Wow! what a workout!!
and that was just my camera!
On Saturday was the ANB Natural Mania Physique championships at La Trobe University in Bundoora - my first ANB Show! Obviously I would have preferred my first show to be as a participant on stage, but due to my ongoing injury issues, today I participated behind the stage…behind the camera
So how did the day pan out?
I arrived about 8:45 ish, I wanted to get there early and get the feel of the venue and check out the lighting for my photos and just capture the finishing touches - all the trophies were lined up, the flowers in place, the sponsors banners, chairs and tables all marked up and reserved – it all looked so different from Friday morning, when it was still just a cold bare space waiting to be dressed up for its big day.
Vicki Arief swept in to the room like a glamour queen in her ‘Bendigo’ coat…I’m not quite sure how to describe it, I can’t say looking like Cruella De Ville! can I?
Thats soo not what I’m trying to say! maybe I’ll quit this line of wording whilst I’m behind!
Anyway, Vicki made her grand entrance in plenty of time to set up the final crucial bit of the stage – the centre ‘X’ – the spot on stage that all competitors want to stand on…with a trophy in their hands and a smile as wide as the grand canyon – knowing that all of the hard work, and dieting, and discipline has just paid off – knowing that no matter what happens next, doesn’t matter…because they won their category – they are a champion and nothing can take it away from them - its a feeling that just can’t be beaten.
speaking of champions…
Happy with the placing of the ‘X’ Vicki then asked me if I could take photos of the Black and Blue fashion parade, of course I was happy to oblige, and wrote a few notes for other requests. By now it was just after 9 and competitors with their guests were beginning to arrive and find their seats or tables and get themselves settled and ready for the competitor brief at 9:45. The room was starting to change from a dressed up empty hall, to somewhere that an event was going to happen and the atmosphere was beginning to build – there was the growing background buzz of competitors exchanging quiet conversations with their trainers, helpers, families and friends, old hands at this game sauntering in, completely at home on familiar territory, new arrivals looking lost initially but once they saw a few familiar faces smiles and greeting hugs broke out. There were plenty of people I recognised and chatted with, and competitors I recognised from the INBA Melbourne titles 3 weeks ago who were backing up in this competition. Its all like a big family reunion!
Greg Dolman arrived so I went over and had a quick chat with him – he asked about my shoulders which to my growing frustration are not healing at all well and I just can’t seem to find anyone who can give me any answers. He suggested we have another body talk session when he’s back down in Melbourne in June, which I will do – the last one was very insightful – I did write a whole blog post about the epxerience, but the computer crashed as I posted it…and I had no backup! it wasn’t meant to be..
I was already getting into the swing of things clicking away taking photos – trying to capture the non stage atmosphere and activity that is going on the whole time, the anticipation was growing…
At 9:45 (ish) Maria called everyone together – competitors and crew and briefed us all on how the show was going to run. The running order had been changed late because some of the categories had been dropped and other categories were going to be on stage together as there were too few competitors to have their own stage time, so Maria wanted to make sure everybody was aware of how the day was going to work and then Tony Haranas who was co hosting with Lindy stood up and gave a brief speech to the competitors.
After the briefing was done, the first categories were told to go backstage and get themselves tanned up and ready to go…
By now, Lindy Olsen had arrived, she was the MC for the day and after a quick word with Maria to find out where things were at, she got together her notes and started to prepare for what was going to be a long day stood on stage in front of a crowd of people.
By 10:45, you could feel the tension in the air, the nervous excitement, competitors with their ipods plugged in to try and focus on themselves and their own final preparation, guests milling about waiting for the show to start…
I was roaming about between front of stage and backstage clicking away catching the last minute tips from trainer to competitor, competitors pumping up – theres a particular smell backstage – fake tan and Dream Tan! and then there is the slap, slap, slap as a competitor stands there whilst their helper pats them down and makes sure they look perfect. The last thing any competitor wants is their appearance to be ruined by a bad tan!
11 oclock arrived all of a sudden and then..
First up there was the Black and Blue fashion parade with the team from Spartans Gym. The guys and girls all looked good and looked like they were having fun, except for a couple of the shyer guys maybe (Matt, Jarryd???) …not! First they came on wearing outerwear followed by another run through with the sportswear – plenty of variety and styles to chose from and Lindy provided expert commentary. After a chorus line bow and exit stage left we were on to the serious stuff.
