It's all over here in beautiful Cleveland, Ohio, as the 2009 IFBB North American Championships have finally concluded. With pro-cards up for grabs for all genres of both master and open classes, it was a long haul to the end. As always, promoter Gary Udit and his crew pulled it off without a hitch and should be complimented for the smooth and quick night show. Everyone was given the chance to stand onstage tonight and deservedly so. You can read what happened here, or you can check out the video wrap up featuring highlights of the top posing routines and overall comparisons.
The open men's competition began with competitive bantamweight and lightweight classes, won by France Lopez and Scott Kivisto respectively. When the welterweights took the stage, we finally started to see the true quality of the show. We originally thought it was a two man battle between Dr. Victor Prisk and Shelby Starnes, but the final results showed another man was in the mix as well - Bill Moschelle. Pose by pose, Dr. Vic rose above the group with his great symmetry and size. At the same time, Starnes started to fade, and although he was the hardest guy in the show, he was a bit undersized for his frame and he fell to third. Sneaking into 2nd was Moschelle, who had just enough of everything to edge out the more ripped Starnes.
The middleweight class was surprisingly shallow, with only three competitors. Hans Vander-Groden was the clear winner and no slouch despite his lack of competition. This quick class was followed by the much deeper light heavies, which proved to be an extremely competitive group. Mexican Benjamin Muniz was thickly muscled and looked to be the winner, but to our surprise, the more symmetrical Charles Lyons edged him out for the victory. Perhaps Muniz needed a little more conditioning to beat the hard working Lyons who had the hardness to complement his shape and the slabs of muscle he packed on his 5'6" frame.
There is little to say about the heavyweight class; it was owned by Shawn Rhoden. After a seven year layoff and no previous stage record of note, Rhoden dominated this class with exceptional shape and symmetry. He had the frame of a pro bodybuilder and enough conditioning to show his great lines. Miguel Garcia looked great in 2nd, but was no competition for Rhoden. Check out Rx Muscle's exclusive interview with Rhoden after pre-judging.
The open superheavyweight class had a great top 5 that was surprisingly competitive. Every top 5 competitor had great conditioning--a rarity in this class-and this simple fact made it extremely tough to judge. In the end, Abbas Khatami's total package edged out the rest of the class. The winning physique was comprised of superior conditioning, a crazy glute-ham tie-in, and no missing body parts. Second place went to Chad LaCount, who was balanced and sharp from every angle, but just seemed to miss that pop and polish of Khatami. In third was Keith Williams, who had the most size in the class and was well-conditioned, but lacked the pleasing lines of Khatami. Fourth went to Todd Jewell, who was his best to date but still needs to grow a bit. Finishing in fifth was a shredded but slightly undersized Brian Yerskey.
The overall was closer than we expected, as Khatami gave Rhoden a good run, but in the end Shawn Rhoden had enough conditioning to complement his beautiful shape and he was awarded the trophy and IFBB Pro Card.
The men's over-40 class was not as deep as past years at the North Americans, but the victor was as good as any of his predecessors. Floridian Mark Antonek came to Cleveland following victories at the NPC Tim Gardner Extravaganza and NPC Florida State Championships and he wasn't about to break his streak. As humble as can be, Antonek rose above the over-40 heavyweight class with sharp conditioning and plenty of size.
The final men's pro-card went to Dave Goodin--the Texas Shredder--winner of the over-50 class. Dave has been in this sport for 27 years and has an impressive record with tons of first and second place trophies. Always conditioned with great shape, he was finally rewarded a pro-card that he plans to put to use in the under-202 class.
Women's bodybuilding was an exercise in domination. Zoa Linsey, a Canadian here via Japan, left every other lady in her imposing shadow. She had tons of muscle, great condition, nice shape, and to put the icing on the cake, she was very pretty and presented herself perfectly. She came in shredded and noone in her class or in the overall posedown had any chance to beat her. She faced her biggest challenge in the open heavyweight class as Monique Jones showed up to battle. But Monique's Lenda Murray-esq frame couldn't hang with Zoa. Even Big Dave Palumbo was dwarfed in the post-victory interview. Zoa took the overall in the over-35 class and the accompanying pro-card. A short while later she dominated the open overall and left a chance for the runner up to take a pro-card (the new rules state that no one can win multiple pro-cards in one show). This allowed for lightweight and Rx Muscle moderator Tammy Patnode to finally become an IFBB Pro. Tammy had stellar conditioning and nice lines - it was a well deserved win and it was nice to see one of the smaller ladies get rewarded. The other open class winners included Jody Wald in the light heavies, who edged out a harder, but smaller Chris Sabo. Lastly, thick and shredded Amy Sibcy easily walked through the middle weight class.
The ambiguous genre we know as figure started off on a positive note tonight: We were only subject to a little over 100 competitors and actually had a chance to look at all the girls. After seeing 200+ at the USA's, I was prepared for sensory overload followed by the inevitable coma by the E class. And while the show wasn't deep, it had plenty of quality at the top. Standing atop the group was Class F winner, Silvana Salvati. Following a disappointing showing at the Canadian Nationals, Salvati tightened up enough to let her great lines show and stand above all the other class winners in the open and the over-35 class. The second pro-card went to Rx Muscle's favorite figure girl of the night, Cheryl Brown. Exotic beauty, tiny waist, and great condition got her the victory in Class B and were good enough to make her a new IFBB Pro. Another notable competitor was Class A winner Lavonda Ezell who sported the tiniest waist in the show. She could have easily taken one of the pro cards and no one would have complained. Congratulations to Silvana and Cheryl, both of whom have the potential to make a splash on the pro-circuit.
Fitness was very disappointing at the NA's. Only six competitors showed up to battle for a pro-card and only one is worthy of mention. Canadian Allison Ethier brought the best routine of the show and a body to back it up. Her Star Trek themed routine was fun, athletic, and polished. Most of all, it flowed together and worked for her. Congratulations to Allison on a much deserved promotion to IFBB pro.
The bikini class was won by a deserving and persevering Kat Holmes. I was a little disappointed that she ruined my goal of seeing a bikini "athlete" (the word used by promoter Gary Udit) compete in every national show in 2009, but I can't deny that she earned the victory today. This was Kat's tenth show in 2009 and she never finished lower than fourth! In the six weeks since the NPC USA's, she worked hard to tighten up her physique and bring some more conditioning to her legs. She's striking on stage with long blonde hair and a gorgeous smile; add to that her new streamlined body and she easily won her class and the overall. The second pro-card went to Jessica Lawrence, who proved that a good butt wins shows in the Bikini division.
Thanks to Gary Udit and his staff for putting on a great show and providing the press with everything we could ever need. We will see you in two weeks in majestic Atlantic City, New Jersey.