Three-time Figure International Champion Nicole Wilkins has decided to sit out this year's competition at the Arnold Classic. That means the door is open for one of the 18 competitors lined up to take her place. The obvious favorite, at least on paper, is Erin Stern but Candice Keene is nipping at her heels. A crew of newcomers are also determined to make their presence known. Columbus may never be the same!
2013 Figure International Competitors
Cheryl had a string of wins in 2011, but she has struggled to find her groove in 2012. She placed eighth at the Arnold last year and finished seventh at the Wings of Strength show in July. Cheryl's physique doesn't flow as well as some of the other competitors in this field.
In the past, her challenge is being balanced without having overpowering shoulders. Stage presence is also a huge factor with Cheryl. She can get back in the mix, but will need to be at her all-time best and bring a new level of confidence to the stage.
Ava is a bit of an X-factor in this lineup. She's been in the top spots before, but dropped to ninth at the Olympia in 2012. Many times Ava is her own worst enemy. The little details—which can make or break a competitor—have held her back from finishing in a higher place.
If she comes in too hard, she'll be on the outside looking in. If she brings a balanced physique and fixes those little details, she could be in the mix. Ava is a tough one to place. She'll either be in the top three or on the outside of the top six.
Heather has been quietly flying under the radar since her 4th place finish at the 2012 Sheru Classic. She earned fifth at the Olympia and 2nd at the New York Pro in 2012. She refined her physique over the last few months with the help of trainer Kim Oddo. If she brings a physique similar to what she had at the end of 2012, she should be in the top callout.
Olga was the 2012 Arnold Amateur winner, which solidified her spot in this field. She placed sixth in her pro debut at the California Pro, but since then has struggled to crack the top 10. She has a big back and powerful delts, but her legs are a little lean. If she wants to place well in this lineup, she'll have her work cut out for her.
Mallory took the pro scene by storm and has all the tools to be a top contender. She turned pro at the 2012 Jr. Nationals contest and wasted no time getting her feet wet in the pro ranks. She took second in her pro debut at the Tampa Pro and matched that with a runner-up finish at the Tournament of Champions.
She went on to finish in 5th place at her first Olympia. Her short career has been impressive so far. To earn a top spot, Mallory needs to nail her posing and bring up her back. If she does it, she'll be in the top three.
Aleisha refined her physique over the last few months. Every time she competes, she brings a better look to the stage. She placed as high as third, and is coming off a 16th place finish at the Olympia. In this field of heavy hitters, a top-10 finish would be a victory.
Candice exemplifies the adage "patience pays off." The improvements she's made to her posing and overall presentation has helped her move up the ranks. She took top honors at the 2012 Pittsburgh Pro and was consistently in the top six throughout the year. The 2012 Olympia was the only exception. She has the potential to crack the top six, but it won't be easy.
You have to go back to the 2011 Figure International to find a show where Candice wasn't in the top five. For the last year, she's been playing third fiddle to Nicole Wilkins and Erin Stern. With Nicole Wilkins sitting out, she'll look to move up and even overtake Erin Stern. She has the potential to do it, as long as she isn't too hard with her conditioning.
Candice had an incredible 2012 season. She started the year off with a seventh-place finish at the Pittsburgh Pro and proceeded to win five of her next six shows. Candice has incredible shape and a super tiny waist. However, she struggles to keep her runner's legs down in size. She'll have to keep them in check to earn a top spot.
The bigger worry though, is whether or not her body can withstand an entire year of competing. If she brings the same conditioning we saw throughout 2012, she'll be in the top five. If she's even a little bit off she'll be closer to the 7-9 range.
Kamla has incredible structure and the ability to be a top contender. She's held her own in each of her pro shows since achieving pro status at the 2012 USAs. Kamla just needs to improve her posing. There are times where her arms are too far out to the side.
She also needs to be conscious of being confident without appearing arrogant or cocky on stage. If she poses perfectly and brings the right amount of confidence, she could be in the top five.
Camala could shake up the top six. Last year, she was the runner-up of the Fitness International competition. This year, she's competing in Figure. She always held her own in the physique rounds when she competed in fitness, so it will be interesting to see how she matches up against the best. She finished third at the Fort Lauderdale Cup, her only Pro Figure show to date.
Giada is relatively unknown in the USA figure ranks. She earned fourth place at the Nordic pro but struggled at the Arnold Europe. Because she's highly muscled, she tends to look more like a Physique competitor than a Figure competitor. If she wants to place well, she'll need to lean down.
Nicole won the 2012 NPC Nationals. The Figure International will be her pro debut—talk about jumping into the deep end! She has a nice physique and the potential to do well in the division. Her challenge will be finding the right conditioning for the pro level.
She's won five consecutive events. Without Nicole Wilkins in the picture, that top spot is hers for the taking. Although she has yet to win the Arnold, she has two Olympia titles and numerous other top-two placings.
This year, all eyes will be on her. Erin's only challenge is herself. She sometimes over-thinks and tries to tinker with what works. Last year, she came in a bit too thin which worked against her tall, athletic frame. If she brings the look she did to the Olympia, she'll be your winner. If she's off the mark, she could be put to the test by Candice Keene.
We never know what we'll see with Gen Strobo. She took 5th at the Sheru Classic, but 16th at the 2012 Olympia. The last time she took the top spot was at the 2011 Kentucky Muscle Pro.
She was ninth at the Figure International last year, and I imagine she'll be in a similar spot again this year. Gen has the tendency to come in looking stringy and too lean. If she can look more full and balanced, she'll improve.
Alea is an inspiration to moms everywhere. She, like many other women in this lineup, holds down a job and pulls triple duty with motherly duties.
Alea is one of the few competitors who successfully made the switch from bikini to figure. She has to watch being overly vascular. She needs make sure she doesn't look too hard, but also not too flat. If she can bring confidence to the stage and stay relaxed, especially in her back poses, she'll be in the mix.
Ann Titone has done wonders with her physique. She's brought out her shoulders and legs which have given her wonderful symmetry and balance. She earned 12th place at the Olympia and won the 2012 Kentucky Muscle Pro. Ann is the dark horse in this line-up; if some of the usual suspects are sleeping, Ann will place ahead of them.
Natalie Waples is coming off a fifth-place finish at the Fort Lauderdale Cup. She was 16th at the Olympia, and 11th at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. If Natalie's physique is full, she'll have a better chance at being in the mix. If she comes in flat, she'll look small and disappear among the other women in this lineup.