Anyone who thinks Natural Contests are boring affairs with underdeveloped competitors who are no bigger than the average fitness buff found at the local gym should have been in attendance at the 2008 Natural North America Bodybuilding, Fitness and Figure Championships on Saturday, August 9th, 2008 at Romeoville High School in Romeoville, Illinois. The competition was fierce and intense with some very high quality physiques, especially in the Men's Open division.
The Natural North America Championships is a part of the ABA/INBA organization. All overall winners at this contest are now eligible to compete in the Natural Universe and Natural Olympia Championships later this year. The Natural Olympia will be held on Saturday, November 8th, 2008 in San Francisco, California followed by the Natural Universe on Saturday, November 15th, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.
This year's event featured athletes from all over the United States and Canada. In addition to the competitors who came from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, there were also competitors who drove or flew in from Utah, Arizona, Iowa, New England, Wisconsin, Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio and even Quebec, Canada. What an awesome group of natural competitors!
Since this was a Natural competition, all the competitors were required to pass a polygraph exam before they could enter the contest. This contest required all contestants to be drug-free from steroids, growth hormone and diuretics for a five-year period. At the conclusion of the contest, two competitors were chosen who were also required to undergo a urinalysis drug test. As this contest continues to grow, the drug testing will also be extended to ensure that everyone is truly natural and drug-free.
The show kicked off with the Fitness competition. Unfortunately, only one competitor entered this normally tough event. Shana Martin from nearby Madison, Wisconsin was supposed to compete but she tore her ACL in a contest only weeks earlier so she had to sit this one out. In her place, the energetic Suzanne Gramas won the Fitness competition uncontested.
The bodybuilding events started off with the Teenage division.
Kris Carver won a unanimous decision from the judges in his very first contest. Kris was harder and more finished than the other competitors to take an easy first place. In second place,
Wali Khan showed lots of size for only 17 years of age. Third place went to
Arban Balazi followed by
Justin Rueff in fourth.
In the Junior Men's division,
Connor Lavallie won in his contest debut. Connor is very tall with an ultra wide shoulder structure and came in ripped for this contest. At only 20 years old, he has a good future ahead of him as he adds more size to his big frame.
Junior Masters Women
In the Jr. Masters Women's division,
Bojanna Vojinovic from Elmhurst, Illinois won this division for the 35-39 year old women. In the Masters division,
Laurie Ellis won a unanimous decision over the incredible 56-year-old
Bobbie Kongsgaard in her contest debut. Laurie Ellis was the overall winner.
Junior Masters Men
The Masters Men division was stacked with talent! In the Jr. Masters Men (age 35-39 years old), returning champ
Martin Cormier from Quebec, Canada retained the title in a close decision over
Kenny Morrow from Tinley Park, Illinois.
Greg Gabriel took third place followed by
Wesley Majka in fourth and
David Ormsby from Tucson, Arizona in fifth.
The Masters Men (ages 40-49) pitted veteran competitor
Benny Cruz against
Paul Reed for first place. Paul was coming back to competition after a 14-year absence but he took second place to the ultra ripped Cruz who brought his weight down to a shredded 167 pounds for this contest.
Christopher Fox from New Carlisle, Ohio was in third place.
In the Grand Masters division (ages 50-59), the very massive
Ron Debry from Riverton, Utah won a unanimous decision from the judges.
Cary Morgan took second followed by local favorite
Art Miller in third and
George Whaley in fourth.
Super Ultra Grand Masters
There was only one competitor entered in the Super Ultra Grand Masters division (age 70 and over) but he brought the house down. 80-year-old
Fred Hefter from Ft. Wayne, Indiana showed that it is never too late to get in shape and compete as he confidently strutted his physique on the stage.
Overall Masters Men
In the overall decision,
Benny Cruz was just too ripped for the other competitors although
Ron Debry did look impressive in the posedown. Benny won the overall Masters Mens title along with the victory sword.
The Novice Women were up next.
Linda Gadzinskas from Sugar Grove, Illinois took a unanimous first place with
Bobbie Kongsgaard taking second over
The Novice Men's division was also very competitive.
Sal Ruggiero from Chicago scored a one-point victory over
Jason Minarik in the short class. They were followed by
Dan Malouf in third place and
Brad Mital in fourth.
In the medium height class, Larry Montgomery showed off his ripped physique to take a unanimous first place over Matt King from Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Joshua Buhr took third place and 17-year-old Wali Khan finished in fourth.
The top three competitors in the tall class all shared first place votes from the judges. Chris Salgado took first place in the class with his aesthetic physique over Junior Men's winner Connor Lavallie in second and Erik Schlick from Kenosha, Wisconsin in third.
