2021 Emerald Cup Highlights

After an off year, over 600 physique athletes returned to form at this longstanding national qualifier competition.

2021 Emerald Cup Highlights banner

Over the last year, plenty has changed in the worlds of fitness and physique competition. But some things never change. Nearly two years since the last installment of this beloved Pacific Northwest physique competition, spray tans and classic rock still rule supreme in Bellevue, Washington, as day one showed.

New to the Emerald Cup? Check out our preview. Through Saturday night, you can also livestream the event to stay on top of the action as the competitors battle it out for the trophies. And for a full breakdown of the scheduled events and an athlete roster, check out the Emerald Cup's website.

Friday Highlights

Day one of the Emerald Cup kicked off with over 120 men facing off in Classic Physique, followed by Women's Physique, and then the newly created Wellness division. This competitive grouping, which fits between Bikini and Figure in terms of muscularity and leanness, drew a robust offering of 20 women spread across three classes. It's a chance for ladies with more lower-body muscle mass to shine onstage, and felt like a worthy addition to fill the gap between established divisions.

While many onstage were first-time competitors, age largely trumped beauty in the lineup on day one. The day started with Men's Classic Physique 50-plus, followed by 40-plus and the juniors. True novice was next, representing the first ever contest appearance by some competitors.

As the familiar first notes of AC/DC's "Back in Black" blare over the speakers, we are reminded of that fortune in physique favors the mature. While the masters contests were filled to capacity, only two youngsters dared to try their luck on the juniors stage.

Why so many experienced athletes and so few first-timers? It's likely that Covid-19 lockdowns stopped many would-be bodybuilders in their tracks, while the longtime diehards had the discipline to survive and even thrive against this new adversity. It's also true that developing a competitive physique in your teens and early 20s is simply a tall order, while true mastery of the sport is the arena of the 30-plus.

As has often been the case in previous Emerald Cups, overall symmetry and definition reigned supreme. While many competitors clearly used their year off to add size, in many cases, the biggest competitor was not the one who took gold.

Stay tuned to Bodybuilding.com in the days to come for highlights and competitor perspective from the NPC Emerald Cup!

Saturday Highlights

Today is Day two of the 39th annual Emerald Cup, and as the Classic Physique and Figure competitors rest and recover from yesterday's battle, Bodybuilding and Bikini are gearing up for their divisions.

The Emerald Cup is known for attracting the best and brightest amateur bodybuilders the area has to offer. With many stepping onstage for the first time since the Covid lockdowns of 2020, todays matchups promise to be epic.

The day began with Women's Bodybuilding, featuring only two competitors this year, and moved right into the Bodyweight Masters Divisions. As trophies were handed out, the contest moved to the Wheelchair Division where the sole competitor, James Smith, took the stage to perform his routine. Smith naturally took home the trophy, however it was his ability to shine onstage and inspire the crowd that felt like the real prize.

The Emcee then took a moment for a touching personal tribute as he presented the Inspirational Award to Zachary Broten, a 25-year old whose bout with pneumonia last year lead to septic shock that put him in the ICU for 55 days and nearly cost him his life. Discharged from the hospital a fraction of his normal weight, Broten fought hard to rebuild the mass that he lost and step onstage once again today.

Special guest poser Roelly Winklaar AKA "The Beast" took the stage in the break between Masters and Open. A man with thighs the size of telephone poles, Winklaar was an impressive spectacle, and as the Emcee pointed out, a somewhat unfair juxtaposition to the upcoming Bantamweight Class that had to follow his impressive routine.

The Open Divisions went by in a blur set the music of varying artists from Kid Rock to Taylor Swift. Then it was time to crown the overall winner. With AC/DC's “Thunderstruck” blaring, the 6 Open Division winners battled it out onstage for ultimate Emerald Cup glory.

Then it was time for Men's Physique, a division where stage presence and personality are nearly as important as muscularity and symmetry. In a blur of board shorts, the classes made their way down the alphabet as competitors were grouped together by height, rather than weight, to level the field.

Bikini was the final category of the day. This division has skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade, with over 60 competitors taking the stage in the True Novice and Novice divisions alone. With a staggering 130+ competitors and height classes ranging from A to H, and a sold-out audience, the judges had quite the task ahead of them as they choose their champions.

Absent from this year's contest was the Fitness Division, an impressive combination of both gymnastics and physique. A huge draw in past Emerald Cup competitions, this division requires an incredible display of athleticism, muscularity, symmetry, and conditioning. It's popularity has waned over the past few years, and the uncertainty of the 2020 hiatus hasn't helped the division.

All in all, this weekend was a smash success. Promotors Ivan and Erin Ribic should be proud of the show they put on. And with several more NPC events lined up, competitors and fans have a lot to look forward to as bodybuilding returns to the stage.