Orleans Hotel/Convention Center, Las Vegas
October 14-15

Ms. Olympia Report

By Bill Dobbins

Yaxeni Oriquen, 1st. ----------------------------Iris Kyle, 2nd.---------------------Dayana Cadeau, 3rd

Fans of female bodybuilding were shocked when it was announced that the Ms. Olympia finals would not be held on Friday night along with those for the Fitness and Figure Olympias but on the following Saturday in the Convention Center – for free - as part of the Expo.
Originally the Ms. Olympia was supposed to be replaced by a model search.  What eventually took it’s place was a “Wild Card” round in which male bodybuilders who were not qualified for the Mr. Olympia competed to choose one individual who would receive an invitation to that contest the following day.  They ended up on stage for at least half the time in what ticket buyers expected to be an evening of women’s competitions.

Yaxeni Oriquen - best she's every looked.

The other disappointment Ms. Olympia fans were faced with was the decision to do away with the weight divisions for female bodybuilding and holding the contest using a single weight division.   After years of complaints that having pro female bodybuilders who were “too big” for any kind of promotion to the mainstream audience (the myth being that this is somehow possible), the IFBB and the NPC adopted the weight divisions in 2000 to encourage smaller and sleeker amateur competitors to enter pro shows and to discourage smaller women from “bulking up” too much in order to try and challenge the much larger women in the lineup.
Although the IFBB had to sign off on these decisions, both came essentially from AMI/Weider, which bought a controlling interest in the Olympia last year after buying Weider Publications some time earlier.  The reports we heard was that moving the Ms. Olympia from “prime time” to the Expo was an attempt to improve pay-per-view sales and that doing away with weight divisions was based on the perception that the men and women should operate according to the same rules.
The last idea is a good one, but they chose the wrong course in achieving that.  The audience for the Mr. Olympia has been increasingly dissatisfied that the event has evolved into a contest among huge muscular monsters – making bodybuilding about being massive rather than aesthetically excellent – so the IFBB men desperately need to reinstitution of weight divisions (which existed for men through 1979).  So weight divisions shouldn’t have been removed from the women’s competition, they should have been added to that of the men.
Prejudging for female bodybuilding, fitness and figure were held on Friday morning at the Expo – a model created by Jim Lorimer for the Arnold Weekend.  This provides a large audience on which to draw, and there is no fee to watch the women compete, but it is obvious that a stage in the Expo hall does not have the facilities of a venue like the Orleans Arena and there are certainly a lot more distractions which would encourage fans not to sit and watch the whole event.
It also means that there is no ticket revenue for the women, which is bound to affect the prize money.  It also indicates that the organizers have no faith in the drawing power of the women, a view that is mirrored by the lack of promotion for fitness and figure, much less female bodybuilding, in the Weider magazines during the year.
So when the 15 Ms. Olympia competitors came out on stage during prejudging they were all in one class.  The weights of the women varied considerably:
Yaxeni Oriquen 173
Betty Pariso 164
Betty Viana 160
Annie Rivieccio 160
Bonny Priest 158
Irik Kyle 157
Jitka Harazimova 145
Mah-Ann Mendoza 141
Brenda Raganot 140
Dayana Cadeau 138
Marja Lehtonen 135
Toni Norman 135
Desiree Ellis 133
Tonia Williams 132
Rosemary Jennings 128

Rosemary Jennings, the smallest
competitor in the line-up.

