Thirty-nine IFBB pro women took the stage in West Palm Beach, Florida on October 13, 2007. John Organ promotes the show, held at the beautiful Harriet Theater. This is always an enjoyable show to cover as it only has fitness and figure. This year the promoters added and NPC figure to the show.
The area is very nice and conveniently located across the street from The Cheesecake Factory. The show’s venue is an intimate one with lots of character. The only thing about this show that is not ideal is the size of the stage and the lighting on it. Aside from that this is one of my favorite shows of the year.
THE RUNDOWN - IFBB PRO FITNESS
Each show has its front-runners going into the show and it was no different here. You had to like the chances of Julie Palmer who won the show last year and qualified for the 2008 Ms. Fitness Olympia by placing 6th in the ’07 version. Another favorite was Julie Lohre, who has had a tremendous year in fitness. Also in the mix were Heidi Fletcher and Stacy Simons, both participated in the 2007 Olympia.
Going into this show I made my predictions as:
How did I fair? Well, not too shabby. I nailed the first four in exact order but slipped with my fifth place prediction. I get asked how I base my predictions and it’s mainly based on who is in the show and how they faired in previous outings. It’s mainly to get people talking and strike up conversation about the competitors in shows.
I do not determine the outcome of shows nor do I have any influence on the judging. Yes, I’ve been asked this by fans and spouses/significant others on this.
1. Julie Palmer
Great conditioning and presentation. She won this show from the back in the physique rounds. She looked great and at this level you’re splitting hairs. Any edge can give you a better placing. In this show, her conditioning and overall development from the back was the edge she needed. Julie’s routines have greatly improved and she continues to show why she is a top fitness pro.
2. Julie Lohre
She’s really turned it on in 2007 and made a name for herself in the pro ranks. Julie has awesome routines and always mixes it up a bit from show to show. Her physique continues to improve each year as well. Look for Julie to continue to be a top threat in 2008 and highly possible for her name to be on one of the fitness show titles. If Julie works on the detail on her back and lats, you’ll see her beat some of the top 6 girls.
3. Stacy Simons “The Flexible Freak”
Stacy is always entertaining on stage. She has the most ridiculous flexibility and “wows” the crowd with her funky arm move. I’ll have to ask her if she has a name for it. Stacy faired well in the physique rounds that helped her land a spot back on the Olympia stage in 2008.
4. Heidi Fletcher
This was the best conditioning I’ve seen Heidi bring to the fitness stage, amateur or pro. As a shorter competitor Heidi has to bring a different look than her taller adversaries. If Heidi isn’t shredded she looks out of shape next to others. This show she nailed it but along with coming in tighter her face got a bit drawn in.
I know some of the judges told her she was too hard and perhaps she was but it was nice to see Heidi bring this level of conditioning. She brings an energetic routine to the stage and look for her to hit the Arnold stage. If she brings this same conditioning to a bigger show I think she will fit in fine.
5. Michelle Mayberry
Michelle wasn’t on my radar screen going into this show. She proved why my predictions often don’t mean dittly. Michelle brought a great, healthy look to the physique rounds and if she is able to improve her 2-minute routine look for her to be on the Olympia stage soon.
Others Fitness Notes:
Hollie Stewart has a ton of energy when she performs and takes the stage. This time she had so much that it propelled her off the back of the stage. When doing a back-flip Hollie went off the edge of the stage. It had the crowd gasping in disbelief until we saw her smiling face pop back up onto the stage.
Hollie, being the true pro that she is, took a couple seconds to regain her composure and went on to rock the house with her two-minute routine. She ended up placing second amongst the 20 total competitors. It wasn’t until she finished and the crowd was giving her a well-deserved standing ovation that I noticed the extent of her mishap. Her entire midsection was badly scraped and scratched.
Props to Hollie and she has to receive the award of the competitor with the most heart for her performance.
Kendra Elias brought a new routine to the stage and it landed her in first for the two-minute round. Kendra battles it out with Stacy for the flexibility award. If Kendra brings her physique up to match her routines she is a threat to the top spots.
Angela Monteleone-Semsch is going through a few person things and it’s noticeably taking an effect on her performances. Angie hasn’t brought the same energy to the stage this year and with some time off to regroup and refocus look for her to be back on top.
IFBB PRO FIGURE
Like the fitness portion I also made a few figure predictions. Did I fair as well on those? Well sorta. I had all five but not in the exact order. I’ll take it though.
The figure show was a tough line up and brought out 19 total competitors. Many of these women were on the Olympia stage a couple weeks prior. Holding onto that conditioning is not as easy as some might think. How did it shake out? Let’s rundown the placings.
1. Gina Aliotti
Gina was the clear favorite going into this show. She placed second at this show last year and was coming off a runner-up spot at the Olympia. True to form, Gina delivered a great look. I felt she looked better here than at the Olympia. She is now taking some time off before jumping back in to go after the 2008 Arnold Classic title.
2. Latisha Wilder
Latisha is a beautiful woman who brings a great look to the stage. She is polished, poised and great conditioning. Her skin tone and look is healthy and you can’t help but notice it. It doesn’t hurt matter any that her physique is kick’n too.
3. Paola Almerico
This poor woman has been competing all year and finally nabbed a spot on the Olympia stage. She started the year off with an overall win at the JR. USAs and wasted no time hitting the pro circuit. She competed in a number of shows and ended the year in her backyard of Florida. Paola is a beautiful woman and great physique.
I don’t know who is happier with her placing, her or her husband Nelson. It’s a team effort with every competitor and I know he is her biggest supporter.
4. Natalie Benson
Quickly gaining the hearts of fans across the world, Natalie came up just short of the Olympia birth for 2008. She has an amazing look and often referred to as the “Halle Berry” of fitness. You’ll be seeing a great deal of her in the magazines in the coming months. She’s also starting a number of things with her business and anyone who needs a make-up artist for shows, she’s one of the best.
5. Heather Green
Another competitor I’ve seen competed a number of times this year and without a doubt her best look to date. Heather started the year out as an NPC amateur, turned pro at the Figure Nationals in New York, went on to compete as a pro, qualify and compete in the Olympia. Now that my friends is one helluva a run.
Heather looked amazing and has a smile that will light up any room. I had her a bit higher than third but look for her to be back on the Olympia stage in 2008. I had the chance to shoot with her before the show and she is one of the best fitness models in the biz. (Don’t forget she’s had two kids as well).
Other Figure Notes:
Zivile Raudoniene has risen in the ranks this year and is simply stunning. She placed sixth at this show and notched a pro win earlier in the year. Look for her to be a consistent top five competitor in every show she enters.
Zena Collins competed in the first round but didn’t show up for the remainder of the show. I confirmed with several people that it was not due to anything medical related. It appears she wasn’t happy with her callout and didn’t bother finishing the show.
The figure portion had twenty something competitors and while small it wasn’t short on quality. Several first timers showed up to get their figure feet wet. Many of them were excited to compete on the same stage as some of the women they look up to in the pro ranks.
Another great show in the books for John Organ and his crew. If John can get the sponsorship dollars, look for this show to move to a bigger venue and continue to improve in 2008