2011 Pro Bodybuilding Weekly Championship
The Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida, hosted the Pro Bodybuilding Weekly Championships on June 25th, and with a field of two dozen pro bodybuilders on hand, judges found themselves hard-pressed to sort out the contingent. Tim Gardner once again worked his promoting magic in providing the opportunity for an ever-growing group of pro bodybuilders who flock to this event. Within the 24 contestants competing for $10,000 in prize money and three Ms. Olympia qualifying spots, the field was the most widely diverse in recent memory. Nine countries were represented, and the variety of physiques covered the broadest imaginable spectrum.
Now in its fourth year, the PBW contest is quickly building a strong tradition with past winners including Nicole Ball in 2008, Betty Pariso in ’09, and defending champion Brigita Bresovac returning in an effort to win the event twice in a row. As a contest, the PBW show provided a potpourri of factoids. Slovakia’s Aurelia Grozajova surely deserves an unofficial award for most dedicated contestant in Tampa. She is the only competitor who has competed in all four of Tim Gardner’s events, and that’s saying something when considering she has flown from Slovakia to Tampa (a round trip distance of 10,500 miles) four times. 42,000 miles total! And she has yet to place in the top ten. That IS dedication….although some might feel she’s a glutton for punishment. Regardless, her efforts are admirable and no doubt appreciated by the promoter.
Meanwhile Drorit Kernes-Silverman made her way from Colorado to make an impressive comeback, having last competed at the 1994 Ms. Olympia where she placed 7th.
The ‘Best Poser’ award this year went to Texan Tina Chandler who followed Carla Salotti in 2008, Bev DiRenzo in ’09 and Debbie Bramwell last year as previous winners of a trophy that really should be given at every pro event. And just how tough was this contest? There were four callouts, with each of those callouts containing at least one competitor who had previously competed in the Ms. Olympia. In fact, nine women in the field had been on the Olympia stage. When considering the size of this contest with 24 entrants, it ranks as the fifth largest pro women’s bodybuilding event ever. The largest being the 1993 Ms. Olympia where 32
…AND NOW ABOUT THE RESULTS
The top three at this year’s Tampa event were Cathy Lefrancois in first, Tina Chandler second, and Brigita Brezovac third. The interesting part of that top three final is that last year the top three in Tampa were Brigita Brezovac first, Tina Chandler second, and Cathy Lefrancois third.
For many, this year’s result was a major surprise. So the questions to be asked….were all three placers this year better than they were last year? Yes. But there were subtle differences, some of which judges key on when making a final decision. For defending champion Brigita Brezovac, her condition at this event was slightly off her look at the Toronto contest a week earlier where she won with relative ease. And keeping in mind this contest was Brezovac’s pro debut last year, there is never a guarantee the previous winner will be a slam dunk automatic pick. Cathy Lefrancois, on the other hand, seems to have found a way to stay on track with her conditioning level and was notably improved over her fourth-place finish in Toronto. Meanwhile, Tina Chandler could be easily recognized as the most improved of this trio since last year showing more fullness in her shoulders and delts, better balance in her legs, and sound overall conditioning. A quick perusual of the final score sheet did indeed show that the judges recognized Chandler’s overall qualities by placing her first – unanimously – with 5 points in the first round over Lefrancois (10) and Brezovac (15) - each of whom were also unanimous choices for the second and third positions respectively.
The deciding factor in determining Lefrancois’ victory came in the final evening round where she and Brezovac tied with seven points each, as Chandler slipped to third with 15 points. The final tallies were extremely close considering the bottom line scores at a majority of pro events. Lefrancois finished up with 17 points. Chandler grabbed the second position with 20 points, while Brezovac was close on her heels with 22. It is one of the closest finishes involving three competitors at the pro level in recent memory. For Lefrancois, she accepted a check for $4,000 in prize money and it was hard-earned considering she has now competed three times this year and her contest prepping is far from over with as the Ms. Olympia looms in the future. Fans and followers will wonder how much gas she had left in the tank.
Chandler, on the other hand, would seem to be in an idyllic position earning her second runner-up finish at this contest and earning $2,500. Chandler is now qualified for her third Ms. O, and having already finished 8th in 2009 and 10th in 2010 she is looking far better than she did in either of those two Ms. O appearances. Regardless of her size (height and weight), she will make a formidable presence in Las Vegas – and with plenty of time to refresh her batteries.
