The 2006 Europa men's pro show had more than its share of surprises, with emerging stars taking center stage to herald their arrival as legitimate threats, while several established pros produced less than stellar performances.
Perhaps it could be argued that bodybuilding needs such an injection of new talent to keep it progressing while ensuring the fans are not subjected to the same faces battling it out for the top places at every show.
The Europa show certainly provided the fans, and judges, with a field that was at the very least fresh and varied - certainly several of these new pros (most notably Silvo Samuel Saviour and Dennis Wolf) will prove top contenders, should they reach their potential.
Among the shows few top names, Darrem Charles, King Kamali and Johnnie Jackson, only Jackson fulfilled his potential with possibly his best combination of size and conditioning ever. He will now contest the Olympia with his amazing package.
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Steve Blechman From Muscular Development Is Always The Sharpest Dressed Man (sorry Bob).
Probably the biggest surprise of the evening was the uncharacteristically less-than-optimal Darrem Charles. Most bodybuilding fans and industry insiders had Darrem winning this show easily, but, although his great balance and size were evident, unfortunately his conditioning was not at its best and this cost him three places.
He landed in fourth. Another surprise - perhaps not for some - was King Kamali's unconvincing effort. King had typically talked himself up prior to this event and felt confident of a top five placing. His eleventh placing had many questioning his involvement in the sport. And as one would expect, a bodybuilding show would not be a bodybuilding show without controversy, and the Europa Pro had its fair share.
Silvo Samuel Saviour placing ahead of Dennis Wolf (they placed sixth and seventh respectively) raised a few eyebrows, as did Art Atwood's top five spot. Depending on who is looking, Quincy Taylor's second place - one ahead of Johnnie Jackson - could be viewed as odd given both these athletes' competition histories and the equally hard condition they bought to the Europa stage.
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Who's The Sexiest On Stage? (it's me, it's me). Rodney Cheered Up The Crowd With His Super Energetic Routine.
Many also thought the much-improved Rodney St. Cloud should have placed several spots higher. However, given the controversy, and unpleasant conditioning of several contestants, the result that mattered most was given deservedly to a man who put it all together on the day, a man who should expect worthy placements from here on in: Toney Freeman. Again, nobody would have picked this result, but this was the nature of the Europa Pro show 2006, a show that was nothing if not unpredictable.
The Top Five
1. Toney Freeman
Tony is one who has fought his way up the ranks, from near obscurity to his first pro win here at the 2006 Europa Pro. Many feel Tony had been overlooked in recent showings. On Saturday at the Arlington Convention center, he could not be denied.
Having made probably the most amazing transformation of any pro bodybuilder this year, Tony demonstrated near perfect symmetry (except for a barely noticeable right pectoral tear) and immense size (appeared to be the largest man onstage) to snatch victory.
Tony has built a physique that is packed with muscle on every square inch, while maintaining excellent symmetry - a very hard thing for a large bodybuilder to do. His executioner routine proved a nice way to unveil his new physique, as it provided the right amount of suspense and created the perfect impact for a package as impressively huge as his. Look for Tony to do some damage at the Olympia.
2. Quincy Taylor
As usual, Quincy Taylor looked to be one of the larger competitors onstage. With improved conditioning, a smaller waist and seemingly wider back, he was an obvious choice for top five as he went through his poses at the pre-judging.
Many questioned whether he should have placed ahead of perennial top five - smaller show - place getter Johnnie Jackson, but that point is now academic. Will he place ahead of Jackson at the Olympia? Time will tell. One thing is for sure though: Quincy will continue to impress with his massive physique. His placing at the 2006 Europa is one of his biggest achievements yet at the Pro level.
3. Johnnie Jackson
With arguably the most densely muscular, most powerful physique onstage (from a height to weight ratio), Johnnie Jackson showed why he is one of the more popular bodybuilders in the sport. With massive chest and back development from top to bottom (the most complete onstage) and improved legs, with possibly the best conditioning he has achieved to date, Johnnie took a deserved third to qualify for the Olympia.
Johnnie's arms also seemed to show greater fullness at this show, and the separation between his biceps and triceps was nothing short of spectacular. Lets hope he gets the respect he deserves at the Olympia.
4. Darrem Charles
A major disappointment of this show was the conditioning shown by Darrem Charles. Although he had already qualified for the Olympia at the Colorado Pro Show in May, Darrem wanted a win at the Europa to add to his impressive resume. Indeed, it was widely predicted that Darrem would win this show without breaking a sweat; such was the hype surrounding his inclusion.
His placing, however, showed that in bodybuilding anyone could be fallible on any given day, regardless of his or her previous successes. To be fair, Darrem showed great muscularity, balance and symmetry, and impressed with his brilliant posing and showmanship. However, the usual polish was not there. His result underscores how important conditioning is at the pro level.
5. Art Atwood
Art Atwood was, as usual, one of the largest competitors onstage, with the widest back and some ultra-freaky body parts. However, balance and proportion are not words one readily associates with the name Art Atwood. His physique is not the prettiest.
In fact many feel he has the worst physique in the sport. This is probably a bit harsh, but it could also be seen as partly true. How Art beat out several more-proportional equally well-conditioned athletes calls into question what the "new" judging criteria really is aiming to achieve.