have dominated the overall women's bodybuilding North American titles dating back to the early ‘80s, Canada has managed to step up to take a crown back to north of the our border on occasion. And more recently they are doing so with more frequency. When Zoa Linsey won the 2009 North American overall title, it was the first time since another Canadian – Sharon Bruneau – had won the prestigious title in 1991, an 18-year span of time. But since Linsey's 2009 win, Canadian Gillian Kovack took the overall honor in 2011, and this year not only did Tara Silzer win the overall crown, her country mate, Amanda Aivaliotis, also won the overall Masters North American title.
In just about any way imaginable when describing the promotional skills of uber-promoter Gary Udit, all the explanations from every direction are virtually identical and heartfelt. In short, he's a master of covering every last detail in looking after the competitors who enter his events, while making sure every element that goes into making a contest entertaining and enjoyable for both the competitors and the audience runs smoothly.
The Wings of Strength held each year in Tampa has become an extremely popular event, and in just the past three years the new Women's Physique Division is producing new stars by the handful. Last year's Physique Olympia winner Dana Linn Bailey was a runner-up at this event before moving on to her victory in Las Vegas.
The entry lists from each of the past two years along with the huge group of contestants this year brim with competitors such as Karina Nascimento, Nola Trimble, Jennifer Robinson, Mikaila Soto, and Tycie Coppett, among many others who have become familiar as well as successful in the pro Physique division. The 36 entries at this year's Tampa event is by far the largest show of the year for a WPD competition and the quality was top notch.
This year on the weekend of August 8-9 at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, promoter Tim Gardner outdid himself once again with an outstanding contestant turnout as well as an enthusiastic crowd to make for an event fans will be talking about right up to the Olympia Weekend in September.
Promoter Tim Gardner may be unique in all of bodybuilding when it comes to his annual contest held in Tampa, Florida. And the primary reason is that the event carries with it so many names. Of course there's the NPC Tim Gardner Extravaganza, and at the IFBB pro level it's known as the Tampa Wings of Strength Pro, the Pro Bodybuilding Weekly Championships or simply the Tampa Pro.
Call it what you will, it has grown steadily over the past several years and for the 2014 edition with all the divisions both amateur and pro, they're probably still counting all the entries. Someone mentioned there were 223 men and women pro entries making it the biggest IFBB pro event ever.
For anyone who may have conjured up an idea that this upstart Golden State Pro Championships would be a laid back California affair with a little flexing of muscle and lot of throwing back those exotic umbrella drinks, think again. True fans of bodybuilding who made the trek to central California had to be very pleasantly surprised.
The fellows at Spectrum Fitness Productions (Ted Williamson and John Tuman) put on a dandy contest, and with the women's Physique division holding up more than their end of the bargain with a talented group of 14 contestants and plenty of quality muscle, they easily earned two thumbs up.
Now in its fourth year of existence as the newest of the NPC women's divisions, the Physique division has established a strong following as well as providing an alternative to the longstanding bodybuilding division where muscular development is an integral part of the judging process in both divisions.