Women's Bodybuilding and the Women's Physique Division always make for an exciting bodysport duo at any IFBB pro event, and when they are staged together at the PBW Tampa Pro Championships on the August 7-8 weekend at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay Audubon Ballroom, sponsors Jake and Kristel Wood's Wings of Strength and promoter Tim Gardner's production crew had another winning event on their hands. The pro bodybuilding portion of the event has a strong tradition dating back to 2008, and the previous winners have all been outstanding competitors who found their collective way to the Olympia stage - some on multiple occasions. And now a tradition is growing with the Physique Division with three previous winners as a benchmark for what will undoubtedly become a premier event in the coming years.
Mindi O Takes the PBW Tampa Pro Physique Title
For Mindi O' Brien, the story of this PBW Tampa Pro Physique Championship could easily be called 'The Life of O'Brien'. A mega-veteran Canadian competitor who has starred for many years in both Pro Fitness, and more recently in the Physique Division, her accomplishment on this August weekend became something of a numbers game that has further established her stature among the competitive elite of the IFBB. Seemingly, each time she competes another level of excellence is reached. Her victory at this event makes her a very rare competitor who has won a pro event in both Fitness and Physique. She has competed in over 30 pro contests dating back to 2004. Within that number, she has a fist full of years where she competed in the Fitness Olympia and six were in a row from 2004 to 2009. Now she will be headed for her third Physique Olympia, an event where she placed sixth last year. And there is much more. But at this Tampa event, O'Brien was once again golden. At 5-4, she distributed 130 pounds on her athletic framework and the musculature she carried showed the usual flowing functional look it always has. With the striking stage presence she brought to the Physique Division from her years of Fitness, O'Brien managed to distance herself from a barrage of new, upcoming future stars eager to race to the top spot. For O'Brien, she continues to exude a keen sense of grace and style on stage and her 41 years of living hasn't betrayed her in any way. She's a star. One of Canada's best in the bodysport world. And it will take very special athletes to approach what she has accomplished in her multi-faceted career. With the final tallies, the judges ran her up the flagpole unanimously as a distinguished champion. Her $2,000 in prize money will be a nice amount of extra spending money when she arrives in Las Vegas in the third week of September at a contest she knows very well.
If you're going to make a splash or just plain strong first impression in a given endeavor, Chicago's Reshanna Boswell did it the right way in her pro debut at the PBW Tampa Pro. For any competitor who makes her pro debut, no matter what division, the nerves and anticipation plus having no clear indication of where you might fit in can be trying, to say the least. None of that seemed to phase this Chitown newbie one bit. With a confident stage presence - at least outwardly - she flexed her way through the routine and compulsories with a look of joy that projected to the back rows of the audience. With limited contest experience, Boswell won the 2014 NPC Midwest Open, and this year she turned pro at the NPC Junior USA in May. Presto, the 5-5, 142-pound Boswell let just two months go by before she jumped at the chance to join the pros in Tampa. So, if her runner-up finish is any indication that the impressively constructed anatomy she carries around should make her very competitive when she decides to compete again. Boswell returned home to Chicago with an additional $1,000 in her pocketbook for the runner-up finish.
Another newcomer to the pro Physique Division was Kentucky's Sheronica Henton. Quickly establishing herself a very competitive entrant at this level Henton banks on a generous offering of stage savvy to go with a well-constructed physique. Turning pro in 2014, Henton got off to a good start this year with a runner-up pro debut finish at the St. Louis Pro in early April. She followed that up with another 2nd-place spot at the Wings of Strength Chicago Pro in July. Now here, Henton pressed on the leaders to finish comfortably in third. Henton, like Boswell, are part of the current new wave of evolution in the Physique Division. They are dynamic and loaded with genetics to build on as they continue to cultivate their overall structures. For her 3rd-place finish Henton pocketed $500. There should be many more top-five finishes in her future.
