As the men boast who will dethrone Ronnie and debate about their guts, the women are quietly making their final preparations to compete as well. The women often don't get the respect they deserve. Have they earned it? Certainly but that's for another discussion.
Let's take care of the matter at hand, the biggest show of the year - the "O". Will the 20% rule come into play at this show? We'll see but if I had to place all my chips on this hand, I'd go with no it won't make a difference.
The Fitness Olympia is by far my favorite event of the weekend. This year Kelly Ryan is absent from the line-up leaving the door open for someone to move into a top 5 slot. My picks for top 5 are:
1. Jen Hendershott
2005 fitness winner in Columbus, will she be jumping for joy this show? Quite possible. Her biggest rival in the fitness routines has always been Kelly Ryan, with "Fly'n Ryan" sitting this show out - she will win the routine rounds without question.
Known for her entertaining routines and shock value the last two years, I'm anxious to see what she has in store this time.
How do you top "the kiss" and "sister Jen"? She cruised to victory in her mini-hummer on the Arnold stage but something tells me she'll be sporting new digs for this show.
2. Adela Garcia
The reigning Ms. Fitness Olympia will be at the top of her game. She's been living in Florida the past few weeks preparing a new routine that I'm told is faster and has more strength moves.
Will she be able to repeat as the champ? She wasn't her best at the Arnold Classic, but she is out for redemption.
If she is a little tighter than the Arnold she has a chance.
3. Kim Klein
Kim made the biggest improvements in her 2004 off-season, which was evident early in 2005. She sported the best fitness physique, in my opinion, at the Arnold Classic.
She went on to victory at the New York Pro. She will bring in one of the best physiques to the lineup, if not thee best.
Her routines have been criticized in the past, but I look for her to step it up a notch. I have her placing third but she has a legitimate chance to be anywhere in the top three.
4. Tracey Greenwood
One of the more muscular competitors in the game, Tracey is coming off two strong showings in the past month. She definitely has strength on her side and noticeable in her routines.
She will have her work cut out for her but a top five slot looks like it's hers for the taking. Tracey narrowly lost to Julie Palmer at the Charlotte Pro and will come back to overtake her this time.
5. Julie Palmer
Julie won the Charlotte Pro Fitness and has some momentum going into the show. It won't be enough to land her in the top 3 but she should fair well in the physique rounds to place her in the top 5.
Julie was in the 6th slot last year and with Kelly out will slide into the 5th place position.
Julie Childs, Debbie Czempinski,
Tanji Johnson, Angela Monteleone-Semsch, Stacy Simmons and
Mindi O'Brien will be competing in the Fitness Olympia as well. Out of this group Debbie Czempinski and Tanji Johnson have the best chance at moving into the 5th spot.
The other women may disagree with me here, but I'll stand by my picks. Julie and Angela will be making their Olympia debuts; perhaps one of them will be the dark horse to prove me wrong?
WOW! That's all I can say about this lineup. Okay, so it's not all I can say but this is definitely the most impressive lineup on any stage since the inception of IFBB Figure. Every single woman deserves to be on this stage and I can't point out a single woman who will look out of place.
Several women will be competing in their first Olympia. I attempted to get previews of all the women however only a couple responded. I'll blame the carbs or lack thereof. I definitely wouldn't gamble on this show, as your bet is as good as mine. I'll go out on a limb and predict my top 5.
1. Mary Elizabeth Lado
The 2004 NPC Figure National's Champ has yet to place out of the top 3 in her rookie year as an IFBB Figure Pro.
She has the lines, healthy look and symmetry that exemplifies what Ms. Figure Olympia should look like. I like her chances as shaking the figure world up and coming out on top.
2. Jenny Lynn
I've been told Jenny has never looked better and is working with one of the notable "guru" nutritionists for this show. While Jenny's legs have always been criticized, she has the best back in the show.
Say what you will about her wheels but she is flawless when it comes to her stage presence. She was the bride's maid at last year's Olympia and my guess is she'll be there again this year.
3. Monica Brant
Mo never looked better then in Columbus, Ohio at The Figure International. She should be the 2005 Figure International Champion but she was runner-up to Jenny Lynn.
I am a huge fan of Mo and baffled by her placing no matter what look she brings to the stage. We'll see what look Monica and her trainer Kim Oddo bring to the stage this weekend.
Regardless of where Monica places she is an icon for the sport and will do things off the stage that others could only dream of accomplishing.
