This year will mark the third time that the Bikini Olympia has formed part of Joe Weider's Olympia Weekend. After showcasing 24 and 28 competitors in the first two years, this year's field will be the largest yet, as well as the most crowded beach—er, stage of all the Olympia Weekend women's competitions.
However, the route some competitors are taking to the stage has changed since last year. This year, they face a new qualification system that can be a bit confusing. In March, the IFBB adopted a point-based system, the Olympia Qualification Series (OQS), which will affect everyone who didn't qualify by the old standards.
The OQS system gives competitors who don't win a show the opportunity to compete at the Olympia if they accumulate enough points over the competition season. In all, 25 women qualified by September 1, and another five will be added to the field after the 2012 St. Louis Pro Show on September 15. In the case of point ties, the winner will be the competitor with the highest single-show placing to her name this season. If there's still a tie, both women will qualify.
This complicated arrangement makes things interesting. The major players from Olympias past are all accounted for, but the new system ensures that borderline qualifiers will be taking the stage whenever possible to earn their chance of squaring off against defending champ Nicole Nagrani.
You can view the current standings on NPC News Online. Now let's take a look at the field as it stands, in alphabetical order.
Stacey Alexander /// This will be Stacey Alexander's first trip to the Olympia. She achieved IFBB Pro status at the 2011 NPC Nationals and made an immediate impact in the pro ranks. She won her pro debut at the IFBB Desert Muscle Classic, which qualified her for the Olympia. She also finished fourth and third her last two times onstage. She has clearly become more comfortable on stage and could be a contender for the top-10, which in her first Olympia would be considered a huge success.
Jennifer Andrews /// This is Jennifer's second trip to the Olympia, and she hopes to move up from last year's 16th-place finish. Jennifer tends to do better at smaller shows than on big stages like the Arnold and Olympia. We don't know what we'll see with Jennifer; her placings ranged from first at the St. Louis Pro to 12th at the Arnold. She has a permanent smile on her face when she takes the stage and has somewhat of a pageant presentation. Any result better than last year's would be an unqualified success.
Narmin Assria /// Narmin gets the award for most persistent bikini pro of the year. She's competed in five shows this year, and her lowest finish was fifth at the Greater Gulf States. She's carrying some momentum with her into the Olympia. She was one of the top points holders in the OQS until she won the Pacific USA, which automatically qualified her for the Olympia. She was runner-up to Dianna Dahlgren at the LA Grand Prix, a show where she beat top pro Amanda Latona. Narmin is one of the smallest competitors in the lineup and could look tiny next to the other women in this show, but she's mighty. I look for Narmin to be in the second or third callouts.
Jaime Baird /// Jaime has become a fan favorite. I was critical of her posing in the past and felt it was a little rehearsed. That was the past. Jaime improved her physique and her presentation so that her presentation feels more genuine and translates better to the stage. She has scored a pair of 4th-place finishes at the Olympia and has two runner-up finishes this season as well. She finished no lower than fifth in any of the 13 pro shows she has entered. Jaime is one of the most consistent competitors in the show. Look for her to be in one of the top spots again this year.
Tiffany Marie Boydston /// Tiffany achieved IFBB Pro Status at the 2011 NPC Jr. Nationals in Chicago. She's been consistently in the top-5 since her pro debut, where she finished in 11th place. She has a bubbly presentation and has improved her stage presence the last few shows. This will be her first trip to the Olympia and I think she could be swimming in deep waters. If she cracks the top-15 it would be a successful showing for her.
Abbie Burrows /// Will the real Abbie Burrows please stand up? We never know what we're going to see out of her. Sometimes she is in the mix for the win; other times, she's announced in the bottom callouts. She was ninth at the 2011 Olympia and finished in the dreaded 16th place at the 2012 Bikini International. She qualified for the 2011 Olympia by placing second in the Titans Grand Prix, a show held after the 2011 Olympia that qualified the top-3 finishers. If Abbie is mentally in the show, she'll be in the mix for a top-15 spot. If not, look for an Arnold repeat. Abbie also likes to change her suit, hair and makeup with each show. I'm a firm believer in not fixing what isn't broken. If she goes back to a look that got her the win in Tijuana, she'll be better off.
Vanessa Campbell /// This is Vanessa's third trip to the Olympia and she'll be gunning for a top-10 finish. She was 13th in 2010 and tied for last place in 2011. We haven't seen her on stage all year, so who knows what she'll bring on stage. Vanessa was second at the 2011 Ft. Lauderdale Cup and won the 2011 Iowa Pro. Both shows qualified her for a trip to the Olympia. It's unusual to see a competitor go an entire season without competing. Maybe she'll jump into the St. Louis Pro to gain some momentum; if not, we could see Vanessa on the outside looking in again. I'm not a big fan of the legs-spread-wide pose from the back she often does. She has a distinct and becoming look with her short black hair.
