Ask any contest promoter and they will tell you one of their sincerest hopes is that the winners of the competition are high quality and popular with the paying audience. Well, on the 4th of July weekend with fireworks on tap, promoter Tim Gardner along with the Wings of Strength came up with a gem in Chitown for the annual Chicago Pro staged at the Tinley Park Convention Center. As a fourth annual event, the Chicago Pro has been a well-attended two-day show that was worthy of being staged on the nation's birthday. Specific to this article, pro events in both Women's Bodybuilding and Women's Physique, along with Masters division offered in each, laid the groundwork for what became a spirited competition in four events that featured a wide array of colorful athletes from six foreign countries and 18 States.
HELLLLLLLL-O, NEUMAN !
Winning a contest in your pro debut. It's not impossible, but it's pretty rare. You have to be very good. It helps immeasurably if you have picked your parents carefully where genetics are concerned. Your musculature needs to be balanced and complete throughout your physique, and those muscles need to be well-shaped..... not to mention the idyllic level of conditioning needed to bring out those qualities. And of course professional attention to makeup, skin-tone and a suitable hairstyle that all contribute to a 'finished' look worthy of topping a field of professionals. Most competitors have both heard and understand these necessities on more than one occasion, but implementing them can be a sobering challenge. Ben Weider used to explain it in a few words....."everything in harmony". Yet occasionally, competitors come along who fill the bill in all the above-mentioned areas. And so it was on July 4th as 2012 NPC National light-heavyweight champion Kira Neuman emerged in her pro debut to lock down a victory in a big field of 26 contestants at the Wings Chicago Pro. All the superlatives rose quickly to the surface. She had the 'Wow' factor. She was the contest's 'IT' girl. The judges thought so too. At just 5-3 and distributing 134 pounds on her frame, Neuman - with her 'right off the beaches of California' look - stole the show..... in unanimous fashion. From her center position in the middle of the first call-out during the pre-judging round, she moved from front, to side, to back, leaving no doubt everything was in its proper place.
From Indiana and competing in her first contest in 2007, Kira Neuman had been a bodybuilder with most of those years competing as a light-heavyweight - with the exception of winning the NPC Collegiate Nationals in her first year as a lightweight. From 2009 to 2011, her entries at the national level were largely uneventful. But in 2012 she blossomed and with a winning effort at the NPC Nationals she had earned her pro status. Neuman's look at that event was eye-catching. She showed true potential. In 2013 she made her pro debut at the Tampa Pro and she landed in an unheralded and unlucky 13th place. Following that, she took 2014 away to train and make improvements. Assuming rightly that venturing into the pro bodybuilding arena any further would be a tall order competitively, she opted for the Physique division. And presto, it was a perfect fit. Like most competitors who enter a given division for the first time, they take the stage with an unsure feeling hidden by a look of confidence. A positive call-out can help surge the feeling of confidence, and winning can leave many shell-shocked. In Neuman's case the positive reinforcement from judges, along with the reality that she was now qualified for the upcoming Olympia, and being handed a winner's check for $2,000... she did her best to avoid the 'deer in the headlights' look. So, the next lights she sees will be on the biggest of all stages in the world of bodysports at the Physique Olympia. In the Chicago Pro audience few would doubt she will fit in just fine. In fact, it was one of those rare, universally agreed upon, decisions. A collective two thumbs up. This might just be the beginning of her very own 'Neuman Nation' !
A Hint of Henton's Potential
Finishing second to Kira Neuman was Kentucky's Sheronica Sade Henton. Has a nice ring to it doesn't it? Well this new Physique pro has scored a pair of previous runner-up finishes prior to the Chicago pro and she has all the indications of moving up a notch in the not-too-distant future. Prior to her entering the Physique division in 2013 when she won the overall NPC Georgia title, Henton had competed in both Figure and Bodybuilding doing well in both. But with the coming of the 2014 season she took her body - that was crafted for Physique - to the IFBB North American Championships and finished second in her class to earn pro status.