1- Mindi O'Brien, Ontario, Canada 5
2- Reshanna Boswell, Illinois 10
3- Sheronica Henton, Kentucky 17
4- Jennifer Hernandez, Florida 21
5- Mikaila Soto, Illinois 23
6- Jennifer Robinson, Tennessee 30
7- Eva Pogacnik, Slovenia 35
8- Rosela Joseph, Florida 41
9- Andrea Holliday, Alabama 45
10- Twana Barnett-Ferguson, California 46
11- Jen Louwagie, Minnesota 52
12- Roxanne Edwards, New York 61
13- Marnie Holley, Ontario, Canada 64
14- Olivia Terry, Texas 72
15- Sherri Gray, North Carolina 73
16- Alisa LaMay, Alabama 80
16- Robin Connell, Hawaii 80
16- Kendal Dolen, Texas 80
16- Cassandra Floyd, Georgia 80
16- Asha Hadley, Texas 80
16- Lisa Horrigan, Florida 80
16- Janeen Lankowski, Canada 80
16- Alicia Alfaro Mesa, Argentina 80
16- Jillian Reville, Connecticut 80
16- Tracy Weller, Georgia 80
16- Paula Frega, Argentina 80
2012 - Nola Trimble, Illinois
2013 - Valerie Gangi, California
2014 - Heather Grace, Colorado
2015 - Mindi O'Brien, Canada
Margie Martin Moves On To The Rising Phoenix With PBW Tampa Bodybuilding Win!
If you're a competitor who has placed in the top 10 of a previous Ms. Olympia, and you're entering an event that can potentially qualify you for an inaugural Rising Phoenix Pro World Championship contest just two weeks later, chances are a judging panel will want to take a close look to see how you stack up in a competitive field. And at this PBW Tampa Pro event that featured a field of 16 contestants, two competitors - Alana Shipp and Margie Martin - both of whom had not only competed in last year's Ms. O, but also landed in top 10 finishing positions, were predictably included in the first call-out of the judging rounds....and rightly so, based on their outstanding overall looks compared to the field of challengers. Promptly, Margie Martin played the role of a runaway train carrying loads of well-conditioned muscle that was posed exquisitely. Martin entered the contest weighing 160 pounds on her genetically-gifted 5-5 frame. The catch here was that Shipp had finished 4th at the Olympia and Martin had been 10th. At this event, however, it appeared the order of these two Olympians would be reversed. Martin was just that much more polished on this day, and each bodypart seemed to own its own signature. Her biceps were peaked and well-shaped. Her shoulders were broad and round X 2. And her thighs, well, what adjective to use? Voluminous, billowy - with quads that showed great separation. Meanwhile, her back double biceps pose detailed the expanse of that muscular terrain in convincing fashion. Put simply, she was complete, and the show was hers.
It could be assumed both Martin and Shipp entered this big Tampa event as a prelude/tuneup to the Rising Phoenix affair. And for Martin she was spot on. A steady improver since placing 9th at the 2012 NPC Nationals as a light-heavyweight, Martin stepped up to win the HW and Overall titles at the 2013 NPC USA. Now a pro with seven contests on her resume including this Tampa event, she has made notable improvements in each showing - a marked example of her discipline and perseverance. Now in her busiest year competitively, the Rising Phoenix Pro World event will be her fifth contest in 2015 and how much gas she has left in the tank remains to be seen, but for now, at least, her name is Margie V. Martin, and the 'V' can stand for Victory. And the $4,000 she earned as the Tampa Pro champion no doubt made the coast-to-coast flight back to her California digs that much more comfortable.
Alana Shipp could be considered the women's bodybuilding division mascot for the 'little engine that could'. Short in stature, but big on finely-shaped muscle groups throughout her physique, few would have guessed or bet she would bring enough muscular firepower to last year's Ms. Olympia where she flexed her way into the fourth position. Not bad for an Olympia debut! But it only took a second look to realize how good she really was. Turning pro at the 2013 NPC Nationals as a middleweight, Shipp moved directly into the pro ranks in 2014 placing 5th at the Omaha Pro, 2nd at the Toronto Super Show and 4th at the Olympia. Now with a runner-up finish here in Tampa she has a pro contest resume that shows she has finished in the top five of each pro event she has entered - an enviable accomplishment for any pro competitor. Most impressively at this contest was the fact that even though Shipp was less than shipp-shape compared to her Olympia showing from last year, she still possessed all the terrific muscle shapes and proportions needed to be competitive.....she simply lacked the razor-sharp detail in the larger muscle groups such as the glutes and quads that were so eye-catching last year. The fact that she was slightly off her top form, was enough to leave the door open for Margie Martin to step in and derail Shipp's potential victory. For her runner-up placing, Shipp earned $2,500, and she will no doubt be looking to redeem herself at the upcoming Rising Phoenix inaugural contest.
