Long-standing dynasties have defined the Ms. Olympia in its 32-year history. From Cory Everson's initial dominance to Iris Kyle's recent unbeatable physique, the division has been utterly dominated by a handful of incredible physiques. Kyle looks to tie Lenda Murray as the most decorated women's bodybuilder of all time at the 2012 Ms. Olympia.
Women's bodybuilding is entering a new phase in its ongoing transformation, an essential paradigm shift. Super-freaky mass and shredded conditioning doesn't guarantee podium finishes anymore. Today's game of assorted shapes and sizes captures audiences and draws into question the evolving definition of "ripped."
Iris Kyle is a prime example. In recent years, she has come in fuller and less drawn and continued to win. Will 2012 see this trend continue or will a different criterion for physical perfection emerge?
The newly-created IFBB Pro Olympia Qualification Series promotes increased competition by ensuring every pro earns enough points through multiple competitions to make it to the Olympia. That makes the 2012 Olympia the most competitive ever. The inclusion of seasoned competitors such as former Ms. Olympia Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia, Cathy LeFrancois and Debbie Laszewski, mixed with new blood in title threat Brigita Brezovac, Alina Popa and Sheila Bleck, make this year's event a star-studded shootout.
Top 10 Predictions
Nicole Ball /// With impressive shoulder development and a perfect V-taper, Nicole Ball is an impressive sight to behold. Being one of the shorter pro women bodybuilders makes her appear a little blocky in some poses, which throws off her symmetry and detracts from her excellent overall muscular development. If she nails her conditioning and brings in her waist, Ball will likely land in the top 10.
Cathy LeFrancois /// LeFrancois has been an active pro since 1995. She showed great promise as a potential future Olympia winner after winning the 2003 Arnold Classic. Though this promise has not yet been realized, she continues to impress with massive size and shape. If she can bring the same size that garnered a seventh place at this year's Toronto Pro with improved conditioning, she should break into the 2012 Olympia top 10.
Kim Perez /// If you're a fan of mass over class, Kim's physique is the best on stage. She's a large competitor with a great V-taper and formidable arm development. On the negative side, she appears to lack the legs to match her upper body magnificence. Perez placed seventh at the 2011 Olympia and made the top 10 at this year's Arnold Classic. If she brings her best form with her usual freakish size she will probably land in seventh or eighth place at the 2012 Olympia.
Sheila Bleck /// Sheila has a stellar pro bodybuilding record with four top-six finishes including two runner-up spots. She's set to continue her competitive ascent at this year's Olympia with an incredible V-taper. The competition will be stiffer compared to 2011 when she finished sixth at Ms. Olympia. Still, with her great shape, phenomenal definition, excellent posing skills and stage presence, Sheila could easily land inside the top 6
Kim Buck /// Although she placed 11th at the 2011 Olympia, Kim Buck recently upped her game by finishing fifth at the Arnold Classic and second at the Toronto Pro. She has made excellent strides in her overall development and conditioning. She is one of female bodybuilding's larger competitors at 5-foot-8 and more than 170 pounds. Her frame is ultra-wide and shows excellent thickness in all muscle groups. With no apparent weaknesses and a pleasing physique, the 2011 Europa Battle of Champions winner should find herself in the top six at this year's Olympia.
Debi Laszewski /// Quite possibly the most thickly-developed woman on stage at the 2011 Olympia, Laszewski, at 5-foot-4, is known for her mass. She also has a great deal of class, as illustrated by her excellent posing and great proportions. Debbie did not look out of place alongside the sport's long-standing members after placing fourth last year. Look for a close battle for top-four honors between Laszewski and Alina Popa; though I suspect Popa will have a slight edge based on her overall shape and killer leg development.
Alina Popa /// Alina Popa brought her best combination of size, shape and conditioning to the Arnold Classic earlier this year, earning her third place. She has potential for even greater progress (she has only competed at the pro level for three years and hasn't hit her peak). This year could see her positioned higher than ever at the Olympia after placing fifth in 2011. Super-shredded with proportions to die for and probably the best legs in women's bodybuilding today, look for Alina to make her mark in September.
Brigita Brezovac /// Brezovac became a pro in 2010 and has already cracked the Olympia top three (2011). Her impressive showing at this year's Arnold Classic (sixth) was seen as a step back, but many see her returning to Olympia form. With her near-flawless shape and muscle in all the right places, Brezovac is a definite contender for top-three status. Should either of the top two come in off their respective games, we may see a few surprises come September 28.
Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia /// One of the IFBB's more prolific female competitors, Oriquen-Garcia has been donning the pro tan at elite level since 1994. She's won the Arnold Classic four times and beat the best at the 2005 Ms. Olympia. Now she's reset to take on all comers. Oriquen-Garcia showed that she still has what it takes to achieve top-tier success after placing second at the 2011 Ms. Olympia. However, at 45, age will inevitably impact her ability to achieve the size and conditioning needed to maintain her place in the Ms. Olympia pecking order. Still, with her 2012 Arnold Classic victory and many years of competitive experience, expect her to challenge hard for this year's Olympia title.
Iris Kyle /// So long as you continue to successfully defend your title, being an IFBB pro bodybuilding champ affords you the privilege to compete in events of your choosing. Why risk over-peaking or the stress of competitive burnout when you can gradually ease into competition mode and leave nothing to chance? This certainly appears the case for seven-time Ms. Olympia Iris Kyle, who has not lost a contest since 2005 (though to be fair, she has only competed ten times over the past seven years).
Despite being at an age (38) where many female competitors would have retired, she continues to improve. As the reigning champ, the veteran Kyle will need to be better than ever with the best Ms. Olympia field in recent memory set to throw down at the Orleans Arena. Her stunning width, untouchable shape, and full muscular development should give arguably the greatest female bodybuilder of all time a slight advantage to win her eighth consecutive championship.