The spread here is 45 lbs, an amount that is much greater relative to female bodybuilders than it would be with men.  (By the way, with no weight divisions there was no weigh-in.  We only have these statistics because of the due diligence of Steve Wennerstrom, who functions as the Women’s Historian for the IFBB).
It is also clear that the “mass-attractor” influence was a factor.  With no weight divisions, smaller competitors are motivated to come in heavier than they should be, thinking this helps in competing against the bigger bodybuilders.  It almost never does, but a number of the women at the Ms. Olympia would have weighed-in under 135 pounds who actually came in much heavier.  So much for the idea of creating smaller and more “presentable” female bodybuilders to help promote the sport to the “mainstream” public.
Note: Apparently many of the female pros were asked to “vote” earlier in the year whether to retain weight divisions or not.  But it is apparent after interviewing a number of them that many did not understand the nature of this vote or the implications of the decision.   And the idea of “voting” on such a matter is problematical anyway.  The heavyweights are not likely to decide in favor of what they perceive as splitting the money with lightweights and competitors in general are not necessarily in a position to decide what is for the “good of the sport” or not.  This is a situation that calls for intelligent leadership on the part of the federation. 
In the beginning, the focus of the competition was on Iris Kyle for obvious reasons.  Iris won the Ms. Olympia title the past two years and was the reigning champions.  But the fact is you keep hearing from the IFBB and AMI/Weider alike that they don’t believe she is not the kind of champion that promotes the growth and popularity of female bodybuilding.  Never mind that the Weider magazines themselves seem to be doing nothing to promote that growth themselves.  But it is certainly a fact that Iris, like 4-time Ms. Olympia Kim Chizevsky, does not have the kind of “cover model” looks that made somebody like Cory Everson so popular with the magazines and the industry. 
The prejudging call-outs focused on three women: Iris, the returning champion; Yaxeni Oriquen, who finished 3rd in the heavyweight class last year behind Lenda Murray; and Dayana Cadeau, Ms. Olympia lightweight champion in 2004 and this year’s lightweight Ms. International winner. 
My first impression was that all of the Ms. Olympia competitors were in excellent shape, that Iris might have been slightly off from last year, that Yaxeni looked the best I’d ever seen her, and that Dayana Cadeau had the most sensuous and sensual lines in female bodybuilding but perhaps could have come in just a pound or two lighter.
Iris was hard and definined, in really excellent shape(I’ve only seen her miss it once over the years) but I thought she looked a little too

Iris Kyle - ripped but depleted.

depleted or dehydrated compared to how she looked in recent Ms. Olympias.  Unfortunately, when competition is close this kind of "drained" look can work against you. This is just a thought, but sometimes bodybuilders continue to diet too long and try to lose too much water before a show and this might have been Iris’ situation.  But the difference was very small and as prejudging started it certainly seemed possible she would win her third Olympia title in a row.
Yaxeni Oriquen has been in Ms. Olympia since the late 1990s and can be congratulated for having gradually and regularly gotten better over time.  This was certainly the best she’d ever looked and she had the overall appearance of energy and couple confidence that indicated she knew it.  It was obvious that this year she was going to present a serious challenge to Iris.
As defined, shapely and sensual as Dayana Cadeau looked she was just giving away too much size.  Dayana says she was 135 lbs, rather than the 138 as reported by Wennerstrom but no matter the exact figure she was still considerably smaller than Iris (by about 20 lbs) and Yaxieni (by about 35 lbs).  The good big athlete having an advantage over the good smaller athlete, and all that.  I would still liked to have seen Dayana just slightly lighter.  All lightweights should realize that you can’t beat a heavyweight by gaining body mass.  What it takes is aesthetics and super conditioning, to be at your best weight and not a pound more.
Jikta Harizimova of the Czech Republic came back to IFBB competition after several years and qualified for the Olympia by winning the recent pro show in Charlotte.  She has a really beautiful physique, but as often happens having to cycle being in top shape after winning one contest and then finding out she’d be eligible for the Olympia was just too difficult for her to look her best.  But let’s hope she continues her pro career because she is capable of being very good and is a great addition to the sport.
Rosemary Jennings was also back and was in super shape, as ripped as she has ever been and didn’t look like the smallest competitor on stage – which she was.  One new face worth mentioning was Toni Norman, with a sleek and exotic look that is bound to take her far as a pro if she continues to do the hard work that qualified her as a pro and brought her to the Olympia stage. 

