By Bill Dobbins

Kim Chizevsky is arguably the best female bodybuilder there has ever been. At least, she is the best as far as pro competition is concerned. When it comes to bodybuilding, the best is not always the favorite and those who don't win the championships may have as many or more devoted fans as those who win the shows. Once the competitors get off stage, who you like and why becomes mostly a matter of personal taste. There are certainly those who prefered Shawn Ray's physique while Dorian Yates was winning his Mr. Olympia titles. Many preferred Frank Zane to Arnold. There is, as they say, no accounting for taste. You like what you like.

But once bodybuilders are on stage in a contest in front of the judges, which physique you "like," which is your "type," is not as important as who deserves to win, based on the direct comparison of the competitors, body part for body part, by experienced, knowledgable judges. When Kim came along to challenge Lenda Murray, she encountered a great deal of opposition. Lenda had fantastic "Flex Wheeler" type genetics, beautiful lines and a winning personality. But during the years she held the Ms. Olympia title, Lenda did not continue to progress. She pursued a strategy of "prevent defense," like a football team so far ahead in the second half that they stop trying to score points and content themselves to trying to keep their opponents from scoring. Throughout the first half of the 90s, Lenda came to the Ms. Olympia looking pretty much the same, while Kim kept continuing to make progress. When Kim finally defeated Lenda, she did so convincingly, although you wouldn't know that by looking at the narrow margin of victory awarded her by the judges. The year after that, even though Lenda tried to catch up, she just didn't have enough time. It would have taken her another two or three years at least to match what Kim had brought to the stage.

And what was that? Size, certainly - Kim's structure is about that of Cory Everson's, but she competed at 12 to 15 pounds more bodyweight. But more than that, Kim's physique was harder and denser than any female bodybuilder before her, and her definition was so crisp she appeared "carved out of ice." The only thing lacking was "overall appearance," that is her hair, make-up and overall presentation was not up to the level of her physique, and her face looked deeply lined when she was dieted down for a show. Additionally, she tended to gain a great deal of weight off season, which tended to make a less-than-ideal impression on those who saw her during those months. Her critics often characterized her as homely, or downright ugly - masculine looking - which she didn't deserve. Its true Kim is no cover model, but neither is she the "anti-Lenda" many have tried to make her out.

In the past few years, the IFBB has become increasingly concerned about the "image" of female bodybuilding and have increasingly stressed the "overall assessment" aspect of female bodybuilding. They didn't want women to be too big, too muscular, too hard or appear on stage with overly-depleted features. In response to this, Kim Chizevsky appeared on stage at the 1999 Ms. Olympia in Secaucus having made considerable changes to her appearance. She was hard and muscular, but lean and chisled as well. Her hair and make up looked excellent and there were no deep lines in her face. She was actually, as IFBB head judge Jim Manion remarked, "pretty." And the response of the IFBB to this? They ignored it. They acted as if Kim had made no improvements at all in her overall look and instead inacted a set of "guidelines" that seemed specifically aimed at getting Kim out of the sport. In response to these "dont try too hard" rules, which obviously constituted gender discrimination and had "get rid of Kim" written all over them, Kim quit. And with good reason. Why should the best female bodybuilder of all time show up at a contest designed to humiliate her? She really had very little choice.

In the meantime, Kim has shrunk herself down to 135 pounds and says she is going to enter fitness - which hardly seems like a strategy likely to prove successful. Too bad she didn't decide to show up at the Olympia to sign photos and do photo shoots looking her absolute best - but not competing - and demonstrate to her fans the outrageous and inappropriate nature of these guidelines. Kim as a fitness competitor will hardly have to impact as Kim the magnificent bodybuilder. Let's just hope that, in destroying her career, the IFBB has dealt only a temporary setback to the course of bodybuilding and that we quickly get back to the simple concept that sports is about competing to see who is best - not about politics, marketing or who looks best on the cover of a magazine. Unless its about deciding who is best, it isn't really a sport at all.

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