Making her pro debut at the St. Louis Pro this year she collected a second-place finish. And the 27-year old has backed that up with another at this Chicago Pro event. Structurally, Henton was strikingly close to Neuman in that both are 5-3 and Henton competes in the neighborhood of 135. While they possessed slightly different body types, each has her own brand of quality, and now that Henton has collected a pair of bridesmaid placings, judges will be hard-pressed to miss her in future lineups. For her finish here Henton accepted a check for $1,000 and four points towards Olympia Qualification.
Oh, Brien in Third.
As the senior sister of this field of contestants, Canadian Mindi O'Brien flexed and posed her way to a third-place finish. With by far the most impressive contest resume of this contingent, O'Brien has enjoyed multiple trips to the Fitness Olympia and Fitness International over the years. Last year she won the WPD at the Toronto Super Show and followed that up with a 6th-place finish at the Physique Olympia. This year she got off to a rocky start with a 10th-place spot at the Europa Supershow in Dallas, but got back on track at this event. O'Brien still has five more opportunities to win or amass enough points to return to Las Vegas. Here she earned $500 for her third-place showing.
1- Kira Neuman, Indiana 5
2- Sheronica Henton, Kentucky 12
3- Mindi O'Brien, Canada 14
4- Kristina Dybdahl-Farnsworth, California 17
5- Mikaila Soto, Illinois 25
6- Melissa DiBernardo, New York 31
7- Margarita Charaim, Illinois 34
8- LaDrissa Bonivel, Illinois 41
9- Mica Schneider, Ohio 45
10- Miava Nelson, New Jersey 50
11- Geri Villalona, Massachusetts 55
12- Andrea Holiday, Alabama 58
13- Raquel Ramos, Spain 62
14- Pamela Slemmons, Ohio 74
15- Marcie Simmons, Illinois 76
16- Natalie Thompson, Canada 78
17- Rose Brunner, Colorado
17- Laura Sanders, South Carolina 80
17- Asha Hadley, Texas 80
17- Tracy Hess, Pennsylvania 80
17- Melissa Lesage, Arizona 80
17- Jen Louwagie, Minnesota
17- Tracy Mason, Michigan 80
17- Nkechi Nwafor-Robinson, Canada 80
17- Lisa Sanders, Texas 80
17- Caroline Gaume, France 80
17- Roxanne Edwards, New York 80
1- Mikaila Soto, Illinois 5
2- LaDrissa Bonivel, Illinois 10
3- Mica Schneider, Ohio 16
4- Pamela Slemmons, Ohio 19
5- Andrea Holiday, Alabama 24
6- Natalie Thompson, Canada 30
7- Rose Brunner, Colorado 39
8- Nkechi Nwafor-Robinson, 42
9- Tracy Hess, Pennsylvania 43
10- Caroline Gaume, France 46
11- Roxanne Edwards, New York 59
Past Women's Physique Division Winners
2012 - Nola Trimble, Illinois
2013 - Jamie Pinder, Connecticut
2014 - Leila Thompson, North Carolina
2015 - Kira Neuman, Indiana
Wings of Strength Chicago Pro Bodybuilding Winner Helle Trevino Is The Greatest Dane!
If Helle Trevino doesn't strike an immediate chord of recognition, her maiden name - Helle Nielsen - may sound much more familiar. She has been one of bodybuilding's best dating back to her 1998 victory at the Danish National Championships. And since then she has left her mark along the way, but this weekend she put a solid exclamation point on her contest resume with a resounding and unanimous victory over a cozy field of eight additional contestants that included last year's defending Chicago Pro champion Rita Bello.
Having competed internationally at the IFBB World Amateur Championships in 1999, she made her pro debut an auspicious one landing the heavyweight and overall titles at the 2003 Jan Tana Pro Classic. The same year she placed fifth in the heavyweight class of the Ms. Olympia. Taking time away from competition to solidify her career objectives, Trevino re-surface in 2011 to win the FIBO Power Pro in Germany followed by a 14th-place finish at the Ms. Olympia that year. In 2012 she returned again to the Ms. Olympia placing 12th. With two solid top ten placings at the 2013 Tampa Pro and 2014 Omaha Pro, Trevino's goal was to simply put herself in the best shape ever in an attempt to qualify for the new Rising Phoenix Pro World Championships in August. The Chicago Pro event has been kind to Trevino having placed second in 2012 to help her qualify for the Olympia that year. So her victory this year has achieved the same goal by qualifying for the Rising Phoenix event.