One disappointment was Betty Viana. Betty is capable of being as good as anyone but she needs to work harder on contest prep. Too often her program for getting in shape is hit and miss. Unfortunately, this time it was miss. This is just a reminder that once you are at this level in bodybuilding dieting becomes the all-important factor.
As veteran contest watchers will tell you, the call outs by the judges tend to give a good indication (but not always) of how they are viewing the contest.  So it seemed likely that Iris, Yaxeni and Dayana were being looked at as the top three – but not that clear in what order the judges had scored them.

After the problems and disorganization of the Friday finals for the figure and fitness categories, it was almost a relief that the FBB finals were held at the Expo on Saturday afternoon.  The judges, press and audience in the general seating didn’t have to sit 100 feet away from the stage and the lighting, although not of theatrical quality, was bright enough for everyone to see.  When the organizers saw the crowds on hand to view the women bodybuilders – filling all the seats and standing 10 deep behind - the thought might have occurred to them that these people might have provided needed bodies in the seats the night before.  Perhaps only a few hundred more ticket sales, but given the turnout at the Orleans Arena the night before a significant improvement.  Of course, a lot of Ms. Olympia fans decided not to attend the Olympia weekend at all because of the demotion of the Ms. Olympia, so it’s anybody’s guess how many additional tickets might have been sold if this had not happened.  Lenda Murray reports that many of her Detroit fans, who come every year to see her in a booth at the Expo, decided not to attend in 2005 because of how the Ms. Olympia was being treated.

Dayana Cadeau - best posing routine of her career.

It would also have been nice to have all the women introduced on stage before the posing round started, since many at the Expo would not have seen prejudging the day before.  As it was, the first competitor out was Dayana Cadeau, whom I have thought in the past made too much of a point in being “feminine” in her presentation and not holding poses.  But at the Ms. Olympia 2005, Dayana performed a very artistic and certainly feminine routine, including the clever use of a long, pink scarf – and she also flexed her muscles and held the poses long enough for the judges and audiences to appreciate her physique and for the photographers to get good photos.  It was the best posing routine she’s ever done.
Next out was Desiree Ellis, whose routine was also slow, artistic and designed to let everyone see her muscles and state of conditioning.  Photographer Irv Gelb, who is not that much a fan of shooting the female bodybuilders (unless he is paid for it) turned to me after Desiree’s posing and exclaimed, “Those two routine were worth showing up for all by themselves!”

Desiree Ellis's routine "made the event worth showing up for."

Unfortunately the same can’t be said of many of the other posing routines.  There were a few good ones and but there was too much dancing and prancing around, too little of holding poses, some meaningless waving of the arms and a lot of what seem to be presentation designed to say to the judges, “Hey, I’m not a big, strong female bodybuilder - I’m really just tiny and delicate and feminine!”

The sleek and exotic Toni Norman

I’ve explained how posing needs to be done before, but evidently it bears repeating:
1.     Create interesting poses, hit them and hold them. Think in terms of the photographers. If you hold a pose long enought for somebody to get a picture of it, that means the judges and audience can see it as well.
2.     Don’t just show the judges compulsories. They’ve already seen them.  Make everyone pay attention by keeping them guessing as to what you are going to do next.
3.     Come up with attractive and interesting transitions between poses and hold these long enough for the photographers to shoot them.
4.     Don’t dance around.  The posing round is also a PHYSIQUE ROUND.  It doesn’t exist to allow you to impress the audience with the quality of your dancing, to show how sexy your are or to prove to the world how feminine you are despite your muscles.
5.     Don’t spend a lot of time prancing back and forth from one side of the stage to the other.  Move enough to give the judges on either side a good look, but that’s all.
6.     Stay in the light.  The lighting usually isn’t that good at the very back of the stage or the very front – nor too far to either side.
7.     Don’t spend a lot of time slowly walking out on stage in the at the beginning of your routine.  You only have so much time, make use of it.
8.     Use all your allotted time.  Develop a routine that keeps showing the judges/audience/photographers new aspects of your physique.  Don’t cut your posing short or just do the same poses over and over.  About the fourth time the judges see the same rear lat pose (or whatever) they tune out.
9.     Don’t pick popular music that everyone else is going to use.  At a contest years ago, half the women posed to “Chariots of Fire.”  This time we kept hearing “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me…” over and over.

