If At First...

Being the competitive person that I am, I of course wanted to do well, but I wasn't expecting anything great. When I first entered the auditorium for the contestant meeting, I felt kind of lost.
October 2001: I entered my very first fitness competition after being recruited over 2½ years earlier. Did I think I was prepared? No. Was I nervous? Well, not really...

I entered my first competition with the understanding that I was a newcomer and, quite frankly, I didn't have a clue what I was getting myself into. Being the competitive person that I am, I of course wanted to do well, but I wasn't expecting anything great.

When I first entered the auditorium for the contestant meeting, I felt kind of lost.

This meeting was so different from my sports team meetings that I had grown used to from my years in high school and college. Where were my teammates? Where was my coach? I was alone, but I was proud.

Proud that I had made the commitment to compete at a different level, proud that I was fulfilling one of my goals. As the meeting continued, the head judge described how the swimsuit round would be conducted.

All of the contestants were to walk out on stage for group comparisons, and then each contestant would need to take a turn posing for the judges individually.

Morning Session

I had seen this part of the competition on ESPN, so I kind of knew what I was supposed to be doing. When it came to the group comparisons, however, I had no idea how I was supposed to be posing. I actually had to look around while we were being judged to see what other girls were doing.

Simone Sziksai The fitness routine was next. I felt most confident about this segment of the competition, as I had competed in gymnastics as a youth. As the competition continued, however, I grew slightly nervous that the stage would be slippery from the previous competition. The oil from the bodybuilders coated the surface of the stage and in some spots there were even small puddles. Although the crew members did their best to clean the stage, some residue was still present.

I just prayed that I wouldn't hurt myself and tried to be optimistic. It was finally my turn, and I was as pumped up as the first time I set foot in the starting blocks for the 100 meter dash. My adrenaline was rushing a little too much as my nerves began to make me numb.

As I set foot onto the stage, my music began without me. I didn't think much of it at first, but then I realized that I was not allowed to start over, but it wasn't my fault. I had told the director that I needed my music to start after I got on stage. They tried again.

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When I was in place, my music started in the same place that it had ended minutes before. I thought to myself, there is no way this can be happening to me. All my time and efforts seemed wasted. I was livid at this point in time, which for me was good, because when I get mad, I get even.

Actually, it calmed my nerves to the point that I felt like I needed to go out there and prove to everyone that I was good and deserved a chance. I had to wait until the next competitor took the stage before I could perform. I thought my chances were over, but I wanted to perform anyway. I had come so far and worked so hard that I wanted someone to see what I could do.

group posing As I took the stage for the third time there was announcement made that no points would be deducted due to technical difficulties with the music.

I was unaware of this announcement prior to the competition, however, so I went on competing in a rage in hopes that I could make up for the music problems.

I completed my routine relieved that the morning session was over.

Night Session

The night session was only for tie brakes and an audience show. I went out and performed with everything I had; however, the stage was more slippery than the morning session. My hand slipped on my round-off and I could not perform one of my skills as I was sitting in a puddle of oil.

flashy shoes I figured it was all over. I had failed and there was no turning back. I would just use this experience as a lesson learned. When the top 5 contestants were called that night, I was not among them. I was not surprised, but again, being the competitive person that I am, I was very disappointed.

After the competition was over, I took some extra time to meet with a few judges to find out what things I could improve upon for the next competition. I learned that my three-inch heels did not give me the length in my legs that a six-inch heel would, that my halter bikini top looked too much like a shirt top, my skirt for my routine was too long, and my shoes were too flashy.

I also learned that my muscle definition was washed out under the stage lights and this could be fixed by applying professional tanning dyes. Other than that, I was told that my routine needed to flow together a little better, as my movements did not have smooth transitions. After hearing so many things that I could improve upon, I was excited once again.

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Much to my surprise, about a week after the competition, I received a telephone call stating that I had placed in the top 10 (I later found out that I placed 7th out of 16 ladies) and qualified for Nationals! I was so excited, but I didn't know how I was going to make so many changes in a month's time.

Needless to say, I made as many changes as I could in a short amount of time, but I was not totally prepared for the Fitness America Pageant Finals. I ended up placing 44th out of 96 competitors. I was happy with my results, as my goal was to place in the top half. I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful athletes, and I learned so much more about what it takes to be one of the best.

Simone Sziksai This past April, I entered my third fitness competition in Pennsylvania. I walked away with a 2nd place trophy, which qualified me for this year's Fitness America Pageant-ESPN Finals.

Although I was confident in my performance and I received the audiences support, I feel as though the couple of tenths that separated me from winning is a sign that my work is not done.


One of my favorite quotes comes from "The Butterfly" (author unknown), "Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. We could never fly!"

So, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again - for one day all the hard work will allow you to soar to the top!

Good Luck, and God Bless!