The 2011 British Grand Prix Championships: A Contrarian's Preview And Predictions!

After a seven-year absence, the UK's only IFBB pro show is BACK! I take a look at the competing athletes and offer my thoughts on who will finish where.

The 2011 British Grand Prix Championships:
A Contrarian's Preview And Predictions

Is this the deepest lineup ever? Read on to find out...

Toney "The X-Man" Freeman:

Seeing Toney take 9th at the Arnold proves there is life in the old dawg yet. At 45, he looked as good as I've ever seen him look at the Arnold two weeks ago, certainly a marked improvement upon his 9th place at the Olympia last September.

Toney's calling card is his stunning structure, uber-wide shoulders, and the weeniest of waistlines. (Hence his nickname, the X-Man.) Top six is a certainty unless he's been living on pies and Budweiser for the last couple of weeks.

Toney Freeman At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International. Toney Freeman At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
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Toney Freeman at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
View more pics of Toney Freeman at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.

Johnnie Jackson:

When Johnnie really started to move up the rankings two or three years ago by nailing his condition and balancing out his top-heavy physique, the future seemed bright for J.O.J. Then something happened: Johnnie's shape flew out of control, his legs seemingly shrinking, or was it just a case of his upper body growing twofold?

Either way he wasn't the Johnnie we knew anymore. So to see him back at the Arnold this year in top nick and noticeably more balanced was a real highlight of the event. Following that up with even sharper conditioning and a 2nd-place to Wolf in Australia and Olympia qualification last week--Johnnie is back!

Johnnie Jackson At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International. Johnnie Jackson At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
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Johnnie Jackson at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
View more pics of Johnnie Jackson at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.

Ronny Rockel:

Funnily enough, it was Ronny's 7th place at this same event back in 2004 that preceded his rise in the pro rankings. Since that breakout year of 2005, Ronny has climbed to almost the very top of Mount Olympia. People say he is underrated, but I believe his height and overall width and structure will always prevent him from breaking the top three at the Arnold and the Olympia.

Still, he is proving himself a consistent fellow and always turns up looking ready to take top three or six in ANY contest he throws himself into. Full, hard, round muscle bellies with insane conditioning (now even from the back, which was his Achilles heel in years past), he should round out the top three this weekend.

Ronny Rockel At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International. Ronny Rockel At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
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Ronny Rockel at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
View more pics of Ronny Rockel at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.

Essa Obaid:

I'm really hoping Essa didn't take the knock of placing one from last (13th) at the Arnold too hard. I would say that in Columbus, Essa had THE best condition of anyone on that pro stage. He was crazy full-to-bursting and truly granite hard, almost skinned alive. From winning the overall amateur Arnold Classic last year, to winning his first pro show just six months later, Essa made us all sit up and take notice of this incredible new talent all the way from the Middle East.

In just 9 months, Essa has made significant improvements to his legs, back and overall physique, who knows what this phenomenon will prove he can do in this next few years? The mind boggles. I have him on the outer rim of the top six.

Essa Ibrahim Hassan Obaid At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International. Essa Ibrahim Hassan Obaid At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
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Essa Ibrahim Hassan Obaid at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
View more pics of Essa Ibrahim Hassan Obaid at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.

Alvin Small:

I went to see Alvin on Monday and on zero carbs (depleting) Mr. Small (I know, I know, nuts isn't it? Small? Hah!) was 280 pounds of solid, shredded, symmetrical, aesthetic muscle. With a 32-inch waist and shoulders so frikkin' wide he has to walk through doorways sideways, it's crazy to think that big 'ol Mr. Small is only in his 5th year of competition!

It takes true guts to only six months after turning pro choose a contest this big for his pro debut, but at this kind of size, who can argue with his choice? For such a colossus of a man, he has surprisingly good shape and balance, small joints, wide shoulders, and a small waist. Could this be Britain's very own X-Man I wonder?

Will he give Freeman a run for his money and take out his body-doppelganger? Well, I just hope they compare the two of them. It would be an awesome sight to behold.

Alvin Small At The 2010 British Championships. Alvin Small At The 2010 British Championships.
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Alvin Small at the 2010 British Championships.
View more pics of Alvin Small at the 2010 British Championships.

