Tammy Jones Marches to Ms. Olympia with Tampa Pro Victory!
By Steve Wennerstrom, IFBB Women's Historian
The women's Bodybuilding division at this year's PBW Tampa Pro Championships was HUGE. How big was it? How about the second largest IFBB pro women's bodybuilding contest ever. Thirty competitors made their way to Florida for this August 9-10 weekend to compete in the final qualifier for the upcoming Ms. Olympia in late September.
The only larger pro women's Bodybuilding event was the 1993 Ms. Olympia where 32 women took part. Apart from the fact that this event was the biggest in the past 20 years, Lenda Murray and Cory Everson were also on hand to make the contest special for so many bodybuilders who were inspired by their presence on stage and in the magazines. As one competitor related after the contest, “It was so cool to have Lenda and Cory at the contest showing their support for the sport they helped create.”
Promoter Tim Gardner and sponsor Wings of Strength have now established a tradition of contest excellence that began in 2008. Since then each contest has shown a strong level of support from the competitors and the winners each year have been outstanding. This year's event was held at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay Hotel Ballroom.
Tammy Jones Marches to the Beat of a New Drummer
Before Tammy Jones walked onto a bodybuilding stage and hit her first double biceps pose, she was a member of a marching band. And who says bodybuilders have spent their entire lives lifting weights?Point being that once she did begin to take bodybuilding seriously, she marched with the goal of being the best bodybuilder she could be and to see where that would lead her. Well, on this weekend her march led to two results. First, in her pro debut, she flexed her way to a unanimous victory. That accomplishment is rare. Very few rookie pros are impressive enough to pull off a win in their first pro show. But second, her win put her on an impressive list of those qualified to compete at the Ms. Olympia in September. For any bodybuilder, that is a dream come true. All this was that much sweeter considering Tampa is just a two-hour drive north from her Cape Coral home, and most in the audience were already familiar with her previous successes and years competing in Florida.
Having competed for a shade over a dozen years now, Tammy Jones has never been shy about jumping into national-level events as an amateur. And along the way she had her share of wins to build a good contest resume. She was an overall winner at the NPC Gulf Coast in 2002, an overall winner at the 2005 NPC All-South, a HW winner at the 2005 NPC Florida State, and NPC Sunshine Classic. But the real measure of her willingness to persevere centers around those bigger events.
In 2006 Jones entered her first NPC Nationals and placed 13th. Back again in 2007 she finished 12th. Tough placings to be sure. But her 2008 season was something of a breakthrough for her as she won the overall NPC Florida Championships, placed 7th at the NPC Nationals and added a 4th-place finish at the IFBB North American. Yet the unexpected can always happen in the judging of women's bodybuilding, and at the 2009 IFBB North American Jones plummeted to 13th– a placing she was already familiar with.
Then came 2011. In her fourth NPC Nationals she placed 8th – not good, not bad. But at the IFBB North Americans she scored a solid runner-up finish. With the coming of 2012, in an interview before the event, Jones stated that she was entering the North Americans as a matter of “unfinished business.” Well, she finished that business with a HW and overall victory. It also earned her pro status.
Now headed to the Ms. Olympia, Jones sports a 5-6 frame that carries 157 pounds and has all the physical tools to enable her to fit in just fine. No bodypart is missing, and her broader-than-broad shoulders and a torso that tapers down to a small waistline that continues on to a solid set of flaring quads and accompanying calves. She appears ready for the contest of her life. Her prize money for the Tampa Pro victory totaled $4,000.
Placing second to Tammy Jones was Argentinian phenom Maria Rita Bello. A veteran competitor who has a contest history dating back to 1991, Bello has been blowing the minds of many international bodybuilding audiences for a very long time. She is, put simply, a female anatomy chart of visible muscularity.
As an amateur she has had considerable success having won the Argentinian National title four times, and the IFBB South American Championships four times. In 2005 she placed 7th at the IFBB World Amateur Championships and more recently she won the overall at the 2010 Arnold Amateur Classic before turning pro in 2011. What is most amazing about Bello is that she has always competed in the same level of condition she showed at this event, but only recently has she gotten the attention for her astounding level of muscular definition.
In 2011 Bello placed 4th at the Tampa Pro, and in 2012 she placed 8th at the Ms. International. But it has been this year that really brought a broad range of reactions to her look – and as would be expected, the reactions run the entire gamut of opinions. One thing is certain, she is unique, to say the least.