In the overall decision, the judges had a hard time picking a winner from the class winners. The final vote went to Sal Ruggiero with his hard abs over the ripped Larry Montgomery and the symmetrical Chris Salgado.
Special Guest Performer
The special guest performer at the 2008 Natural North America was the reigning Ms. Fitness World Vanda Haderean. A former Olympic silver medalist from Romania, Vanda now lives in Canada and is one of the sports premier competitors in Fitness.
She won the Ms. Fitness Canada the week before this show and is going for the Ms. Fitness World again this year in Las Vegas. She thrilled the audience to a spectacular display of gymnastics and strength as she performed her winning Ms. Fitness World routine.
After the intermission, the audience saw Suzanne Gramis return to the stage to win the Bikini Fitness division over Amy Siefken and Patricia Miller. In the Female Model Search competition, Chelsea Kmiec won a unanimous victory over Amy Siefken and Patricia Miller again. In the Male Model Search, Sean Lee from Chicago was the winner.
In the always competitive Figure Division, nine competitors competed in two divisions. In the short class, veteran champion
Helena Chansky from Greyslake, Illinois narrowly edged out
Nancy Zirkel by one point for first place.
In the Figure Open Tall Class, the lean and shapely physique of
Chelsea Kmiec won a unanimous first place over last year's winner, 51-year-old
Bobbie Kongsgaard was in third place in her contest debut followed by
In the overall Figure Open,
Chelsea Kmiec edged out the beautiful
Helena Chansky to win the Sword and the overall Figure Championship!
In the Jr. Masters Figure division,
Helena Chansky scored her second victory of the night over first time competitor
Jordanna Pelaez. In the Masters Figure, 42-year-old
Nancy Zirkel won first place and in the Grand Masters Figure division,
Susan Today defeated
Bobbie Kongsgaard. The Overall Figure Masters Champion went to
Nancy Zirkel from Bartlett, Illinois.
The competition got really heated when the Men's Open division got started. The overall winner of this contest is eligible to compete in the Natural Universe and Natural Olympia competitions in the fall.
In the Men's Short Class, last year's overall Novice Winner,
Thomas Anderson from Tennessee dominated the competition. Thomas has superb genetics for bodybuilding and his combination of shape, size and hardness is extremely hard to defeat. He won the class over Men's Masters winner
Benny Cruz and Grand Masters champion
In the Medium Class,
Chris Wells from nearby Bolingbrook, Illinois took a decisive first place with his massive arms and ripped physique.
Martin Cormier from Canada was second with
Shah Washington in third.
Kenny Morrow from Tinley Park, Illinois was in fourth and
Sal Ruggiero, the Novice Overall winner, rounded out the top five.
In the Tall Class, 22-year-old
Brent Swanson added some quality muscle to his frame since the ABA Natural Illinois in March to take a unanimous victory over ripped and vascular
Erik Schlick was 25 pounds heavier than last year's competition but he wasn't cut enough and ended up in third place.
For the Bodypart Awards,
Thomas Anderson won the Best Chest, Best Back and Best Poser awards.
Benny Cruz won his share of awards also as he captured Best Abs, Best Legs and the coveted Most Muscular award.
Chris Wells won the Best Arms award with his massive guns.
The overall award was unanimously awarded to the incredible
Thomas Anderson, the new Giant Killer from Tennessee! This kid has potential plus and, at only 22 years of age, he has only begun to tap into his amazing potential. I was so impressed with his improvement in the last year that I invited Thomas to guest pose at the upcoming 2009 Natural Illinois Bodybuilding Championships on March 21st, 2009.
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Thomas Anderson At The 2008 North American Natural.
View More Pics Of 2008 North American Natural Here.
I would like to thank my sponsors for all their support. Our title sponsor was Optimum Nutrition and American Body Building along with JM Steel, Nutrition Discounters, Pride Nutrition, House of Pain and IronMan Magazine (all the winners received a free one-year subscription to IronMan).
During the day, we held the first annual Champions Seminar. I helped to moderate the Seminar which featured our Guest Performer, Vanda Haderean, along with the overall winners from last year's Natural North America Championships: Vince Robbins, the Men's Overall Winner, Paula McBride, the Women's Overall Winner and Sara Clarke, the Figure Overall Winner.
This was a great seminar in which all the Champs from last year shared their training, nutrition and motivation strategies. It was very interesting to listen to the differences in contest preparation shared by bodybuilders, figure and fitness champions. I will continue the tradition next year by inviting the Overall Winners from this year to be a part of the 2009 Champions Seminar.
After the contest was over, we held an After Party at the nearby Brunswick Zone. All the competitors were given free admission for all the pizza and soft drinks they could consume. We also had a DJ who played music for the three hours we were there. A great time was had by all!