In the 12 years since the Arnold Sports Festival began hosting the Figure International in Columbus, Ohio, there have only been six winners. As much as any of the competitions in Columbus, it's hard to bet against the champ here—and this year is no exception.
If you feel like gambling on a winner, put your money on Candice Keene. This year, she aims to take her third consecutive title, but six first-time Figure International competitors and some familiar foes would like nothing better than to take it away. A handful of them have the potential to unseat the champ, but it certainly won't be easy.
Dana Ambrose placed 11th at this show last year, and will look to improve her second time around at the Figure International. She is a consistent top-10 contender and has two pro wins to her credit. If she brings in a conditioned physique, look for her to be in the mix for a top-six finish.
Ava Cowan slipped to eighth at this show last year and will obviously have her sights set on returning to the top spots. She tried moving to the women's physique division and finished with a less-than-stellar showing. If she can return to the look she brought in 2011, when she finished third, she'll be a contender. If she comes in anything like we saw last year, she'll be on the outside looking in. She has the potential to be a top contender, but her conditioning will determine her finish.
Heather Dees is the X-factor in this show. She was the runner-up in 2014, but her body was nowhere near that form later in 2014 at the New York Pro, where she finished 14th. After the dismal showing in New York, she took the rest of the year off. The hiatus should be good for her physique, and I look for her to be back in the mix. She doesn't have the best structure in the show, but has steadily brought up her weak areas. Improved conditioning may make her a top threat for the title.
Amanda Doherty is a seasoned pro, and landed a 10th place finish at this event last year. Look for her to be somewhere in that area again this year. She competed in fitness back in the late '90s, and even competed in bodybuilding. A mother of four, she took 10 years off before returning to the stage in 2012 at the Sheru classic. Last year she finished fourth at the Australian pro and took second at the BodyPower Pro.
Cydney Gillon is one of the bright new stars of the division. She has an incredible physique, which many attribute to her years as a competitive sprinter. Since earning her pro card in 2012, Cydney has steadily refined her physique and improved in her placings. She took the top spot at the Chicago Pro and landed ninth at her first Olympia in 2014. This will be her Figure International debut and she has the potential to shake things up in the top six.
Candice Keene has a target on her back. With another win in 2015, she can tie Nicole Wilkins' and Jenny Lynn's record of three Figure International wins. Her consistency is remarkable. Since her first Arnold Classic in 2011, she's finished no lower than fifth in any event. The only way I see her losing the title is if she comes in off. She found a winning look. If she sticks with it, she'll be shaking Arnold's hand Friday night.
Candice Lewis is perhaps Keene's biggest threat. She has tremendous shape, with large capped shoulders and a tiny waist. Candice's biggest challenge is bringing her legs down to size; they tend to overpower her upper body. The former track athlete took fifth at this show last year, but I look for her to move up in 2015.
Vera Mallet is making her Figure International debut this year. She'll have her work cut out for her, but she is no stranger to the winner's circle. Vera earned her first pro victory at the 2014 Europa Phoenix and she'll have a shot of cracking the top six if she can bring a similar physique to the Columbus stage.
Julie Mayer is another new competitor making her Figure International debut. She has that prominent physique the judges tend to favor. She has competed in nearly 20 shows since turning pro at the 2011 NPC Nationals and will look to make an impact in her debut. Conditioning usually isn't an issue, but she tends to compete later in the year. Her preparation will be tested in this huge event early in the competition season.
Andressa Ribeiro is not only making her Figure International debut; she's making her pro debut as well! She achieved IFBB pro status by winning the Arnold Amateur Figure crown in 2014. The win locked in her spot automatically for this year's pro show. It will be a huge step up in competition, but there's no better stage to test her pro chops than the Figure International.
Camala Rodriguez-McClure placed third here last year, but fell to 13th later in the year at the Figure Olympia. If she's on point with her conditioning, she'll be a top contender. If she comes in with the look she brought to the Olympia she'll be on the outside looking in. I expect her to be in her former shape and a threat for the top three.
Myra Rogers, the lone representative from New Zealand, is one of a handful of contenders making her Figure International debut in 2015. If she brings the look she did at the end of 2014, she'll fare well against this lineup. She took fourth at the 2014 Felicia Romero. No matter where she finishes, she'll do her country proud.
Gennifer Strobo has a physique you never quite know where to place. Earlier in her career, she often came in too lean and stringy, but in recent years, she seems to have found the formula to keep her physique full and conditioned. She's competed in this show the last three years and took sixth in 2014. Gennifer is no stranger to the winner's circle, though. She won the 2014 Toronto Pro and followed it up with a sixth-place finish at last year's Olympia.
Ann Titone has steadily improved her physique to become a threat in every show she enters. She placed fourth at this show last year, then did the same at the Olympia. If we see a similar look with slightly improved legs, she will be in the mix again.
Latorya Watts is another contender making her Figure International debut. She made a huge statement last year by finishing in fifth at the Olympia, her first time competing there. She finished in the top five of every contest she's entered as a pro. Don't be surprised if she keeps that streak alive in Columbus. Latorya has incredible shape with a nicely balanced physique. Expect her to be a top contender for years to come.
Figure International Predictions
2015 Arnold Figure International Payout
Past Figure International Winners
2003: Jenny Lynn
2004: Jenny Lynn
2005: Jenny Lynn
2006: Mary Elizabeth Lado
2007: Mary Elizabeth Lado
2008: Gina Aliotti
2009: Zivile Raudoniene
2010: Nicole Wilkins
2011: Nicole Wilkins
2012: Nicole Wilkins
2013: Candice Keene
2014: Candice Keene