Bello began this year by entering the Toronto Supershow at the end of May. That contest created quite a stir as Bello finished third behind Brazil's own phenom Anne Freitas, and eventual winner Jennifer Scarpetta. Most in the audience assumed the title would go to either Freitas or Bello, but Scarpetta won out based on a more pleasing set of bodylines and muscle shapes.
There was little argument, however, that both Bello and Freitas were among the most muscular women ever seen on a pro stage. Freitas elected not to return to Florida for the Tampa event, but Bello was back as ripped as ever. Here she finished second to Jones, and again it was the over-riding structural qualities and muscle shapes from head to toe in Jones' physique along with a height differential (Jones is 5-6, and Bello is 5-2 ½), and weight where Jones owned a nearly 20-pound advantage.
Jones will fit in well in an Olympia lineup and Bello will provide hardcore fans with plenty of entertainment while generating a high level of anticipation as to exactly where she will fit in. Bello pocketed $2,500 for her runner-up finish.
For many, Tonia Moore may not be a familiar name. But for longtime followers of women's bodybuilding Tonia Villalobos might ring a bell. In the late 90's she was one of the most successful competitors in the NPC as a lightweight. Competing since the mid-90's, Moore won her first NPC USA LW title in 1997. In 1999 she once again won the USA LW crown. Then, in 2001 she moved up to the MW class and won the NPC Nationals to earn her pro status. She was out of the competitive scene until 2006 when she finally made her pro debut that year going unplaced at the Atlantic City Pro.
Another year went by before she surfaced again in 2008 competing at the Europa Supershow and Tampa Pro. Again she dropped from sight only to re-appear at this event – in a BIG way. Looking fit and muscular and in the best shape of her extended career, Moore managed to distribute plenty of quality muscle on her 5-1 frame – and it was well-balanced with excellent muscle shapes. Her third-place finish here was hard-earned, but at the quality-level she now possesses, hopefully she won't disappear for another year or more. Her prize money totaled $1,500.
Fourth-placer Tina Chandler has been one of the steadiest improvers on the pro women's scene over the six years she has been at the pro level, and this year she has once again competed at a high enough level to qualify for the Ms. Olympia. This year will be Chandler's fourth entry at the Ms. O where she has placed 10th twice and as high as 8th in 2010.
Chandler has also competed twice in the now-defunct Ms. International, but the Tampa Pro show has been a friendly haven for Chandler having placed third in 2009, and second in 2011. Since turning pro in 2007 after winning the MW class at the NPC Nationals, Chandler has found a way to make notable improvements with every outing. Here, she distributed an impressive 150 pounds on her 5-4 frame and her overall balance was spot on. She collected $1,000 for her fourth-place finish.
Fifth place went to Helle Nielsen who has been dubbed 'The Greatest Dane'. From Denmark, Nielsen is a fan favorite due in part to her always high level of conditioning with legs –calves in particular – that are among the very best in the sport.
A former Danish and Scandinavian champion, Nielsen was a top-ten placer at the 1999 IFBB World Amateur Championships as a HW. Turning pro in 2003, Nielsen wasted little time in establishing her considerable physical presence by winning the overall title at the Jan Tana Classic in her pro debut. She followed that victory by placing fifth in her first entry at the 2003 Ms. Olympia. More recently, Nielsen was the winner of the 2011 FIBO Power Pro Championships in Germany, and a 14th-place finish at the Ms. Olympia. Last year she made it to the Olympia again when she qualified with a runner-up finish at the Wings of Strength Championships in Chicago. Nielsen collected $500 for her placing here and was additionally rewarded as the 'Best Poser' in the bodybuilding division.
The Best of the Rest – Top 15
6- Melody Spetko, Canada 59
7- Shannon Courtney, USA 70
8- Lora Ottenad, USA 83
9- Michelle Cummings, USA 86
10- Irene Andersen, Sweden 100
11- Emery Miller, USA 111
12- Alicia Alfaro, Argentina 125
13- TazzieColomb, USA 130
14- Christine Envall, Australia 137
15- Paula Francis, USA 148
Competitors who tied for 16th place:
Natalia Batova, Russia
Juanita Blaino, USA
Angela Debatin, Brazil
Bev DiRenzo, USA
Agatha Dulson, Cyprus
Roxanne Edwards, USA
Pam Franklin, USA
Miriam Gerard, Aruba
Aurelia Grozajova, Slovakia
Terri Harris, USA
Mary Ellen Jerumbo, USA
Geraldine Morgan, Chile
Sharon Mould, Canada
Beth Wachter, USA