Lindy handed over to Tony Haranas who was doing the calling and it was the turn of the Novice Men – I was watching out for Omid and Ben who both attended the last ANB Get the Edge workshop 8 weeks ago (!). At that workshop, Omid had already committed to competing, but Ben hadn’t so I was surprised to see him there and pleased for him that he’d decided to take it the next level. Both looked good – and both posed well – Vicki’s coaching was showing through…
I was interested to see how Omid and Ben were so different on stage – Omid was smiling the whole way through and Ben definitely looked like he meant business and it must have worked because he came 3rd! The winner of the Novice men was Jamie Bren Van Kessel and he also won the best posing routine award.
There is one award that the ANB has which I don’t think any other federation has, and this is what sets it apart from the crowd. There is an award on the day for the most inspirational male and most inspirational female competitor. As competitors we all have to overcome a lot in order to get up on stage. We sacrifice our social life, put our family life on hold, turn down outings and ‘normality’ for the sake of giving ourselves the best chance to look our absolute best, but there are those of us who have done it extra tough – overcome terrible injuries, debilitating illness, personal tragedies and many other things that require that person to find extra strength from somewhere to keep going and Omid has done that. Omid overcame years of abusive bullying that took away his confidence, self esteem and self belief – but he kept going, and he set himself a goal and yesterday he achieved that goal. And for it he won the most inspirational male competitor award and well deserved to.
He also did a pretty good routine – nice coaching Vicki!
After the novice category things were moving quickly through the mens categories – Intermediate Men won by Kareem Kilany, then Juniors Under 22 men won by Jamie Bren Van Kassel – a good days work for Jamie, and straight into the overalls later in the day. Next up were the weight categories - the Under 65, Under 70 and Under 80 groups were all on stage together because there was only 6 competitors across the 3 categories. I was keeping my eyes on Rhyan Corpin in the under 70′s and Halil Alusoki in the under 80′s – both guys were backing up from the INBA Melbourne Titles where they were both in outstanding condition and they both won! Halil won best posing routine as well which was impressive given the fact that Rhyan can certainly bust a few moves of his own – if I said ‘moonwalking’ and ‘bodybuilder’ in the same sentence you’d think I was crazy…not so!
Rhyan showed how its done!
Just as an aside, for those who are new to the world of bodybuilding competitions it can seem all very serious, with the turns and poses done in response to the call from the compere, then there’s the shuffling of competitors from one end of the line to another, then there may or may not be a routine depending on the federation and finally there is the posedown, which can seem completely random and not really serve any sort of purpose. From a competitors perspective, however, there is a whole lot more going on – theres the showmanship – the ‘look at me’ factor trying to draw attention to yourself when hitting a pose, for the guys it is the sense of theatre, maybe taking a little longer than the others just to make sure you can flex something else to catch the judges attention, for the women, elegance, grace and flair all come into play. Given 2 identical physiques, the quality of the posing can tip the balance. Whilst the compulsory rounds provide limited opportunity for a competitor to stand out, the routine is all about the individual competitor – this is their chance to shine and most competitors seize that chance to own the stage. Then finally there is the posedown – the final chance for the competitor to outdo their opposition and show the judges why they should be the winner. Sometimes, when you have competitors who are good friends or compete week after week or year after year in the same category, they may ad lib a bit of an informal stage routine, have a bit of fun with each other – its always good to see when competitors are having fun up on stage…
The Rhyan and Halil Show!
After the Rhyan and Halil show, the big guys were up - under 90s and over 90s - there was only one competitor in each category so they were both brought up on stage at the same time. Sergio Taranto was the under 90s category winner and Joshua Prager, a fellow ANB blogger, took out the over 90s.
Not to be outdone by Rhyan and Halil, Sergio and Joshua had a bit of fun of their own during the posedown.