Nicole Coleman /// Nicole will compete in her first Olympia this year, and we haven't seen her on stage all year. She qualified for the Olympia by placing third at the 2011 Houston Pro. I give her props for totally transforming her physique into what it is today. She has a powerlifting background and has hoisted some impressive numbers. She made the switch from figure to bikini, which was the right move for her, but this will be her toughest test yet.
Dianna Dahlgren /// Dianna Dahlgren has positioned herself as one of the top competitors in the bikini division. She was ninth at the 2010 Olympia, but since then has never finished out of the top-5. This is Dianna's third trip to the Olympia, and she's looking to improve upon last year's 3rd-place finish. Dianna took fifth place at the Toronto Pro, but having attended that show, I would have placed her higher. More recently, she's coming off a win at the LA Grand Prix. When she's on her game mentally, she exudes confidence and lights up the stage. When she's off, she looks like a deer in the headlights. I think we'll see Dianna on top of her game, and if she can continue to pose in a way that makes her body look curvy, she'll be in the hunt for the win.
Juliana Daniell /// Juliana has a winning look, although her placings don't always reflect it. She has one of the most athletic physiques in this show, which she owes to her athletic background. She was a swimmer in college and currently is on the Atlanta Hawks NBA cheer team. She's coming off a 9th-place finish at the New York Pro and qualified for the Olympia with a 3rd-place finish at the World Masters Championships. This is her second trip to the Olympia. She took eighth in 2011, and if she brings the full, athletic look she had at the 2012 Pittsburgh Pro and the 2011 New York Pro, she'll be in the hunt.
Tawna Eubanks /// This will be Tawna's first trip to the Olympia. If she doesn't let the Olympia rookie jitters get to her, she'll hold her own. She qualified by placing second at the 2011 Sacramento Pro. The Texan cutie has two 7th-place finishes this year and will need to be at her best to crack the top-15 here. Tawna looks great by herself, but when compared with some of the other women in this show, it's clear they pack a bit more upper body muscle. If she doesn't look too lean in the ribs and midsection, she'll fair well.
Sonia Gonzales /// Sonia is always in the mix. She's a seasoned pro and knows what to expect at big shows. She is also one of the few women to successfully make the switch from figure to bikini. In 2010, she was Olympia Bikini's first champion. Last year, she slid to fifth. Many people felt it was a changing of the guard that would leave Sonia on the outside looking in, but she's shown that to be false. Sonia won the Bikini International this year and followed it up with a win at the Muscle Contest. Look for her somewhere in the upper tier. She has never placed lower than fifth since switching to bikini.
Candyce Graham /// When Candyce is on with her posing and conditioning she can hang with the best. She'll look to improve upon her 16th-place finish at the 2011 Olympia. She qualified for this year's show by placing second at the 2011 Iowa Pro, following it up with a respectable ninth place at the 2012 Bikini International. If she can match that look, she could be in the top-10 again. We've seen her come in a little too soft and looking angry in her facial expressions and movements. A relaxed and conditioned Candyce is what we'll be looking for this year.
Diana Graham /// Diana will be making her second trip to the Olympia. She finished just outside the top-10 last year, but turned in a strong 7th-place finish at this year's Bikini International. Cracking the top-10 would count as a successful showing in this large field. If she's confident, relaxed, and not self-conscious, she'll do well. If she's distracted, it shows on her face and in how she presents. She's coming off a 3rd-place finish at the Tampa Pro, and I would like to see her a bit tighter than she was at that show. She carries more muscle than many of the competitors, so it's a balancing act for her not to look too soft while not appearing overly bulky.
Amanda Latona /// Amanda is definitely one of the fan favorites, but will she be one of the judges' picks? When Amanda is in her element and not over-thinking things on stage, she can be one of the best. She's a natural on stage with a background as a singer and performer. She knows how to present herself with confidence. She took fifth at the 2010 Olympia and chose to sit out the 2011 Olympia. She's coming off a 3rd-place finish at the LA Grand Prix and will be hungry to shine under the big spotlight in Las Vegas. She should be in the hunt for the top-5 again this year.
Nathalia Melo /// Nathalia is another contender for the top spots. Many people picked her to win the Olympia last year and then again at this year's 2012 Arnold Bikini International. However, she took second in Las Vegas and fifth at the Arnold Classic—still nothing to sneeze at. She has incredible stage presence and exudes a playful but sexy look onstage, but the X-factor is her Brazilian booty. Some judges find it "not tight enough," while others think it's just the right look for a bikini model. The challenge in bringing down her booty is keeping her upper body from getting too lean. We saw her come in way too lean at the 2010 Dallas Europa, and it wasn't a good look for her. If she matches the look she brought to the Olympia stage last year, she'll be a contender once again. We haven't seen her compete since her 5th-place finish at the Arnold, so we'll have to wait and see what she brings to the stage.
