The first show of the year kicked off with a boom. While Mother Nature provided rain and thunder outside - promoters, Ironman Magazine, rattled things inside.
This was the first year that the Ironman Pro included seminars and the Fit Expo. Everyone from waiters in local restaurants to rental car reservist seemed to know about the Expo happening in their state.
If this show is any indication of the season ahead we're in for a helluva ride. Next stop the Arnold Classic - in the mean time take a look at my report on the show.
Friday - Feb. 20th
I flew into LAX leaving the snow-covered mountains of Denver behind in search of sunny skies. Sun? Not so much. I was greeted with drizzle and over-cast weather. Speaking of drizzle, this sums of the first day of the Fitness Expo. I contribute the low turn out to a) Friday and most people were at work and b) the weather sucked and kept people from venturing out.
Newly signed IFBB Pro, Kristen Nicewarner, was the lone GNC athlete in attendance. The entire cast will be on hand at the upcoming Arnold Classic. Fitness all-star Bridgette Newell Tony Freeman, Lea Waide, along with many others held down the VPX fort.
I don't think a single soul left without a VPX bag. Amanda Lexx and Rebecca Ryann could be found at the Ultimate Nutrition booth signing autographs and looking beautiful as always.
The women at Bodybuilding.com were a hit with the fans as was Bob Cicherillo. Bob was in a great mood, and who wouldn't be next to girlfriend Brenda Kelly, on the eve of the show.
Things seemed bleak for the first day of the expo until Carmen Electra showed up to promote her new strip aerobics video. Everyone who was at the expo swarmed to catch of glimpse of the cover model. I, like everyone else, was in awe. She looked like a fragile porcelain doll. Much smaller and less voluptuous in person but every bit as striking as you could imagine.
She was very friendly and cordial to her fans. The most bizarre moment of the day was an odd little man in a speedo giving yoga instructions to a younger shirtless man. Fortunately for everyone I didn't have my camera to document the moment. The dance expos were funky and fun.
I didn't attend any of the breakout sessions held throughout the day but many people spoke highly of them. I met a number of very nice people and it was a great opportunity to talk with out hordes of people around.
Overall the facility was nice and the expo was well laid out. After a workout and a nice Italian meal it was time to retire for the night.
Saturday - Feb. 21st.
Rain, rain and more rain. The weather didn't keep any one inside today. I arrived around 10:15am to masses of people waiting in line for the prejudging. After standing in line for over 30 min. I was certain I'd miss the entire judging.
Fortunately they let everyone waiting to buy tickets into the show so this didn't happen. Finding a seat just in time for the callouts, I was impressed. The crowd favorites were definitely Lee Priest and Dexter Jackson. It was obvious Dexter was the winner standing amongst the others.
Left: Dexter Jackson (1st) & Lee Priest (2nd) busting out a front lat spread.
Right: Dexter Jackson & Lee Priest showing a rear double bi.
In prejudging, my guess was Dexter, Lee, Gustova, Craig followed by Ahmad for the top 5. Dexter was razor sharp and on the money. Lee had the big guns on display and clearly bounced back from his Olympia showing. It was a good show and it's clear Dexter is the man to beat when Ronnie's not on stage.
Left: Gustova Badell (3rd), Craig Titus (5th), Ahmad Haidar (4th).
Right: Ahmad Haidar, Craig Titus, Gustova Badell.
The expo saw a significant increase in attendance. More familiar faces could be seen. Raye Hollit a.k.a. "ZAP" was on hand promoting her upcoming show.
Big Dave Palumbo was displaying his freak physique. USAs Superheavy weight winner, Chris Cook could be seen signing autographs and being his friendly self. It was good to see the large crowds in attendance.
There was a brief strongman demo before the Ironman Figure prejudging. These guys are brutes and but on quite the display of strength. The figure had a number of great competitors in every class.
Left: Odd Haugen. Right: From the strongman expo.
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I was disappointed in how the prejudging was set up. The stage had very poor lighting and didn't do the women's physiques justice. I would have liked to seen stage lights set up on the sides at least.
The women were judged in their two pieces only. There were familiar names and faces from national level shows. It was a great showing for the first competition of the year. If this show is any indication of the year ahead, ladies come prepared because there were several competitors in this lineup that could soon be pros.
From the Ironman Figure Short Class.
Patty Cottrell (5th place), Moorea, Tracy, Abby, Elizabeth and then Brandy.
Special thanks to John (Patt Cottrell's trainer) for the names of the competitors.
The evening show started on time and was a well-run event. MC Lonnie Tepper contributed the color commentary as usual. The women were judged in their one piece and you could see an improvement by being on the main stage and in being in better lightening. The men's routines were okay, nothing great.
Three competitors from the Ironman Figure Masters. Karla Ray, Michelle Wauro and Erica White is on the end in the red.
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I have respect for anyone who is a pro, however I was embarrassed for Ken Jones. Anyone dancing repeatedly across the stage sporting a leather jacket, hat and white glove to Michael Jackson clearly has no respect for the art of posing. The top five men gave a great pose down and jumped into the crowd to show off their hard work.
The crowd ate it up. The overall women's figure came down to Abby Duncan - short class, Marcy Porter - medium class and Michelle Troll - tall class.
The overall title went to Abby Duncan who looked better as the day went on. Trained by Kim Oddo, Abby is on her way to a bright career in figure. She has great lines and with a little more muscle maturity she'll be on the pro stage before long. I was impressed with Marcy Porter's and Michelle Trolls' physiques as well.
There were two tributes given one to photographer Chris Lund and another to Joe Weider. When the placings were announced for the men, you could see the disappointment on Craig's placing, I think he probably had himself at third but ended up 5th.
The rest fell into line as most expected from the prejudging with Ahmad 4th, Gustova 3rd, Lee 2nd and Dexter winning. I agree with the placings and felt it was a well-judged show.
Sunday - Feb 22nd.
The third day of the expo was much like the first, not many people in attendance and more rain outside. Many people were excited to be there but looking forward to the upcoming Arnold Classic and the shows in the coming year.
The Ironman was a well-run show with great competitors. I'm not sure how the promoters can draw the crowds in on Friday and Sunday if they keep the expo next year. Everyone I spoke to liked the expo and all the added events. I left the show back on the 110 to catch my flight back to Denver.
Little did I know 3 hours early wasn't enough time for the LA traffic. 2 1/2 hours of sitting in traffic lead to missing my plane and spending some quality time in the LAX airport, but hey if I hadn't missed my flight I never would have got to see Fabio in person.
2004 Ironman Pro Page.