As if the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, the Kentucky Derby, the NBA Playoffs, the Stanley Cup Hockey Playoffs, NASCAR at Talladega, and the National Powerlifting Championships, not to mention a full slate of Major League Baseball games wasn't enough to satisfy the sports-minded fanatics among us, in our own world of body sports things were pretty busy as well. In Pittsburgh and San Diego in tandem with Orlando, competitors in several pro divisions were scrambling to earn qualifying spots to the big Olympia Weekend in September - along with the available prize money and qualifications points towards an Olympia invitation.
Promoters Ed and Betty Pariso, along with Scott Templeton, tossed up another of their great weekend events - billed as the Europa Games & Sports Expo - at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. The pro Women's Physique Division responded with a contingent of 25 contestants vying to punch their ticket to Las Vegas in September. Now with a solid tradition beginning to unfold at this Show of Champions, past winners include Patricia Mello in 2012-2013 and Frances Mendez in 2014, each presented themselves well at the past two Olympias placing in the top ten. With results at that level of quality, the prestige of this event has never been in question. And as quality competitors go this year it would be no different as five entrants in this field have had prior Olympia experience. Meanwhile, this division has nearly doubled in size from 14 last year to 25 today.
The Cream Also Rises
Few would argue that at the beginning of a new year in the pro Women's Physique Division new faces would appear and as yet unnoticed or undiscovered competitors - like cream - would rise to the top of the awards stand. And so it was at the Orlando Show of Champions where a field of 25 provided a splash of everything within the top five placers. Over the course of the evening, Maryland's Ayanna Carroll drew the most attention from the judges, but she was far from a newcomer, nor was she unnoticed in the past or undiscovered for that matter. Beginning in 2002 as a Figure competitor Carroll moved into Bodybuilding by 2006, in fact she won the 2006 NPC Tournament of Champions overall title. Earning her pro card in 2011, she placed second in her class at the NPC Team Universe. Her pro debut came at this event in 2012 with a solid third-place finish, adding a fourth-place spot at the New York Pro. Last year Carroll experienced the dreaded tie for 16th at the Europa Supershow, but bounced back with a fifth at the Omaha Pro. So, this year she crafted her 5-1, 132-pound frame into a prize winning look and the result guaranteed her a trip to the Physique Olympia in September. Ayanna Carroll… another name to add to the growing list of Olympians who will make this year's event that much more interesting. Carroll's prize winnings came to $2,000.
Running second to Ayanna Carroll was a fellow Maryland competitor who earned her way into last year's Physique Olympia with a very successful competitive season. Showing great consistency in 2014, Rachel Baker placed third at the Mile High Pro, and added a pair of runner-up placings at the Optimum Pro and Omaha Pro. While her finish at the Olympia was a tie for 16th, she gained valuable knowledge about just what it’s like to be on the biggest stage in the sport. No doubt, her goal is to return this year. From the Olympia qualifying points perspective, Baker is again off to a good start by putting up four points on the board to go with her $1,500 check.
As the antithesis to Rachel Baker's experience at the Olympia, Florida's Michele Horan checked in to the Show of Champions to make her pro debut. She was one of only three competitors at this event who had not competed at the pro level in the past. But that fact didn't seem to have any detrimental effect. Placing second in her class at the 2013 NPC Nationals in Figure she picked up her pro card, but waited until this year to move into the Physique division for her first pro show. To her credit, she made a strong first impression with a sound overall structure and a distinctly professional look. Her three qualification points puts her on the fast track of a quickly growing list competitors chasing an Olympia berth. Meanwhile, she can boast about winning $500 in her first pro effort....just enough to cover her chicken breasts and protein powder!
As a graphic illustration of just how quickly the face of the pro Physique division is advancing, Alabama's Frances Mendez placed fourth here. But the illustration comes by way of the fact that she came into this contest as the defending champion and the 10th-place finisher at the 2014 Physique Olympia. Those facts should make a competitor like third-placer, Michele Horan, excited about her potential as the season progresses. Make no mistake, Mendez is a striking Physique competitor who earned her pro status at the 2012 NPC Masters Nationals. This was Mendez' third entry at this event as she posted a fourth-place finish in 2013 for her pro debut. With her sleek, lean bodylines and firm stage presence, she will remain competitive at any upcoming event. Her fourth-place finish garnered her two qualification points.
Placing just two points behind Frances Mendez was Floridian Rosela Joseph in fifth place. This Haitian-born competitor has made great strides in her efforts to transition from her original competitive days as a Figure contestant. Turning pro in 2013 at the IFBB North American Championship with a runner-up finish in her Physique class, Joseph's two pro Physique entries in 2014 missed setting off alarm bells, placing 13th at the Tampa Pro, and 10th at the Greater Gulf States. But the experience she gained from those contests has led to a top-five finish at this big Show of Champions event. And speaking of that Greater Gulf States last year, with Joseph placing 10th, the 11th and last place finish went to Candrea Judd Adams who was busy winning the Spartan Pro contest on the same weekend as this Show of Champions. So, as the Physique division continues to grow, the fact remains that virtually anything can happen from show to show. Rosela Joseph may only have claimed a scant one point towards Olympia qualification, but it's a point in the right direction! If Candrea Judd Adams can rise from last to first, maybe Rosela Joseph can too.
1- Ayanna Carroll, Glen Burnie, Maryland 3
2- Rachel Baker, Luthersville, Maryland 6
3- Michele Horan, Melbourne, Florida 9
4- Frances Mendez, Mobile, Alabama 13
5- Rosela Joseph, Greenacres, Florida 15
6- Roxanne Edwards, Brooklyn, New York 18
7- Heather Grace, Denver, Colorado 21
8- Tara Brandt, Baltimore, Maryland 24
9- Rocio Guillen, Miami, Florida 27
10- Leila Thompson, Durham, North Carolina 31
11- Angela Salvagno, Tampa, Florida 32
12- Donna McGinn, Marriottsville, Maryland, 35
13- Kim Baum, Plainfield, Illinois 37
14- Janeen Lankowski, Canada 38
15- Petra Mertl, Czech Republic 46
16- Olga Beliakova, Russia 48
16- Lisa Grasso, Jupiter, Florida 48
16- Aurelia Grozajova, Slovakia 48
16- Lisa Horrigan, Jupiter, Florida 48
16- Loana Muttoni, Brazil 48
16- Jennifer Palazzo, Nesconset, New York 48
16-Dona Pohl, Montgomery, Texas 48
16- Pamela Slemmons, North Lewisburg, Ohio 48
16- Sabrina Sonner, Island, Kentucky 48
16- Mascha Tieken, Netherlands 48