A new addition to this year's Olympia weekend is the IFBB Women's Physique Showdown. Sixteen women will compete for the inaugural title, although many are familiar names with strong resumes in bodybuilding, figure, and fitness, including on the Olympia stage.
In theory, we'll see a mix of physiques that showcase more muscularity than the figure division, but less than the bodybuilding division. How much more muscular remains to be decided. The judges have no easy decision; in addition to picking a winner, the judges must establish a "look" and a level of muscularity for future competitions.
Some people have referred to physique is as a "classic bodybuilding" look, which might seem like an effective starting point if you compare these competitors with the top Olympia women of 20 years ago. However, the results at IFBB physique competitions have been mixed. Some shows have rewarded more muscular competitors, while others prioritized conditioning.
Several of these women have developed immense followings in a relatively brief time, but will the judges share the fans' enthusiasm? We'll find out this weekend, when one of these women becomes the first women's Physique Olympia Showdown champion.
Dana Linn Bailey
There's no question Dana Linn Bailey is one of the front-runners on the fans' score sheet. She was actually the first woman awarded pro status in the new division, when she won the overall title at the 2011 NPC JR USA. When Dana successfully made the transition from figure to the new division, many thought she was unbeatable. However, she showed she was human by placing 4th in the Desert Muscle Classic and 16th at the New York Pro shortly after.
Many wondered if she would ever compete again, but she changed her physique and returned to the stage with a second-place finish at the Tampa Pro and a victory at the Dallas Europa. In the meantime, Dana and her husband have done a tremendous job of building her brand away from the stage. Win or lose, she has been successful in making a name and a career for herself in fitness.
Physically, Dana doesn't have the structure of some of the others in this lineup, but she's getting better at posing and showcasing her impressive muscularity. In my opinion, the key will be for her not to be too hard and overly conditioned. If she's a little softer than Dallas and a little harder than Tampa, she'll be in the mix.
Tycie is coming off a win at the Greater Gulf States, where she showcased a great physique. She carries a fair amount of muscle, especially in her legs, but she is balanced enough to maintain a feminine look, and she lights up the stage every time she competes.
Her lowest placing was ninth, when she came in a bit smoother than the top competitors. If she brings a similar look to the Olympia that she won with in New Orleans, she'll be one to watch. I like what she brings to the stage and wouldn't argue with her being in a top spot.
Valerie was always one of the most muscular competitors in the figure division so the switch to women's physique made perfect sense for her. She's no stranger to the stage; she competed nearly 20 years ago in bodybuilding at the Arnold Classic. Since making the switch, she has streamlined her physique with the help of trainer Dennis James, all while maintaining the nice detail in her back and a set of calves that are the envy of many.
The look she had at the California Governor's Cup in 2012 was too muscular for the judges' liking but from what I've seen, the 2013 version should make her a contender. She placed second in the Chicago Pro and won the Tampa Pro earlier this month. We'll see how she stacks up against the other women, many of whom she's facing for the first time.
Karin is another figure transplant with a strong resume. She was the physique champ at the 2011 NPC Nationals Champion and had a solid start to her pro career in 2012 with a win and a runner-up finish. Since then she's been hit or miss in her placings, but she is coming off a third-place finish at the Dallas Europa. She'll have her work cut out for her to make the top six in this lineup.
Karin is theatrical in her posing and, while the fans enjoy it at the night show, I find it a bit distracting during prejudging. I'd prefer to see mandatory poses in prejudging and save the hair whips and crawling on the ground for the night show, but these are the types of kinks that will be worked out over time in a new category.
Sara was planning to compete at the 2012 St. Louis Pro in figure, but after a few people convinced her to enter the women's physique division, she was hooked. Hurrle took top honors there and followed it up with a second place finish at the California Governor's Cup. Later in the year she won the Los Angeles Grand Prix. This year she notched her third win at the Colorado Mile High Pro this year.
With such an impressive resume, she has to be in the discussion to be the inaugural winner. Hurrle is a born performer who likes to ham it up onstage, and if she comes in just a bit bigger than she was at her last show, she could leave with the title.
As with Dana Linn Bailey, where Juliana Malacarne finishes this weekend will say a lot about what "physique" will mean going forward. Juliana first competed in fitness and then made the move into figure, but she was told she was too muscular for the division. When the women's physique division was formed many people—including me—used her as an example of "the look."
She won the 2012 and 2013 New York Pro, and it was apparent her physique is different from everyone else. She has incredible shape and structure, but some feel she's way too muscular to be held up as the standard of the division. Others think she's perfect for it.
Likewise, if she wins then second place becomes a puzzle, because there are few who can match up to the amount of muscle she brought to New York. If she has shed some muscle since New York, it's a different story.
Ironically, if the figure version of Juliana shows up this weekend, I think she'll be a likely contender for the win. If she looked like she did in New York, I don't see her in the top six, because she's so much more muscular than the other women. Whatever happens, keep your eye on her.