Now with three victories in her short pro career (an enviable accomplishment in itself), Brigita Brezovac will move on to the Ms. Olympia for the second time hoping to once again finish among the top ten – she was 10th last year. If she matches her conditioning level from the Toronto contest – or improves on it – for the Ms. O, she’ll be in the mix. Finishing fourth was the event’s most controversial competitor – Argentina’s Rita
Bello. A veteran competitor who has been actively successful since the mid-90’s and most recently the HW and overall winner at the 2010 IFBB South American Championships, and Arnold Amateur Classic, she is Argentina’s first top five finisher at an IFBB pro women’s contest. Now at the pro level she brings a level of muscularity that ranks among the most dramatic ever seen. There was little question she stood out as the most muscular contestant in Tampa, but one element judges were dealing with was the question as to whether her look was what they wanted to highlight at the Ms. Olympia level. So, there appeared to be a trade off. They recognized her remarkable development and conditioning by placing her fourth but fell short of moving her into a qualifying position for the Ms. O. Pocketing $1,000 for her fourth-place finish, she was also warmly received by an appreciative crowd who was notably awestruck with her muscularity. Bello’s development, and for so many who have come before her carrying a truly awesome level of muscularity – she continues to illustrate the need for an additional trophy to recognize the achievement. In her case a ‘Most Muscular’ award would have gone a long way in appeasing Bello and the receptive audience. Current IFBB North American champion Monique Jones spent much of the day casting shadows on those competitors who were vying for a spot in the top ten. Making her pro debut with a wondrous structure that carried 170 contest pounds (she weighed 178 when she won the North American last year) on her 5-9 frame for this contest, she will hopefully continue to hone what can be a devastatingly good physique if she stays consistent with her contest prep. Dave Palumbo, who oversaw her preparation for this event mentioned that she had come down from 200 pounds over a period of six weeks to get ready for Tampa. That said, she still managed to flex her way to a fifth-place finish in her pro debut, while also making it interesting in the final tallies as she only trailed Rita Bello by two points 47 to 49. Jones took the final prize money for the top five with a check for $500. All that’s left now would be a determination as to her decision in staying the course for the contest in Hartford at the end of July. She is a glowing example of a major diamond in the rough.
THE BEST OF THE REST IN THE TOP TEN
Matching her sixth-place finish at this contest in 2009, Angie Salvagno is another of those solid pros who continues to be a work in progress. Continuing to fill out her long frame, Salvagno still shows some terrific poses in her muscular arsenal. With enviable thighs that are chiseled every time she competes, to a back pose with the same level of great detail, a Ms. O qualification is not out of her reach.
Ending up seventh in this field, Kim Buck scored strongly out of the gate by getting a first round callout for immediate recognition. The former Master National champion hung tough in this impressive field and out-pointed some very good bodybuilders. It would have been very tough to get anyone to wager that she would crack the top ten before the first compulsory pose of prejudging, but reps to her for a sterling effort.
Four points behind Buck in eighth place was the event’s most anticipated entrant, Drorit Kernes-Silverman. Referring to her presence at this contest as a ‘comeback’ simply doesn’t do her justice in what she achieved. Kernes last competed at the 1994 Ms. Olympia where she placed seventh, and during her run in the early 90’s she was the overall NPC National champion in 1992 and a winner at the 1994 European Women’s
Pro Grand Prix in Prague. A serious automobile accident curtailed her competitive desires in 1995, followed by family life, children and a career in the medical field. Her conditioning level for this event was remarkable considering her 17-year absence from the competitive stage. And a top-ten finish in this group is a victory in itself. The ninth and tenth positions were occupied by a pair of former Olympians who further bolstered just how competitive this field was. Mah-Ann Mendoza locked on to the ninth spot after her sterling Ms. O qualifying performance in Toronto. Everything considered in Mendoza’s recent life challenges, she showed courage in undertaking this second contest, and simply making the top ten was a special achievement in and of itself. Hopefully she can bounce back and be sharp for her fifth appearance at the Ms. Olympia later in the year.
Debbie Bramwell – a former winner of the ‘Best Poser’ award here - claimed the tenth place position with her trademark high-peaked biceps and a fuller, but highly less detailed look than in the past. Bramwell put a lock on a top-ten finish with a second round callout that included Salvagno, Mendoza, Kernes and Canadian Lyris Cappelle.