The exact location was the Meydenbauer Center in the heart of Bellevue, Washington where NPC BSN Emerald Cup Bodybuilding, Fitness, and Figure Championships took place. Two hundred and forty athletes, a dozen of the top IFBB pros, and nearly five thousand fans braved the bitter cold weather to take part in one of the hottest events on the National Physique Committee card.
This year's event surpassed anything Craig Productions have presented in the twenty-six year history of the event. Of all the high points of the two-day extravaganza it was the world class posing that shined the brightest. Across the boards from the masters men over seventy to the open super-heavyweights, it was a stellar weekend of physique display.
Multi-title winner and comeback kid, over fifty master champion Dave Patterson, presented one such display. Patterson has been sidelined for the past year from injuries to his shoulders and legs. His comeback was secured during prejudging and cemented by his night show routine. Patterson proved he has still got game.
After fitness' strong comeback the past few years numbers have dropped. It is time for a resurgence of Tanji Johnson's Save Fitness campaign. Nonetheless competition was tight between the Alaskan phenomenon Cinzia Clapp and newcomer from the Big Sky State, Erin Nomura. Clapp's winning streak was thwarted by Nomura's first fitness win.
Masters figure over thirty-five winner Melanie Burger presented a fine balance of shape and conditioning. Her presentation was very strong and it is safe bet that Burger is one of Kim Oddo's angels. Second place Lynn Fitzthum's improved her conditioning enough to best third place winner Brittani Simpson. Earlier in the month Simpson defeated Fitzthum at the NPC Tanji Johnson Fitness and Figure Championships.
In the figure over forty class the lady from Las Vegas, Denise Dinger took the first place award. Lori Pliska placed second with a much-improved physique. Pliska trains with former Emerald Cup overall champion Andre "Bam Bam" Scott. Knowing Scott's training methods it is no doubt that Pliska's gains did not come without some sweat, blood and tears. Alaskan Sheila Bratten, who is always top five material, was relegated to third place.
Diane Schwandt dominated the over fifty class. Her first place win came as no surprise except maybe to second place winner Robin Gizzi. Gizzi who hails from Campbell, California, has been threatening the past several years.
She was heir apparent to the title but Schwandt's conditioning was too strong and prevailed. Canadian Elizabeth Stevenson made a fine showing. Good enough to beat out five other contenders and take home the third place trophy.
When MC Kim "Kong" Farrison called Burger, Dinger, and Schandt on-stage for the overall the audience was already at a fever pitch. The air crackled with electricity as head judge John Tuman took the trio through several series of comparisons. Melanie Burger was declared masters figure overall.
The open figure classes featured one hundred and two competitors from all fifty states and as far away as Singapore. The caliber of these women was exceptional. It would take a judge with the experience of Tuman and a panel as skilled as the Emerald Cup's to appraise the slight differences between these ladies.
Figure Class under 5' 2" winner Nicki Pimm possessed near flawless shape as well as a stage presence that guaranteed her high placing. Second place went to another Nevada native Jamie Costa. Costa beat out third place Misi White by a handful of points.
Chrissy Burton traveled cross-county from the Granite State to win first place in the 5' 2' to 5' 3" class defeating
Casey Jovan and
Kerri Simpson second and third place respectively.
Janae Stewart who took home the fourth place award presented a great physique and should do well in future shows.
Venturing up from Sunnyvale, California to take the first place trophy in the 5' 3" to 5' 4" class was Alexandra Porshnikoff. The stunning Porshnikoff was a standout as was Tacoman Terri Stevens who placed second and the steadily rising Allison Malone rounded out the top three.
In the figure 5' 4" to 5' 5" it was the lovely Hawaiian
Karin Kimura who took top honors. Kimura placed first in the same class last year and no doubt she will be back in 2009 to try and take the overall.
Leslie Deucher placed a respectable second place and Danyell Johnson's efforts rewarded her with third.
Katie Heath pulled off a close victory over second place
Jennifer Sandberg and third place
Michaela Xavier to win the 5' 5" to 5' 6" class. Both Sandberg and Xavier were in fantastic shape and it was Heath's stage presentation that gave her the upper hand.
It was a top three sweep for the Beaver State in the 5' 6" to 5' 8" class. The lovely
Mendi Sakamoto from Club Sport in Tigard took first place,
Catherine Holland who trains at Pat Downings Gym in Corvallis took the second place award and the effervescent
Ginny Gardea, from Canby was judged in third.
Mary Hallman came back after her near miss in 2007 in the over 5' 8" class to soundly defeat Arizonian
Jessica Shannon and Oregonian
As MC Farrison called the respective height class winners to center stage one could only wonder what the final outcome would be. The pressure will be on the overall winner to keep the streak alive: All but one of previous Emerald Cup figure overall winners have gone on to the IFBB pro ranks within a year.
