Although the Mr. Olympia might be the top contest in the world, the Mr. Universe is still the most famous, and NABBA continues to attract around 200 athletes from all corners of the globe.
This year was no exception and I came back with thousands of shots and have been spending days going through them on my trusty iMac.
Troy Brown has certainly hit a lucky streak - and he deserves it. He's just been invited to compete at the
Arnold Classic. Quite an honor for such a newcomer to the pro ranks, and an extreme rarity for a British professional athlete.
After a dodgy start in Montreal, getting a measly 15th, he got his act together and grabbed a top six place in the Santa Susanna show. When you consider the fact that he wasn't even Spanish, that says something! Naturally, first place always goes to a local guy, however grim they look, so maybe we can say Troy got a 5th place in the real world.
He had been planning to do a post-Olympia show in Russia, but as all the European contests have been cancelled this year, he currently aims to get his diet going again after Christmas for the Iron Man in 2008. I'm very pleased for Troy, because he's not only civilized and likeable, but promotes his career in a thoroughly professional way, and I'm sure he'll go on to even bigger and better things.
Other British Pro's competing next year are
Hunni Glanville, Harold Marillier, Lee Powell, Mike Sheridan and Simon Cohen.
I recently spent 3 days snapping in London. What a tiring trip. On my way to the station I took some photos of James Llewellin in Kerry's (Kayes) gym, looking REALLY great (him, not me). One day in London I did photo shoots with 5 people in 3 different gyms.
There was Gallery gym in Windsor which was a high tech dream, full of Hammer Strength and similar gear and a sophisticated coffee-bar, fitness studio, and even a pole dancing area. Then my old favorite - Castle gym in the same town. Then it was down to the new Gold's gym in Park Royal, which is modern, spacious and full of expensive looking equipment. A great team, very friendly, but then the Windsor places were equally welcoming.
My Thanks To:
Nathan Selcon for driving me to and from various locations, and being the best "action director" in the business. Always full of energy and ideas. A great lad, hope he does well in the British titles.
Mark Cullimore of Gallery gym for being so helpful - he was looking really hard as well, as you will soon see from the photos. (It was sad to hear that his partner in the old Slough gym, Gary Merrill, had died a few months ago.)
Jason and everyone at Castle gym, the owners of Gold's gym at Park Royal, and Dan Jumaa and Wade Stafford for putting up with my photographic demands in the middle of their British title diet regime.
Robby Anchant for just being Robby - one of the characters of the sport, even if his features in The Beef magazine always get me into hot water! He speaks his mind. Then I get the flack. Thanks Rob!
I have been talking to Andy Ball who is promoting the Mr. Titan Show on July 6th next year. He whispered to me that the guest star is a secret discovery and an American friend of his that he has just uncovered. This guy is a totally unknown phenomenon, so far that is, who will break into the Pro ranks like a demolition-team's bulldozer ploughing into an old cow shed. You heard it here first!
As usual the Titan Spectacular will feature lots of fitness girls, classic bodybuilding classes and all the fun of the fair. Last time it was the event of the year, and Hackney Empire Theater is the venue once more.
Spent a busy day at the Midlands Classic, and got some great photos for next issue of Body Fitness magazine. This year's line-up was massive, with 60 competitors. Definitely an improvement on the first year in Aston Villa.
The Overall winner was Barny Duplessis, the Bristol boy who's currently training in Swindon. One rather impressive new physique was Nottingham man Patrick Williams from Cinderhill Gym - a STUPENDOUS first timer. He looks like he could squat a house for twenty reps - using correct "form" - none of your old tricks. More on him in future months I think.
Since the Mansfield Classic was put to rest by Paula and Steve, two years ago, the new Birmingham event is now the last qualifying contest for the UKBFF Finals. The promoter Warren Dyson is a well known competitor and gym owner and he's definitely going to make a success of it.
The Palace Theater venue is an inspired choice, right in the middle of town, near car parks, hotels and stations, it could even suit the Britain or NABBA Universe. Being a proper theater, it has great balcony seats, which give a superb view of the stage.
The competitor was none other than Kerry Kayes, who is making a new career for himself in this part of show business. I can see him joining Equity any day now. Unfortunately for Kerry, it meant that he had to miss the Olympia contest for the first time ever.
Last year he'd agreed with Warren that he would host the show again, but that was before anyone realized the two contests would be on the same weekend. Being a man of his word, he stuck to the deal and made the evening roll along with his famous Mancunian wit and wizardry. He really knows how to put the competitors at their ease.
I got to meet quite a few "names" in the sport, who were meetin' and greetin'. Tommy Briscoe, local gym personality, was holding court at the bar. Dorian's old training partner Leroy Davis was giving out prizes. You know the guy - made all that noise in Doz's training video! "Come on Dozzer... etc, etc." I offered him a monthly column in "Muscle News" years ago, which didn't go down too well with Debbie (Mrs. Yates) and ended with him being sacked from the gym.
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Shaun Davis, the nearly extinct dinosaur was circulating, and making plans for his comeback. It seems he's been taking advice from fellow kidney-sufferer and ex-pro Don Long, who's now up to 300 lbs.
Another guy who retired from competition because of kidney failure, Mark Wilson of Body FX gym, told me he was also going to compete next year, against doctor's orders too! Got chatting with Steve Cart who's now working for Mark's gym, and he's got his sights set on NABBA again this year. Some of the biggest quads in the Midlands!
Ernie Taylor got hold of me and threw me around like a rag doll, then made me try his ethnic hand-shake where you are supposed to press your knuckles together. Everyone laughed at my skinny-white-boy efforts, of course! Simon Fan was making his first stab at competitions after his two year absence. It didn't look very positive though. Condition didn't come out right.
Contest peparation is actually a magic art, where nobody writes down the spells. Sometimes it's a bit like putting a Victoria sponge cake in the oven. You never know if it's going to rise properly, or come out like a yellow paving stone you couldn't break with an ice-pick, and as appetizing as that big German physique girl at the NABBA Universe, with the blue hair.