In 2003, the IFBB and its Pro Division introduced Figure to its lineup of professional sport disciplines. Figure responds to the demand for fitness competition without the need to perform a routine. The emphasis in Figure is placed on aesthetics - beauty combined with an athletic physique.
"The creation and development of Figure competition provides the IFBB with yet another way to promote the sport of bodybuilding and fitness worldwide," said Ben Weider, IFBB President. "By adding this new discipline, we are able to further expand our federation and, just as important, to provide a means for Figure athletes to compete on a professional stage."
I recently spoke with Wayne DeMilia, IFBB Vice President Pro Division, concerning the new sport of Figure. For nearly thirty years, DeMilia, along with the Weiders, has led the rapid growth of the IFBB Pro Division and, thanks to their efforts; prize money has escalated from $1,000, for the 1965 Mr. Olympia, to over $530,000 for the 2003 Olympia weekend.
What Wayne DeMilia Thinks...
RB: Why was Pro Figure created?
WD: The NPC, the official amateur division of the IFBB in the United States, approached the IFBB on developing Figure as a new sport discipline. NPC Figure has been highly successful in the United States and has brought more competitors, sponsors, fans, and money into the sport. Without Pro Figure, amateur athletes are left with no opportunity for advancement.
RW: How does an athlete become an IFBB pro in this new discipline?
WD: There are 173 countries in the IFBB and each of them, like the NPC, has its own amateur division, from which its amateur athletes can turn pro.
RW: If a competitor feels she can compete in Bodybuilding, Fitness and Figure, why has the IFBB decided to limit the athletes to only one category?
WD: In the beginning of the year, if a woman has an IFBB Pro Card, they decide to compete in Bodybuilding, Fitness, or Figure because we don't want them switching around during the course of the year. Knowing how many girls we have in each discipline helps maintain stability. Also, Figure is new to the IFBB and we would like to see how things go the first year. After an initial period of evaluation, we may change how this discipline is administered.
RW: How many Fitness Competitors have switched over to Figure?
WD: About 25-30 percent of last year's Fitness girls switched to Figure. I estimate that there are about 50 Figure girls so; we'll have more than enough to field a competitive and diverse contest lineup.
RW: Will current IFBB Pro judges be used or will a new set of judges be appointed?
WD: Jim Manion is Chairman of the IFBB Pro Judges Committee and I'm sure he will continue employing the experience of our current judges. At this time, former competitors don't want to judge. Many of them have declined our offer to judge because they don't want to be ridiculed by the competitors or their peers. Since former competitors don't want to judge, what you have is a predominance of hardcore bodybuilding judges who judge Fitness and Figure. If you are a former pro competitor and are interested in judging, please contact Jim Manion.
RW: What role will the NPC serve in Pro Figure?
WD: Like any other amateur federation, NPC competitors seeking IFBB professional status will compete in NPC competitions in which the national level champions will earn IFBB Pro status.
RW: Will the Pro Figure competitors be drug tested?
WD: Every IFBB contest is subject to drug testing.
RW: Does the IFBB seriously plan to enforce their rule on marking down Figure athletes who display extreme muscularity?
WD: Yes. At the 2003 Arnold Classic, the judging panel consistently marked down Figure competitors who displayed extreme muscularity.
RW: Since the IFBB will allow Figure athletes to cross-over and compete in Fitness competitions, do you feel it may lower the quality of the Fitness competitions or lead to an injury?
WD: The pro athletes will decide which discipline they wish to compete in and that's where they'll compete for that year. I don't think Figure competitors will go into Fitness - it's too difficult. I do foresee Fitness competitors switching over to Figure because it's less stressful on the body.
RW: With the addition of Pro Figure, will the IFBB limit the number of athletes per competition due to the increased length of the show? If so, how will the judging panels decide which athletes get to compete?
WD: No. Everything is the same. If a show has too many competitors, there are measures within the IFBB rules that the judges can use to keep the show moving along. There are more competitions in 2003 so; with more opportunities to compete each athlete will have a number of chances to qualify for the Joe Weider Ms. Figure Olympia.
RW: Do you feel that Figure contests are able to stand on their own or will they be held in conjunction with other Bodybuilding and Fitness contests?
WD: Like all new things, it takes time for a fan base to develop. As our fans become more familiar with Figure competitions, I expect larger audiences. For the time being, Figure competitions will be held in conjunction with other pro competitions.
RW: What do you feel is an appropriate amount of prize money for a
Figure competition - especially since this discipline favors women with great genes instead of athletic ability?
WD: Prize money for Pro Figure will be determined by the amount of money the show generates. In the initial stages, it will not be equal to women's Bodybuilding and Fitness.
RW: Last question - since a number of former Fitness competitors seem to be making a comeback, are you considering the possibility that they must re-qualify for IFBB Pro status?
WD: No. Former pro athletes making a comeback will not have to re-qualify to renew their IFBB Pro status.
What The Competitors Think...
Figure will provide many women with a fantastic opportunity to compete on the IFBB stage. Commenting on the creation of this new discipline are Fitness Pro's Amy Yanagisawa and Beth Horn.
"My thoughts about Figure are mixed," said Yanagisawa, the 1998 NPC Team Universe Fitness runner-up (short-class).
"Recently, Jim Manion sent out a letter which established a criteria on how all IFBB Fitness Competitors will be judged; this should help establish a standard for what the judges are looking for. Sometimes the women who come in softer and not so muscular win while at other competitions, the most muscular and leanest win. While the addition of Figure may be great for the sport, I hope this criteria provides the necessary guidance the competitors need in order to prepare for competition," Yanagisawa said.
"I feel it may be a good idea to add casting directors, photographers, hair/make-up artists, and magazine editors to the judging panel. Also, if there was a unified athletes council whose purpose was to represent the fitness/figure women and address our concerns with IFBB officials, that would be great and lead to less confusion and open dialog," said Yanagisawa.
The 2000 NPC National Fitness Champion Beth Horn said, "I feel the addition of Figure is a wonderful opportunity for women to display their awesome physiques, their femininity and beauty."
"It will be a very positive addition to the IFBB, which will allow fitness and beauty to become more main-stream. It also provides more women the ability to compete without the pressures of having to do gymnastics and performances. Personally, I prefer the fitness aspect of the competitions because I love performing and being creative," Horn said.
Figure, or "Body Fitness" as it is currently called at the international amateur level, has been very popular for several years throughout the world, particularly within Europe.
In 2002, Body Fitness Championships were held at the European Championships and, for the first time, at the Women's World Amateur Bodybuilding & Fitness Championships in Brno, Czech Republic.
The 2003 Body Fitness World Amateur Championships are being held in conjunction with the Women's World Amateur Bodybuilding & Fitness Championships in Santa Susana, Spain, September 26-29.
"The IFBB continues to make great strides in the development of its sport disciplines in keeping with its mandate to "grow fitness" worldwide. As a direct result of the dedication and commitment of our sport's athletes and officials, both amateur and professional, the IFBB remains open to new growth in many areas. Figure is one such area and, from initial results, a sport discipline that holds much promise for the future," Weider said.
About The Author
Rob Wilkins, originally from Linden, N.J., is a Master Sergeant in the US Air Force stationed at The Pentagon, Washington, DC. Wilkins is also a Special Assistant for the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) and a recipient of the IFBB Gold Medal. To contact Wilkins e-mail him at Robifbb@yahoo.com.
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