The ever-entertaining Betty Pariso

A lot of the posing was acceptable, but except for Dayana and Desiree none of it was memorable.  Iris Kyle has always been known as a less than adequate poser.  In this year’s contest she was not particularly good but at least adequate.  She still hit mostly compulsory poses, her routine lacked creativity and it was too short, but she did stay in front of the judges most of the time instead of disappearing off to the sides of the stage.  Iris needs to work on developing a more interesting and creative routine, something that focuses on the aesthetic quality of her physique. 
I didn’t keep notes on everyone’s posing routine (I was shooting photos at the time) but I think it’s generally true that the female pro bodybuilders need to work on making the free posing round the high point of the contest and the round in which each is able to draw attention to her best physical qualities and away from any weak points – which is what this round is supposed to be about in the first place. Certainly, Yaxeni did a competent routine that showed off her best qualities. Toni Norman used a shovel as a very effective prop. Bonny Priest's approach to posing is traditional but she certainly knows how to hit and hold her poses. Betty Pariso, as usual, not only showed off her physique well but added some humour to the event with parodies of male poses.
Along with learning how to take advantage of the posing round, many female bodybuilders have a lot to learn about posedowns.  Now, it’s true that in most posedowns the judges have already made their decisionsand what the competitors do on stage is largely for show.  However, (1) can you afford to assume you can have no influence on the judges at this point? and  (2) why not put on the best show possible?
The judges and audience have already seen the competitors side by side being compared in prejudging.  They have already seen each of the bodybuilders do their own posing.  What they haven’t seen are the competitors side by side doing the poses of their choice to try and outdo their rivals.  The posedown is the one opportunity the competitors have to attach their closest rivals and perhaps lift themselves up a place – and certainly to bring themselves up in the estimation of the press and the audience.  (This is a free form “challenge round” that is much more in the tradition of bodybuilding than the awkward Challenge Round being used in the Mr. Olympia.)

Bodybuilders should zero in on the competitors they think are their nearest rivals and try to blow them off the stage by hitting poses in which they feel they are superior.  In posedowns against Sergio Oliva in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Arnold Scwarzenegger would pick his poses carefully to avoid direct comparisons with Sergio’s most impressive body parts.  All bodybuilders in posedowns should think along the same lines.  Don’t wander off to the side of the group and pose to the audience; don’t  put on personal posing exhibitions for your fans.  Even if you are far and away the winner, not getting into the middle of the group and challenging your opponents takes away from the excitement – and women’s pro bodybuilding needs all the excitement it can get.

Jitka Harizimova - just one contest too many.

