2015 Arnold Fitness International Preview

The era of Oksana Grishina began in earnest last year. Does her masterful 2014 mean she's ready to claim her spot as Adela Garcia's heir apparent?

You can count all of the previous winners of the Fitness International on a single hand. Oksana Grishina and Tanji Johnson would like to keep it that way.

When longtime fitness queen Adela Garcia stepped down from competition in 2012, these two fierce competitors were quite ready to up their respective games and battle for her crown. Tanji struck first, in 2013, but it's been all Oksana ever since, as she ran away with both the Fitness International and the Fitness Olympia last year.

We'll likely see a familiar top six this year, and for my money, these two remain the competitors to beat. Sadly, the amateur ranks are not sending anyone into the pros to make an immediate impact. That's not to say they won't in the future, but in coming years, look for some of the newcomers here to shake things up.

Michelle Blank

Michelle is back after injuring her foot in 2014. She brought a new look to the 2014 Fitness International stage and if she can bring the something similar--and is fully healed--she has plenty of potential. Michelle has one of the better physiques in the lineup, and whether the top six is in her cards could ultimately come down to the execution of her routine.

Myriam Capes

Myriam "Mimi" Capes is at her best when she performs with power and aggressiveness, not the cutesiness that has marked some of her routines. Myriam's strength and gymnastics are always solid components to her routine. She will need to be in the top five in the physique round to have a chance at the top spot overall, but there's no doubt that she has steadily improved and streamlined her physique over the years. Look for her to make an impact in Columbus.

Bethany Cisternino

How will the Jersey girl fair in Columbus? Bethany is an elite gymnast, and her years of experience show immediately in her routines. She will have one of the best physiques in the lineup, and she knows the stage well, having finished as high as third in the past. Everything will come down to her routine. If she can bring a new and entertaining routine to the stage, then she'll once again be in a top spot.

Regiane Da Silva

Regiane should bottle up her energy and sell it. If she could, she'd be retired and living large already. However, on stage, this has sometimes meant that she flies all over the place and doesn't nail her moves as technically sound as she could have. Expect to be exhausted just watching her routines! Not coincidentally, as she has reined in this tendency, she has also moved way up the ranks, to the point that she took second in both the Fitness International and the Fitness Olympia last year. Her physique score will dictate whether she's once again in a top spot or has to hang on for a spot in the top six.

Ryall Graber

Ryall has brought up her physique over the years, and her routine has improved steadily with it. There have been numerous occasions in which I had her finishing higher than her final placings simply because, for whatever reason, her routine didn't resonate with the judges. If she brings a routine that the judges favor, she'll finally break through. Look for her to be in the first callouts for the physique round if she can nail her conditioning.

Oksana Grishina

Last year was a breakout year for Oksana, as she won both the Fitness International and the Fitness Olympia. We can always count on her to bring new and passionate routines. Based on her social media posts, it looks like she will incorporate ballet into her routine this year. She's clearly the favorite to win the routine round, so her where she is at in the physique round will determine if she can repeat as the champ.

Fiona Harris

Fiona brought a new look to her physique in 2014, and judges at the Chicago Pro and Fitness Olympia seemed to favor the added muscle. She's also ditched her previous cutesy routines and incorporated more strength moves into her routine. If she brings a similar look to this stage that we saw in 2014, she'll be a top six contender. Let's hope she doesn't try to change what was working.

Tanji Johnson

Tanji doesn't need to prove anything. She's been competing for more than a decade--nearly 50 events--and is always a lock for a spot in the top five. Routines that mix high energy with cleanly executed strength moves is what propelled her to the top, but she's grown more consistent with her physique conditioning as well. Tanji looks to get back into the top spot after a third-place finish last year, and it's her conditioning that will determine where she lands.

Whitney Jones

Whitney brings powerful energy to her routines and has continued to improve since turning pro in 2011. In order for her to get that long-sought top-six finish, the judges will need to see a cleaner, better-choreographed routine. At this ultimate level, things have to flow seamlessly. If Whitney can bring an improved routine and her conditioning is on point from the rear, she'll threaten the leaders.

Sara Kovach

Sara had a breakout year in 2014. She finished fifth at the Tampa Pro, her pro debut, and followed it up with a win at the Phoenix Pro, which qualified her for this year's Olympia. She added needed muscle in a short time last year and will need to come in a bit more streamlined than she did in the Phoenix show. Sara has a solid routine, and while I don't have her in the top six at her first trip to the Fitness International, and she could shake things up soon enough.

Ashley Sebera

If the name doesn't look familiar to you, it's likely because Ashley took all of 2014 off and spent the bulk of her time with the WWE under the name Dana Brooke. She achieved pro status at the 2012 NPC Team Universe, and in 2013 she had a pair of fifth-place finishes. Ashley's gymnastic background will shine in the routine rounds, and you have to figure that the WWE component will help with her showmanship. The key factor will be her conditioning. She has yet to come in spot-on, and will need to bring her best physique to date to make an impact in Columbus.

Melinda Szabo

Melinda dominated the amateur ranks in Europe but has yet to find her groove as an IFBB pro. She has a fantastic routine, but it's not always what is rewarded on the pro level. If she speeds her routine up a bit more and adds a few more strength components to it, her placings could improve quickly.

Aurika Tyrgale

Aurika was the 2014 Arnold Amateur Fitness winner, which automatically qualified her for this event. She has a ton of potential, and if the Russian fitness champ can boost her routine, she'll earn her keep at the highest level.

Trish Warren

Trish a seasoned veteran who will undoubtedly be one of the top contenders. She took 2012 off to have her first child, but since returning she's been as good as ever. This will be her sixth Fitness International, and she's a solid bet to be somewhere in the top six after taking fifth last year.

PREDICTIONS
  1. Oksana Grishina
  2. Tanji Johnson
  3. Bethany Cisternino
  4. Regiane DaSilva
  5. Myriam Capes
  6. Trish Warren

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