Head judge John Tuman called out several rounds of quarter turns as he moved the competitors to different ends of the stage so the judging panel could get a better look. Moments later Kim Farrison declared
Chrissy Burton the 2008 Emerald Cup overall figure winner.
One of the featured guest performers of the evening was the incomparable
Michele Mayberry. The IFBB Pro Mayberry is the darling of northwest fitness. Her eclectic "MaryAnn" routine brought exuberant cheers from the crowd as well as belly laughs. The routine must be experienced to be appreciated.
The always-entertaining Sandy Grant presented a dazzling fitness routine sporting one of Merry Christine's works of body art. Grant, who is another one of the Northwest's IFBB fitness pros, recently opened her third Emerald City Smoothie shop.
Another guest was the pint-sized princess of fitness, Tia Buell. Using the time-tested Elvis song Hound Dog as her backdrop the six-year-old dynamo danced, pranced and leapt her way into Emerald Cup lore.
Buell is fast becoming one of the most sought after guest performers in the fitness world. She is also a national dance champion. With all the accolades Tia still remains a wide-eyed six year old who is as happy playing with her cats as she is dancing in front of two-thousand people.
As mentioned above the Saturday bodybuilding show was a feast of incredible physiques and cutting-edge posing. As well as a huge array of bodybuilders the health and fitness expo featured nearly one hundred booths and dozens of VIPs and celebrities. Terry Photo's much anticipated big screen presentation began promptly at 6:20pm.
The masters over seventy-class winner was the seventy-nine years young Canadian phenomenon Kareem Cadogan. Cadogan beat fellow Canuck James Miller and Seattle's own Robert Mussehl.
The over seventy class was a perfect segue into the over sixty class.
Dick Eilertson of Richland, Washington finally got his due. Eilerston has been knocking on the door for the past several years. This year he blew the door off the hinges and defeated Emerald Cup first timer
Franklin had just enough symmetry and muscle mass to put the irrepressible
Walt Radke in the third place spot. Between the three competitors they have over two hundred fifty years of bodybuilding experience.
Over fifty winner
Dave Patterson came back with a clear cut win over former student John Sheperd and David Wells. Wells is the man to watch in the over fifties. He continues to grow as a competitor and his package gets better every outing.
I first saw over forty lightweight winner
Steve Ramirez a few years back at "Bam Bam" Scott's Oregon State and he was impressive then. With two years of training Ramirez has totally transformed his physique. He is definitely a threat not only in the masters classes but in open competitions too.
Osiris returned after his gallant attempt last year at a second Emerald Cup masters overall title. This year he came and conquered and with a higher caliber of competitors then in 2007.
Mike Martinez place second and
Colin Hill third.
The overall all men's line up was a battle between Osiris and Ramirez. As hard as Ramirez tried the Big O was not to be deterred from the reclamation of his title. When Osiris comes in condition nobody can be distracted from his wide shoulders, ultra-narrow waist and sweeping quads.
The line up in the women over fifty featured the same three winners from last year and in the same order.
Denise Rathwick, and
Ann Gannon showed that a lifetime of training, dieting and persistence can do a body good.
The same holds true for over thirty-five competitors, Californian Julie Assa and local gals
Cindy Goodrich and
Glenda Shepard. Goodrich is past due for an overall. She has been working relentlessly with diet guru Pete Grubs and IFBB superstar Tanji Johnson.
Another dangerous combination is the Glenda Shepard / Dan Meece collaboration. Anywhere in the country these women would dominate. It just so happens that the Pacific Northwest boasts some of the finest masters women in the country.
That being said it was the out-of-towner Julie Assa who burst Jan Guenther's long winning streak by taking the overall masters women trophy back to the Golden State.
The Emerald Cup is one of the few shows that feature the Junior Men's division halfway through the show. By this time the spectators are keyed up and the excitement spurs the boys on to an even more intense battle.
It appeared to me that the Juniors, with the exception of winner
Bretton Gilgan, introduced a complete new line-up from previous years. Gilgan was vastly improved from 2007. Second place winner
Jedidiah Fowler definitely gave Gilgan a run for the gold. Third place
Brendon O'Neil presented one of the best free-posing routines of all the Juniors.
Women's Open Divisions:
You would have never known that lightweight and eventual overall winner
Millie Cleveland journeyed all the way from Bermuda to collect her second Emerald Cup title. Whether it was her entertaining posing routine or her million-dollar smile is up for debate.
But it is indisputable that the crowd response was as if she was a long-time local competitor. Congratulations to Millie on her second big E-cup win.
Second place winner
Lisa Curry took a jaunt all the way from the Great Whit North of Fairbanks, Alaska to compete and third place winner Genevieve Moreno of Eugene, Oregon made the trek from the south. The three of them presented some the best posing of the evening.
Middleweight champion Dani Craig continues to collect a long string of bodybuilding victories and was far ahead of Wendy Lindquist-Pronick and Rachel Unson. That is no slight towards Lindquist-Pronick and Unson who were both great competitors. It is a comment on Craig's muscle maturity and overall professionalism.