Branch Warren:

It doesn't take a Mensa member to say that Branch has to be the favorite this weekend. Yes, guys like Branch have been known to win a big contest and then lose at an arguably smaller one a few weeks later, a victim of overconfidence. But this is Branch--he's smart, has a Dorian Yates-like work ethic, and knows what can and will happen should he not meet or exceed his Arnold presentation.

I didn't have Warren winning the Arnold two weeks ago (I'd have given it to Victor Martinez); I didn't think he measured up to his sensational look of the last two Olympias (2009, 2nd; 2010, 3rd). His waist-to-shoulder ratio seems to have moved the wrong way of late, and the back wateriness that has plagued him too many times now was returned. Still, he could dry out and trample all over the competition, people! Eek!

Branch Warren At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International. Branch Warren At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
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Branch Warren at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
View more pics of Branch Warren at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.

Roelly Winklaar:

The Dutch Beast! I was in Holland to film and interview Roelly 2 1/2 weeks before the Arnold Classic, and I'll admit I was worried for him. He was huge, yes, but without doubt NOT as sharp as he needed to be at this close stage to the contest. Somehow, his trainer and nutritionist; the incredible Sibil Peeters managed to work something of a miracle on her star pupil from the Boot Camp from Hell.

Roelly snagged 8th place, which isn't too bad in hindsight. At his best, Roelly needed another two to three weeks of hard graft to bring it down to the level of dryness we all have come to expect from the hottest, most impressive IFBB rookie of 2010. Now, based upon some new jaw-dropping photos of Roelly sent to me by Sibil late last night, I am pipping him for 2nd here.

With further water manipulation and carbing up under Sibil's genius-like eye, Roelly should be at his best EVER in a few days stood on stage in the Excel Centre. This will be a handful for even Branch!

Roelly Winklaar At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International. Roelly Winklaar At The 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
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Roelly Winklaar at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.
View more pics of Roelly Winklaar at the 2011 Arnold Classic, Ms. International, Fitness International & Figure International.

Michael Kefalianos:

I was so pleased to see last-minute entry Michael Kefalianos on the final competitor list for this event. Greek taxi-driver (now living in Australia) Michael has steadily become one of my favourites on the IFBB pro circuit, consistently bringing unreal conditioning to the stage.

One of those guys who's short but too heavy to compete in the 202-pound class, "Kef," along with Rockel, is flying the flag for the shorter pros. Physically he lacks nothing; he's totally stacked with heavy-duty muscle and always comes in 100-percent ripped and devoid of any subcutaneous water.

Having just placed 3rd at the Australian pro last weekend, he is already qualified for his 2nd Olympia. Top six would be a stretch here in a few days but who knows?

Michael Kefalianos At The 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix XI. Michael Kefalianos At The 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix XI.
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Michael Kefalianos at the 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix XI.
View more pics of Michael Kefalianos at the 2011 Australian Pro Grand Prix XI.

Thomas Benagli:

The Shape-Master Thomas! He's a throwback to a pro physique that would have done really well in the 1980s. Not just primarily concerned with throwing on heaps of mass willy-nilly, this guy oozes class in the same tradition as Bob Paris or Lee Labrada. He'll need to be in his best condition to receive decent callouts and really make a dent here. I hope he looks as good as he can for this contest.

Thomas Benagli At The 2009 Iron Man Pro. Thomas Benagli At The 2009 Iron Man Pro.
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Thomas Benagli at the 2009 Iron Man Pro.
View more pics of Thomas Benagli at the 2009 Iron Man Pro.

Ian Morgan:

"Who?" I hear you cry? Ian's last show was at this very same event in 2004 where--in the accompanying amateur class--he beat a number of other top British guys to win and be offered his pro card so he could compete later that night with the super-pro's such as Ronnie Coleman, Chris Cormier and Marcus Ruhl.

Ian took a respectable 13th and displayed one of the best-conditioned bodies up on that stage that day. One thing I can guarantee is few will be able to match up with this 280-pounder's sick condition. Seriously, it will have kids and Grannies screaming in terror!

Giles' Top Ten Predictions

  1. Branch Warren
  2. Roelly Winklaar
  3. Ronny Rockel
  4. Toney Freeman
  5. Johnnie Jackson
  6. Essa Obaid
  7. Michael Kefalianos
  8. Alvin Small
  9. Thomas Benagli
  10. Ian Morgan

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