The expanding market for high-level physique competition means that we can look forward to a growing number of classes. These divisions range from traditional bodybuilding athletes to fitness, figure, and bikini divisions. More competitors provide more excitement for fans and more options for the athletes.
Because the Sheru Classic is one of the premier IFBB events, the inclusion of bikini simply had to happen. Bikini contestants outnumber bodybuilding and figure athletes. The division shows no sign of slowing. With beauty, shape and sex appeal being prerequisites for success, it is no surprise that the bikini class has become a firm fan favorite.
For fans of the more muscular female form, the Sheru Classic will again feature a selection of elite figure athletes. Like their bikini counterparts, the figure athletes continue to become increasingly more popular. Their combination of good looks, perfect shape, and sizzling style add glamour and beauty to any event.
It's always difficult to sort through these amazing women to find the winners. As always, I'll do my best to predict where they will finish.
Dark, long-legged and divine, Baird possesses all the attributes to someday dominate the bikini division. Since winning her pro card at the 2009 NPC USA Bodybuilding and Figure Championships, the perfectly-proportioned Baird has not fallen outside the top six in any of her 13 pro shows. Her fourth-place finish at the 2011 Olympia and her runner up spot at the New York Pro established her as a legitimate threat in her division. Should she hit her mark, she will at least garner fifth, the same as at the 2012 Olympia, in her Sheru Classic debut. However, if any of her fellow bikini elite do not arrive at their best, look for her to leap several places ahead.
The aptly named India's exotic good looks definitely have a place in pro bikini competition. This year, she bested the competition at both the 2012 New York and Pittsburgh Pro events. She placed second at the Arnold Classic and took a pleasantly-surprising third-place finish at the Olympia. These great finishes have given her the momentum to place in the top six at the Sheru.
The blond and terrifically-toned Dianna Dahlgren showed all the hallmarks of a champion when she placed third at only her second Olympia contest in 2011. She dropped a position, to fourth, last week at the Olympia. With perhaps the best stage presence in the division, and a lean, muscular look, Dahlgren will certainly challenge for the top three in her fourth event of 2012.
If any up-and-coming bikini competitor would like to know what it takes to win at elite level, the perfect person to ask would be Nathalia Melo. She reigned victorious in her first two pro shows in 2010. Expectations for her success are higher than ever after finally winning the 2012 Bikini Olympia. She had won second place in the 2010 and 2011 Olympias. She'll challenge Nicole Nagrani again this week for the 2012 Sheru title.
Known for her refreshingly modest attitude toward competition, multi pro show winner and Olympia bikini champion Nicole Nagrani will bring a bronze, perfectly-proportioned, and athletic physique to the stage. As she prepares, her objective is to relax, enjoy herself and aim to be better than the last time she competed. Her attitude worked in her favor in all eight of her pro starts: five wins, two third-place finishes and a nail-biting runner-up Melo in the 2012 Olympia. Nagrani is the most successful bikini competitor of recent times. She will reverse the Olympia finish and repeat in India.
Heather Dees showed amazing overall shape, stage presence, and flex appeal at this year's New York Pro. Her fourth-place finish at the 2012 Olympia places her among the figure division's best rising stars. Her recent win at the California Governor's Cup has given her a taste of victory. Look for her to chase further success at this year's Sheru Classic.
Felicia Romero has been competing at the elite level since 2007. She has since won five events with her compact and symmetrical physique. Though she is not yet consistently competing in the upper tier of her division, and she just missed the Olympia for the first time in seven years, Romero always brings her best and enjoys the competition process.
One of the premier figure competitors of 2012, Candice Keene won her last two events heading into a third-place finish at the 2012 Olympia and she shows no signs of stopping. Known for her perfectly-capped shoulder development, great thigh definition, and excellent proportions, Keene has found a permanent home within the top six of her division. Could this be her year to go all the way?
Erin Stern is as good as it gets in the ultra-competitive figure division. She was the winner of the 2010 Olympia Figure, runner-up in 2011 and she reclaimed her Olympia title in 2012! Her 5-foot-8, 135-pound body of work initiates trepidation in most of her competition. She personifies figure excellence. She placed second at the 2011 Sheru Classic, and she has additional incentive to succeed this time around. Her only barrier is 2011 Olympia champ and hot favorite to win it all in 2012, Nicole Wilkins. This is a match-up for the history books.
Like Erin Stern, Nicole Wilkins has all the attributes needed to win big on the pro figure stage; and by securing the 2011 Olympia crown, winning this year's Arnold Classic and falling one place short to Stern at last week's Olympia, she has done just that. Shorter and softer than Stern, Wilkins presents the perfect package of feminine beauty, athleticism and the combination of style and elegance needed to prevail in pro figure competition. Should she come in harder than she did at the Olympia. Nicole should win a closely-fought battle against Stern. The rivalry continues.