4. Davana Medina
Yes, you read it right. I have the reigning Ms. Figure Olympia in fourth. Will I be right in my prediction? Probably not but I'll go with it and see how it flies come show time.
Davana won last year with straight first place votes and did so in her two shows this year. She appeared off at the Charlotte Pro, maybe she planned to peak for this show, possible but doubtful.
Davana always has the most amazing suits on stage; I'll give her that. While I agree with many she has good shape and is a beautiful woman; my qualm comes from her stage presence and conditioning from the rear. The winner of the biggest show should be the example of how to pose and what to look like all-around.
5. Christine Pomponio-Pate
Winner of the Tournament of Champions Pro Figure a month ago, look for Christine to lock in that 5th place position. She made huge strides last year landing in 6th at the Olympia.
Coming off her first pro victory she has the confidence to lock in fifth. She has great stage presence, a tiny little waist and her conditioning is always on the mark.
Christine is a "shorty" but can hold her own with the tall girls. Women take note of Christine's demeanor on stage - she is always smiling and always has a healthy look. The only criticism has been her lack of change in the suit department.
Others To Keep An Eye On...
Amber looked great in the Charlotte Pro and brought a greatly improved physique since the Figure International. The judges like her look when she's on and she should be one of the strongest contenders for a top 5 placing. She's hungry for an upset after placing second at the Charlotte Pro.
The New York rookie has placed well in her recent shows but has yet to go against this line-up. She tells me she is bringing in a "smaller version of her former self". She has a good look and will definitely be in the top 10.
When asked if she had any words of wisdom or anyone to thank she had this to say, "I want to thank my boyfriend for putting up with me for the past several months! I also want to thank the people helping me through my prep with advice and support - they know who they are!
And for words of wisdom, just because odds may be stacked against you, doesn't mean that the dream shouldn't be chased. I qualified for the World Series of our sport in my second pro show (as quite a few of the girls this year did). Dreams DO come true! See you in Vegas!"
Amanda is simply stunning. She turned pro AND qualified for the Olympia in the same year. No small feat by any stretch of the imagination. Amanda has been working with Kim Oddo and slowly but surely dialed in a pro caliber physique. You would never know this woman used to be a bodybuilder by the way she looks today.
Monica has one of the best physiques in the game but not until recently has she gotten her due. Will she be top 5? No, but should find herself in the top 10.
Monica had a little mishap that prevented her from training for a week, let's see if she is able to shake if off and "bring it" this weekend.
Another "shorty" in the line up. She packs a lot of muscle for a figure competitor but carries it well. She will find herself somewhere in the top 10 based on previous showings and her improvements this year.
This is her second pro season and first time on the Olympia stage. Latisha thanks her husband, Sam, for putting up with her during her contest prep.
Another competitor making their Olympia debut, Tara is one competitor you can count on to come in prepared. She slipped a couple places at the Charlotte Pro show but it could be attributed for peaking to be ready for this show. Tara is a perfect example of what you can accomplish when you set your mind to something.
When asked if she had any challenges to overcome for this year, she shared,
Another rookie who continues to improve tells me she will come in 5-7lbs lighter than any other show this year. She's had some challenges with competition suits in the past but has that ironed out by working with Crystal's Corner for this show.
She had this to share when asked whom to thank, "To all my friends that have come to watch my competitions and all my family members that are flying in from Canada to watch me at the Olympia.
Thanks to my trainer Mike Davies for coaching me. It has been a very exciting first year and I am honored to be competing this year at the 2005 Olympia"
Val is another rookie who turned pro and qualified for the big dance in the same year. I've seen Valerie compete in all her NPC shows this year and without a doubt has the best stage presence I've seen.
Anyone attending the Olympia or watching the tape later, take note of how she owns the stage. Many, myself included, were stunned when she didn't capture the Jr. USA overall title but at this point it doesn't matter.
If she can bring in a slightly tighter, more conditioned physique she will be knocking on the top 5. I don't think she'll do it this year but turning pro and landing in the 10 for your rookie year is not a bad way to start your career.
Best Of Luck To All
Best of luck to all the women, you're amongst the best physiques in the world. Anyone who has qualified to compete in this show should be proud.
All the armchair cowboys can say what they want about you, but at the end of the day you're in an elite group. Look for a recap of the show next week.
See ya'll in Sin City.