Competitors on a comeback trail are always interesting to put under the microscope. What they were in the past compared to what they are now is always grist for the mill. Some shine brightly on their return, others barely generate 20 watts. In the case of Isabelle Turell - an overall winner at the 2008 NPC USA, and who made her pro debut at the 2009 Ms. International with a very respectable 7th-place finish, decided to step away for six years before making her return this year. The results? Pretty terrific by anyone's standards. Turell made her first return showing at the Wings of Strength Chicago Pro event in the first week of July with a 4th-place showing, and without missing a beat she moved up a notch to 3rd-place here with nice improvements over the month between the two shows. At 5-5, 152 pounds, Turell sports an insane upper body that features broader-than-broad shoulders and what gives the appearance of an impossibly tiny waistline, thus displaying a beautiful 'V' taper. While Turell was dusting off her compulsories and posing routine she still managed to stay in the competitive mix which bodes well for her future events. For Turell, it's merely a matter of tightening down the nuts and bolts overall to challenge for the top spot. Her 3rd-place prize winnings came to $1,500 and it would be nice to see her compete one more time this year for cap a genuinely successful comeback season.
Fourth placer Keri Watkins from N. Brunswick, New Jersey, is a newbie to the pro ranks, but she's a veteran of life in general which is why she's such a great addition to this top five. In 2007 she won the overall at the NPC Eastern USA. But before she ever entered a bodybuilding contest she was a star track athlete in high school and gradually found herself in the gym training with weights. Fast forward to 2014 where she won the Over-45 division as well as the Overall title at the NPC Masters Nationals. With three children, the oldest of which is 23, Watkins has done a complete beat down on the aging process showing thick, dense, highly cultivated musculature in every bodypart. It was the primary reason for her ability to hang with the top five - and she was noticed right away with a first round call-out in the prejudging. For her 4th-place showing she claimed a check for $1,000.
Eventual fifth-placer Jacqueline Fuchs missed getting a first round call-out during prejudging, but when she appeared in the second call-out, judges took a first and second look....and that was enough to bump her up to a top-five placing. From Switzerland, Fuchs showed nice overall development that was well-balanced and she showed no obvious flaws. Her completeness could be likened to a Swiss pocket knife, exhibiting a little bit of everything that made her a desirable selection for the top group. With an athletic background as an accomplished martial artist and Muay Thai fighter, Fuchs was a winner at the 2012 Arnold Amateur Europe Championships before turning pro. Her prize money for placing fifth was $500 and as an added perk she was also selected as the event's 'Best Poser' which added another check for $500.
1- Margie Martin, California 10
2 - Alana Shipp, Texas 20
3- Isabelle Turell, Indiana 30
4- Keri Watkins, New Jersey 42
5- Jacqueline Fuchs, Switzerland 50
6- Judy Gaillard, Mississippi 62
7- Virginia Sanchez, Spain 71
8- Laura Carolan, Manitoba, Canada 80
9- Aleesha Young, Utah 88
10- Angela Debatin, Brazil 98
11- Shawna Strong, Arizona 111
12- Irene Anderson, Sweden 119
13- Kim Buck, Georgia 129
14- Patty Corbett, California 143
15- Maryse Manios, France 147
16- Elizabeth Mesa, Mexico 160
2008 - Nicole Ball, Canada
2009 - Betty Pariso, Texas
2010 - Brigita Brezovac, Slovenia
2011 - Cathy Lefrancois, Canada
2012 - Sarah Hayes, Texas
2013 - Tammy Jones, Florida
2014 - Sheila Bleck, Florida
2015 - Margie Martin, California