It would only take a few minutes in the lobby of the Millennium Hilton or the Embassy Suites in Tribeca to know that you were in the right place.
By my count, approximately 300 competitors were on stage for what is known as "Team Universe." Between the athletes, their friends and family, more industry people, and the fans, I don't think New York City ever went through more egg whites and chicken breasts!
The other tourists in town got treated to more sightseeing than what was ever in their travel plans. Team Universe actually includes:
- NPC Team Universe Bodybuilding & Fitness
- NPC National Figure Championships
- IFBB New York City Pro Figure Championships
| What Do IFBB And NPC Stand For?
IFBB stands for the "International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness". Visit their website at http://www.ifbb.com/. (The IFBB is for professional bodybuilders.)
NPC stands for "National Physique Committee, Inc." Visit their website at http://www.npcnewsonline.com/. (The NPC is for amateur bodybuilders.)
It is a big event that gets a lot of attention in a very busy July of competitions. Many of the bodies on stage were fresh from their appearances just last week at Body Rock 2006 in Virginia. And this is a show that earns the people at the top that coveted "Pro Card"... so the pressure was on!
A typical NPC show takes a lot of work and organization, but one of this size over two days is certainly not for the faint of heart of producers. Very much up to the task were veterans Steve Weinberger, Bev Francis, and Steve Stone. It is interesting to watch the three of them run a show and how they relate to the athletes and fans.
To a person they treat everyone like family and like they are welcoming you to their home. Whether it is "Weinberger" asking if you need anything, Bev being your emcee and friend on stage, or Steve Stone checking to see if the lighting is right for the photographers, the three of them could not be more personable.
Why do they do it? Well I talked with Weinberger just before the start of the finals and as this huge street attitude New Yorker stood there in his grey suit, I swear I could see the joy in his face when he said, "Because I love it." Isn't that what most of this industry is really about and makes it work?!
Friday night pre-judging gave us something we don't see at every show - and that is fitness. And this time, we saw a lot of fitness with a bunch of great athletes. These women are not only beautiful, but also have the bodies of figure competitors, the athletic abilities of gymnasts, but also the rhythmic style and grace of a dancer. And this group did not hold back.
We saw some of the best routines from person to person that you could imagine. The jumps and leaps and tumbling were neverending. And then they did it all again the next day for the finals. In between, they also did their one and two piece figure posing with all of their quarter turns.
This is a sport which has suffered from fewer competitors of late but if these athletes were any indication of the quality of the competition, then we should see more of it. It is exciting and flashy and brings a lot to the stage. If you get a chance to see fitness in person, I urge you to do go and see for yourself!
A Quick Glance At...
As long as we are talking about women, let's talk about the bodybuilders. This was a very aesthetic group of women. Whether it was the new rules or just this group, I can't answer. But these women were a good turn of the page for this sport.
It was also interesting to note the age spread here from younger to older. Bodybuilding has a wide appeal to all age categories, even among women as they discover it as a healthy lifestyle.
Then, let's move on to figure - both NPC and IFBB. It is difficult to imagine that many beautiful female bodies all in one place at one time, but as the photos show, there were plenty of them! This was tough competition on the NPC side based on quality and sheer numbers and on the IFBB side because of the number of top women competitors that came in for this show.
I will say from the callouts for the IFBB group that it was obvious where the placing was going. And from the start of some competitions there is occasionally one real standout and I have a good eye for that sometimes and I was right on. The NPC women were more difficult to sort out because there were so many of them and so many that were really at the top.
Most of the classes had to be called out in multiple groups because there were so many of them. The judges had a lot work to do to make decisions for figure but I think they did some good work.
Not to be outdone were the guys. Classes ranged from a just a few in the lighter weights to a lot of guys as we got into the heavier classes. For the most part, I think we are seeing more symmetry in the men coming up from the NPC. Again, this might be a trend but we will have to wait and see.
Conditioning seemed to be excellent across the board. No one seemed to be laboring too hard and every guy seemed to be having a lot fun. It is obvious for the men that Team Universe is a favorite show.
Special Guests In Attendance
And speaking of favorites, you always see a lot of the same faces coming in for these shows at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Dexter Jackson sat front row center for two days supporting figure competitor #154, Gail Elie. Victor Martinez also dropped by for a visit.
I don't think most people realize just how big this guy really is in person! Cathy LeFrancois was on stage handing out trophies and you can see now that she has left figure behind and is going back to her bodybuilding. Musclemania champion Morris Mendez was in from Connecticut.
Top trainer Kim Oddo was there working with many of his girls as he does at all of the shows. This guy is tireless going from show to show. I may have also seen famous trainer, Charles Glass.
I also spent some time talking with pro Ken Jones. This is a guy who at the very least always has a lot of fun at shows and on stage. He also does it for the fun of it. But what is interesting about Kenny is how very long he has been around the sport. When you see him take some time to say hello, he is an interesting and knowledgeable guy.
And what would be a New York show without Mr. Bill Grant coming by?! If there is anyone in this sport who can show you what a healthy lifestyle, weight training and a great attitude can do for you, it is Bill Grant.
Well, that is it from New York City in July. There are a lot of photos so take some time to look at them. And come on back to Bodybuilding.com for more show coverage - and especially to see what happens at the 2006 USA later this month in Las Vegas!