Actually, the posedown at the Ms. Olympia 2005 was better than many have been in the recent past.  Yaxeni, Iris and Dayana – the obvious top three – spend a lot of time in a tight group hitting a lot of poses in succession – and it was exciting.  The posedown confirmed that Yaxeni was the biggest and seemed less depleted than Iris and that Dayana has an incredibly sensuous physique but is much smaller than the other two.
And that’s the order they finished: Yaxeni first, Iris second, Dayana third and Jitka Harazimova 4th – which is not bad for somebody who came over from Europe a few weeks earlier to compete at Charlotte and had no idea she would qualify to compete in Vegas.
To Marja Lehtonen, 14th, I would advise working on her color.  By the time you get to the Ms. Olympia that should be an aspect of competition you have totally mastered.  And to Desiree Ellis, 15th, I know she will be disappointed in that placing but she should take solace in the fact that her posing routine was one of the high points of the event.
It is interesting that, amid the chaos, confusion and incompetence of the Olympia weekend that one island of order and stability was the Ms. Olympia finals – the contest that was demoted from center stage at the Orleans Arena to sideshow at the Expo.  The event was conducted simply as a regular IFBB contest, run by the usual IFBB expediters and judged by regular IFBB officials.  No muss, no fuss, no bother.  No organizer micro-management. 
Prior to the contest there had been a lot of speculation about how the judging would be conducted, centering on the idea that the IFBB would rather Iris Kyle not win another Ms. Olympia title. But Yaxeni looked the best she ever has so nobody can really claim the decision was (primarily) political.  The audience certainly wasn’t outraged by the decision.
I did feel bad for Dayana Cadeau, however.  She was the reigning Ms. Olympia lightweight and, for my money, she still is.  The fact that the IFBB unwisely decided to do away with weight divisions shouldn’t diminish her accomplishment.  She not only beat all the lightweights but all but two of the heavyweights as well.  Good for you, Dayana.
Picking Yaxeni as the winner also says something about the judges.  We have heard a lot of talk about how the female pros are getting “too big” and they gave the title to the biggest competitor in the lineup by far!  As I’ve always contended, if you leave IFBB or NPC judges alone to exercise their best judgment, take away the political pressure they are too often subjected to, eliminate factors like who is signed to what sponsor or has which manager, and you end up with consistenly reasonable and accurate results. 
Iris Kyle didn’t win this one and it isn’t because she doesn’t have an outstanding physique.  Iris needs to learn something from the career of Kim Chizevsky.  Kim was winning shows in the mid 1990s but was criticized because of her “overall appearance” – her face was deeply lined due to diet and dehydration and her hair and make-up weren’t up to the quality needed.  But when she competed at the 1999 Ms. Olympia in New Jersey she had fixed all that.  No lines in the fact, beautiful make-up and grooming, plus a sleeker and diamond sharp physique.  She ended up making all the improvements the IFBB had been telling her she needed to make.
Unfortunately, it was too late.  Nobody in the IFBB noticed (in spite of the fact that Jim Manion was at the show and commented on how attractive she had become).  She was pressured to get out of bodybuilding and into fitness, where she was rewarded with higher placings than she deserved.  It would be great if there were no political interference in the sport, but since there is political interference in everything that is never going to happen.  Interestingly, when she was in fitness people kept commenting on how pretty Kim looked and attributed the change to switching away from bodybuilding.  But that face they admired was the same one we saw on stage in 1999 when Kim was still a bodybuilder!  But we all know that giving some people the facts only confuses them.
Still, what Iris needs to start working harder on what they call “overall appearance.”  Jitka Harazimova needs to come in as hard at the Olympia as she did at the contest in which she qualified.  Brenda Raganot, 5th place, and a lot of the other “lightweights” need to enter at their best weights and not let the elimination of the lightweight class cause them to compete at too heavy a bodyweight – but to realize that competing against the heavyweights is nonetheless an uphill battle.  Toni Norman needs to just keep doing what she’s doing and she’ll move up into contention in no time at all.
And the IFBB needs to reinstate weight divisions for women, the Olympia organizers should stop treating the women in general and female bodybuilders in particular as second class competitors (this is the only sport in the world that has institutionalized gender discrimination), the magazines in general and Flex in particular (which didn’t even put results of the women’s contests on its website) need to realize they are losing both sales and credibility by failing to cover female muscle.

I can’t tell you what to do about the war in Iraq or how to protect the world against avian flu – but I’ve been doing this a long time and I KNOW that the industry is shooting itself in the foot by not exploiting the worldwide interest in aesthetic female muscle.  Forget the physique magazines for a moment – go to Google and type in “female muscle” or “women bodybuilders.”  What you get is thousands of results.  Far more than for the men. The audience is out there.  But if you want to sell them contest tickets, issues of physique magazines or a variety of products – YOU NEED TO APPEAL TO WHAT THEY LIKE.  Not just assume there is “no market for the women.”
Thus endeth the sermon.


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