The lone heavyweight was
Shawn Tan of Bellingham, Washington. Tan's batgirl posing routine was one of the most unusual of the evening. She did well in the overall but Millie Cleveland's shape and conditioning prevailed
There was a brief respite from the intensity of the open classes with the mixed pairs division. Once again Genevieve Moreno was back and this time with her other half and a great builder in his own right, Eric McCormack. Moreno and McCormick captured the mixed pairs title with Lisa Curry & George Hartley picking up second.
Men's Open Divisions:
The open men classes were nearly eighty competitors deep. But the numbers don't tell the whole story. The Emerald Cup open men are the cream of the crop of amateurs from across the nation. Each and every one of them knows the caliber of competition brought to this show. The ones who have the courage to show up always come in top form.
Jeremy Baarsma was one such competitor who came at his Emerald Cup best. Training with Nic Younnis at Olympia, Washington's Fit Stop had to be one of the factors that gave him the edge. Second place
Shayne Norton continues to pay his dues and climb the bantamweight ladder one rung at a time. Rounding up the top three was "old pro"
Dale Morishige. Morishige has to hold the Northwest record for bantamweight trophies.
Scott Naccarato presented one of the grainiest bodies of the show. Lightweight winner Naccarato was a serious threat to the overall title. An Emerald Cup lightweight overall winner is a rare occurrence but it has happened. The last time being when Owen McCurty upset the apple cart in 2001.
Another strong competitor was 2007 E-cup overall winner Nate DeTracy's protégé
Paul Kalilimoku. Kalilimoku took second place and Mr. Persistence
Bradley Sikes third.
The return of
Shawn Casey was another great success story. As a middleweight Casey lead the pack. He presented it all. Perfect posing, perfect package, and the confidence of a winner.
Joe Pearson is a veteran of many muscle wars and rarely does he leave stage with the second place trophy. This evening in Bellevue he did just that with
Brad Helm from the Rocky Mountain State taking third.
The other half of the Bermuda connection,
Winston Weekes, came to win. He did take the first place light-heavyweight trophy back to the islands. He was not without some competition however.
Monty Rogers and recent VancouverUSA overall winner
Mike Best pushed Weekes beyond limits. The light-heavyweight class had nearly twenty competitors and set a new stage-time record during prejudging.
The 2008 Emerald Cup heavyweight class was the mother of all battles.
Stan Efferoing, after twenty years of dire attempts and close near misses finally took the heavyweight class. His dogged perseverance paid off twice as later in the evening he was awarded the coveted Niels Anderson Excalibur Sword and goes down in history as the 26th men's overall winner.
Brandon Lyons and the Tall Titan
Twayne Rawls scrapped for second and third which Lyons was eventually awarded. The heavyweight class was so highly competitive that Big Daddy
Roger Baker came up fourth. I consider Baker heir apparent to the heavyweight class. There is no doubt that Baker will use his placing as motivation to train and diet throughout the next year.
With the sidelining of the Samoan Behemoth Mosese Tupou due to injury the super heavyweight class was wide open. The
Gabe "The Arc Angel" Moen capitalized on Tupou's absence and snapped up the super heavyweight first place like a drowning man clutching for a rope.
Mike Sodano went biceps to biceps with Moen and was rewarded with a close second place. The Vietnamese wonder boy
Granger Lam came in fantastic shape but was edged out by the veterans. Give Lam a few more years and there will be no stopping him.
The guest posers were a highly anticipated portion of Saturday's show.
Valentina Chepiga, hot on her comeback to regain the Ms. Olympia crown, gave an exhibition that was hot, sweet and sticky. Chepiga was given further assistance by none other the Austin Powers himself.
Marvelous Melvin Anthony showed once again why he is considered the top poser in modern bodybuilding. Anthony's performance was the icing on the cake at this year's stellar pose-fest.
Batting cleanup was the great white hope and a contender for the 2008 Mr. Olympia title,
Dennis Wolf. Affectionately known as the "Big Bad Wolf" his posing routine spilled off the stage and throughout the packed house. Amidst howls of delight from the spectators the German Giant got up close and personal for nearly a quarter hour. After Wolf's spectacular display it took several minutes for the pandemonium to settle back into controlled chaos.
Scott Naccarato, Shawn Casey and Winston Weekes gave Stan Efferoing a good showing in the overall. In spite of the competition there was no way Efferoing was going to let the Niels Anderson sword escape this evening. The way he saw it, he was the rightful owner. As Judge Tuman took the class winners through the comparisons it became evident that Efferoing's two-decade pursuit would be realized.
I have been attending the Emerald Cup in one capacity or another for twelve of its twenty-six years and I have to say this was my most enjoyable show thus far. Each year at shows end I ask myself how Brad and Elaine Craig possibly best themselves. My three hundred and sixty-five days of anticipation is always rewarded. They are simply the best.