Nicole Moneer /// Nicole works as a personal trainer and is the perfect example of practicing what you preach. She qualified for the Olympia by placing third at the 2011 Iowa Pro, her highest finish as a pro. Nicole was 12th at the Pittsburgh Pro this year and if she can crack the top-15 at the Olympia it would be an accomplishment for her. She'll probably need to come in a bit tighter than she did in Pittsburgh to have a crack at it.
Pollianna Moss /// If you don't recognize the name Pollianna Moss, it's because she has only one pro show under her belt. She turned pro at the 2012 NPC Junior USAs and won her debut at the 2012 Toronto Pro. She's one of the shorter competitors and has the appearance of having more muscle than some of the other qualifiers. She could either continue to make an impact in the pro ranks or get lost in the shuffle. Regardless, it's a huge accomplishment to have the Olympia as her second pro show, especially with the new qualification standards.
Nicole Nagrani /// Nicole is often called "Kid Nagrani," because she's still not of legal age to drink. And yet, the 20-year-old is the defending champ, and she knows she has a target on her back. Nicole has never finished lower than third in any show, amateur or pro. It's a classic case of "cute" versus "sexy." Do the judges want sexy? If so, Nicole isn't their choice. If they want cute and bubbly, then she'll successfully defend her title. The champ competed at the Tampa Pro and took top honors, which was a bit of redemption after finishing third at the 2012 Bikini International. This is her third trip to the Olympia, so she knows what to expect.
India Paulino /// India carries more momentum into this show than any other competitor, and she's on everyone's radar. She placed sixth at the 2011 Bikini Olympia, and since then she's racked up four 1st-place finishes and was the runner-up at the 2012 Bikini International. I don't think we'll see her out of the top-5. I'm still not a fan of the hip-pop-shimmy-shake she does at the end of her individual posing, but the judges don't seem to mind. As long as she brings the same look she has had all year and doesn't pop her hip out of place, don't be surprised if she leaves as the third Olympia champion.
Natalie Pennington /// This is Natalie's third trip to the Olympia, and she'll look to crack the top-10 for the first time. She qualified for this year's show by placing third at the Sacramento Pro, and generally tends to perform better at small shows than big ones. If she has succeeded in bringing up her backside she might move up from last year, but if we see a flat booty again she'll be on the outside of the top-10.
Tianna Ta /// Tianna has tended to come in too lean in her abs and upper body and too soft in her legs and backside. If she can find a balance, she'll move up from her 15th-place finish at the 2012 Bikini International. The other thing Tianna needs to control is her posing. When she's confident and relaxed, she's gold. When she's nervous, she shakes like a leaf. This is her second trip to the Olympia, where she placed 16th in 2010. Tianna qualified by placing second at the 2011 Pro World Masters Championships. We'll get a look at her before she steps on stage at the Olympia, since she is slated to compete at the 2012 Valenti Gold Cup, which is three weeks out from the Olympia.
Brittany Tacy /// Brittany has one of the most athletic physiques in the competition. If she can present herself in a relaxed, controlled, confident manner, she'll be a contender for the top-10. She's been in the top-10 of every pro show she has entered, and she's coming off a win at the Greater Gulf States. Brittany is one competitor who could shake things up.
Skye Taylor /// Skye is trying to find her groove this year. She has been a bit inconsistent with her placings, following a 15th-place finish at the New York Pro with a 7th-place finish at the LA Grand Prix. She qualified for the Olympia by placing second at the 2011 Houston Pro. She'll need to bring a tighter lower half to the stage than we saw at the LA show if she hopes to crack the top-10.
Christina Vargas /// Christina is another competitor who made the transition from figure to bikini. This will be her second Olympia appearance. She finished 13th last year, and if she can improve upon that this year it will be a win for her. She qualified for the Olympia by winning the 2011 Houston Pro, but since then has been consistently outside of the top-5. Her best finish in 2012 was fourth at the Desert Muscle Classic. She finished 14th at the Bikini International and eighth at the Toronto Pro. Christina's biggest challenge is not looking too muscular on stage.
We could see as many as seven more women added before showtime. There are two Olympia Qualification Series shows left, and if the winners of those shows haven't already qualified, we could see them along with the top-5 in the OQS standings. At minimum, look for Jennifer Chapman, Yeshaira Robles, Justine Munro, Taylor Matheny and Dayna Maleton to be added. They are the top-5 in the point system to date.
Of course, we have no way of knowing
how everyone will look on stage on Friday, September 28. Let's assume everyone brings their best. I gravitate toward the more athletic and sexy bikini bodies
and my card would read:
- Nathalia Melo
- Dianna Dahlgren
- Amanda Latona
- Juliana Daniell
- Yeshaira Robles
- Brittany Tacy
Of course, that may not be realistic. Based on prior placings and current show finishes, my predictions are:
- India Paulino
- Nicole Nagrani
- Dianna Dahlgren
- Jaime Baird
- Nathalia Melo
- Amanda Latona