Tamee turned pro in fitness at the 2010 team universe, then tried her hand at figure, but found her calling when she made the switch to physique. She already has two pro victories to her credit in the division, so she has an idea what it takes to be the last woman standing.
If she nails the little details like her tanning, hair, and makeup, she could be in the hunt for the top spots. She's one of the taller competitors, so her conditioning will also be a defining factor.
This won't be the first time Patricia has competed on the Olympia stage but her odds are far better this time around. She placed 16th in 2009 and 2010 at the Figure Olympia, but since making the switch to women's physique she hasn't finished lower than second in any competition. Even more impressively, she hasn't lost in any of the five shows she has entered this year.
Patricia has great shape and has bumped up the size a bit from her figure days. Along with Tamee Marie, she is also one of the taller competitors, so she needs the muscle to not appear stringy. It will be fascinating to see if she continues her winning ways against a different mix of competitors.
"Crazy Karina" is crazy in a good way, because when she's on the stage, she has more energy than anyone. She is always having fun, and it definitely shows. Her posing also takes the sexiness up a notch, showing she has no qualms about embracing her feminine muscle.
Karina is no stranger to the stage. She competed in bodybuilding at the Arnold Classic 10 years ago and took third. Far more recently, she took second to Juliana Malacarne in New York, but she has a totally different look than Juliana.
Karina is long, lean, and conditioned—sometimes almost too conditioned. If she brings the same size but a slightly smoother look, I like her for the win.
Venus is a former fitness competitor who has steadily moved up in the ranks of the women's physique division. She has her work cut out for her in this lineup and will need to have her best conditioning yet to hang in the top 10.
She has nice detail in her back, even though her legs can't match the size of some of the bigger-name competitors. She won't be the biggest woman in the show, but depending on how the judges lean, that could work to her advantage.
Mindi knows the Olympia stage well. She was a leading lady in the fitness division until she was sidelined with an injury, but she has reinvented herself in the new division. She has finished in the top five in each of her three pro physique shows, and she's looking to stay there.
Mindi's strengths are her tremendous arms and shoulders, but her weakness is a slightly wider waist than many of the competitors, so posing will be key. With her level of experience, getting lean shouldn't be a problem. Mindi always has good energy and you can't help but cheer for her.
Jamie is one of the few women in this lineup who turned pro in the physique division. She achieved IFBB pro status at the 2012 NPC Nationals and has just one pro show to her credit, the Chicago Pro, which she won.
Jamie has a long torso, and depending on how she poses, it sometimes works against her. She was definitely on point with her conditioning in Chicago and has great arms and shoulders, but she'll need world-class posing to hang in with a lineup like this.
Jillian always has fun on stage and she bounces around like wind-up toy when she poses. It's great to see a competitor having fun and enjoying the limelight. She has long, lean muscles and it can work against her when facing some competitors. She's learned how to pose to her physique and not make it a glaring issue.
More importantly, it's clear she's trained to her genetic potential and continues to improve the look she brings. She's coming off a second-place finish behind Dana Linn Bailey and will showcase that confidence on stage.
Mikaila is one competitor who lives for the moment. She's been on the brink of death more than once in her life, but she always seems to bounce back and look even better onstage. She used to compete in figure but is a better fit here in women's physique.
She also provides a good example for competitors with tattoos by not covering hers up with makeup. They are part of her identity now, and she doesn't try to hide it. When she takes the stage at the night show she usually does more dancing than posing, and the fans will eat it up.
Mikaila has steadily improved her conditioning with each show this year, and it will be the deciding factor to where she finishes.
Sabrina is yet another figure turned physique competitor. She's added more size to her physique since her figure days, but has maintained a feminine look that plays to her favor. She has improved with each show, learning how to play to showcase her strong arms, shoulders, and back.
The unknown with Sabrina is how she'll look after nearly a year off. The last time we saw her was at the 2012 Titans Grand Prix, which she won. She's one of the few women to beat Patricia Mello, but she also upstaged others who will be competing in the Olympia. It's a roll of the dice where Sabrina finishes.
Toni reached the pro level last year by winning the NPC Nationals. She has a tremendous upper body and will be one of the more muscular women in the show, but she has great shape and carries her size well. She's coming off a win at the Toronto Pro show and was third behind Karina and Juliana at this year's New York Pro.
If the judges go for a more muscular look she'll be a top contender. If not, she'll be on the outside looking in. Either way, she has a good look and continues to improve with each show.
I could see the judges going a couple of directions. If they favor muscularity, here's how I see it shaking out:
- Juliana Malacarne
- Dana Linn Bailey
- Toni West
- Valerie Gangi
- Tycie Coppett
- Sabrina Taylor
If size doesn't end up ruling the day, I would put the card like this.
- Karina Nascimento
- Sara Hurrle
- Patricia Mello
- Tycie Coppett
- Sabrina Taylor
- Tamee Marie
No matter which way it goes, the dawn of Physique Olympia will be fascinating to watch. Shout out your support for your favorite competitor in the comments!