At 5-5, 166 pounds, Trevino was a picture of muscular balance with plenty of density to build on. Those particulars in tandem with a solid level of high-end conditioning made her a frontrunner from the first call-out of the judging rounds. With a generous amount of cultivated muscle from head to toe, it was her world class legs - and calves in particular - that put the finishing touches on her physique. The outcome was never in doubt. In winning, Trevino collected a check for $4,000...a nice monetary present as her July 9th birth date approaches. She has again left little doubt she is the Greatest Dane!
Don't Cry For Her Argentina!
For many years, Argentina's Rita Bello has been the standard bearer for women's bodybuilding in her country. She's been competing since the early 90's and if there has been one constant in her journey's to the competitive stage, it is that she has always been at the highest possible level of visible muscularity. Shredded, ripped, or whatever way you choose to define it (no pun intended), she has been what many have described as a human female anatomy chart. She'll simply tell you that it's her preferred style of physical display and she's comfortable with that philosophy. So be it, and it has served her well along the way. After winning the 2010 Arnold Amateur Championship in Columbus and winning a pair of Arnold Amateur Europe overalls in 2008 and 2010, she turned pro and since 2013 she has been very successful. Leading up to her 11th-place finish at the 2013 Ms. Olympia, Bello notched a third-place finish at the Toronto Super Show and second at the Tampa Pro. Last year she won the Wings Chicago Pro lifting her to the Ms. Olympia stage once again where she moved up to 9th at the premier women's bodybuilding event. Back this year to defend her Chicago crown, Bello was once again sharp, but lacked the size and muscular density to overcome Helle Trevino's overall look. Still she claimed second place points in an effort to qualify for the inaugural Rising Phoenix World Pro event in August. Bello's prize money came to $2,500 and that, along with her victory in the Masters division, added another $1,500 to her winnings making for a very successful weekend.
Spain's Virginia Sanchez Makes It A Foreign Sweep of the Top Three Placings
Any bodybuilding fan who appreciates the front double biceps pose found Virginia Sanchez a pleasant surprise in this field. With literally perfect shapes to her biceps virtually any pose where she displayed them became a signature move that caught the eyes of the judges. In fact her upper body was exceptional from front and back, and her only drawback, and what kept her from moving a place was that her legs missed a level of balanced development compared to her upper body. When he brings up her legs, she has the capacity to win an event at this level. In the past, Sanchez was a runner-up at the 2011 IFBB European Masters Championships, and after winning the Arnold Amateur Europe event, she turned pro in 2014. Sanchez claimed a third-place finish at the Toronto Super Show, and followed up by placing sixth at the Wings of Strength Chicago Pro....so her finish here was a notable improvement in the past year. For her efforts, Sanchez claimed a check for $1,500 in third-place prize money.
It is interesting to note that with three of the four qualifying events for the Rising Phoenix inaugural contest, all three winners have been from outside the United States. Lisa Cross from England won the Omaha Pro, Christine Envall of Australia captured the Toronto Super Show, and now Denmark's Helle Trevino has continued the strong foreign presence in winning here. The Tampa Pro is next... the final event for the mad scramble to qualify. Additional prize money at this event went to 4th-placed Isabelle Turell - $1,000, and 5th-placer Angela Rayburn - $500. Margie Martin was named 'Best Poser' and was awarded $500 for her stellar performance.
1- Helle Trevino, Denmark 10
2- Rita Bello, Argentina 20
3- Virginia Sanchez Macias, Spain 30
4- Isabelle Turell, Indiana 42
5- Angela Rayburn, Mississippi 48
6- Judy Gaillard, Mississippi 66
7- Irene Anderson, Sweden 76
8- Margie Martin, California 78
9- Lora Ottenad, Nevada 80
1- Rita Bello, Argentina 10
2- Virginia Sanchez Macias, Spain 20
3- Angela Rayburn, Mississippi 30
4- Judy Gaillard, Mississippi 40
5- Lora Ottenad, Nevada 50
Past Women's Bodybuilding Winners
2012 - Monique Jones, North Carolina
2013 - Monique Jones, North Carolina
2014 - Rita Bello, Argentina
2015 - Helle Trevino, Denmark