Despite how smoothly things may appear to be running from the spectators persepctive, no show runs completely according to plan, and this show was no exception, with last minute merges of categories and having to change competitor lists, not to mention some of the tongue twisting names of some of the competitors, like the pro’s that they are, Tony Haranas and Lindy kept up an ongoing commentary and battle of wits to keep the crowd entertained, and when the competitors were up on stage you could be sure that the judges were watching each and every one of them like hawks for every tiny nuance of conditioning or posing flaw that might mean the difference between winning and a place.
I was flitting in and out of the backstage area and was so absorbed in both the on stage and backstage action I had no idea what time it was and was really starting to run out of energy – we’re not even half way through the day yet! Then I started to get the shakes and couldn’t hold my camera steady..then I finally remembered that I hadn’t eaten anything since 7am, except for a black coffee at about 10:30.
It was 1:30…
no wonder I had the shakes! Fortunately the first intermission was announced so I hoed into a chicken salad, some rice cakes and an apple and sculled about a litre of water!
Its thirsty work this photographer business!
By now the hall was packed every table was full, some tables had really got their act together and had big platters of food, for those that wanted desert could head to the Chobani yoghurt stand where Dave was being kept extremely busy handing out all the samples that he could! The noise level had risen several notches as everyone discussed the mornings events and dissected the results – did the judges get it right, who should have won or placed higher, who had the best routines – there was a million differing opinions out there!
These shows are always like big family get togethers – theres groups of people who have been around the bodybuilding industry forever and seem to know everyone – they couldn’t walk more than 2 steps without someone else coming up to them to say hi, then there are the people who are just getting started and may have only been to a few shows, and then there’s people who are somewhere in between or who have been out of the scene for a while – its a close knit community and once you’re in, you’re in – I for one enjoy the camaraderie and seeing how everyone gets to catch up with each other. There’s also an additional perspective to be found within this community, an inner sanctum if you like, and that is determined very simply by whether you have competed or not. If you have competed, then going to a show is more than just a chance to catch up with friends – there’s stuff you know and understand and can see that other people can’t – you watch every competitor and you can tell whether they have practiced their posing, or their routine, or dieted hard enough or have given themselves enough time to prepare. You know if that competitor is having a good day or a bad day or whether they have come up as well as they did at another show - its like having private access to the directors cut of a hit movie – its a good place to be…but you have to earn your stripes!
ok, Energy restored – time for round 2!
Now its was the women’s turn, and even though there were not many competitors in each category, I think the novice was the biggest at 7, the competition was strong. I have a special affinity with the Novice category probably because I’m so new at this myself and because I won the Victorian Novice Title at my first show – I really feel for those girls up there for the first time – it can be nerve wracking. But they all did well, and on the whole their posing was a lot better than a lot of novice line ups! Something that struck me about the novice category was that I thought that all of the girls looked better when they did their free routines than when they did their compulsory rounds. Some of the women I didn’t think quite had the muscularity or definition, but when they did their routine, all of a sudden their physiques popped – and I was right at the back of the room at this point – it was that noticeable. I have to say, I was sceptical about the free routine thing, but now I see the value of it – good for you Maria, for keeping it in the shows. Another Maria (Tsihouris) won the Novice and best posing routine.
The intermediate category had 5 competitors in it, and again I was really interested in watching this category, not only because including fellow ANB bloggers Wendy Hardy and Natalie Taylor were in the lineup along with Pheobe Robinson, fresh from her 2nd in the Rising Star Physique category at the INBA Melbourne titles, but this is probably the category that I’ll be competing in next time I’m on stage – so I was checking out the potential opposition!
Wendy was in fierce condition, as was Pheobe and I had them pegged as the ones to beat, along with Laura Badman.
I was right! Pheobe won – and I’m hoping its because she definitely had the leanest legs – if so, that bodes well for me when I compete! Wendy was 2nd and Laura 3rd.
Phew! my eyes were about falling out of my head by now – I needed to grab a drink, I was so absorbed in trying to get as many good shots as possible that I was forgetting about trivial things like eating or drinking some water!
Next categories up were the short class figure, won by Kaliopi Tsavdaridis and the tall class, won by Anita Niolaou – she was fresh off a win at the INBA Melbourne Titles as well so whilst the lineups were small they were of a very high standard.
Time for some more backstage roaming. Now it was the turn of the fitness models, I was particularly watching out for Natalie Vilchez who was being prepared by the evergreen Bruce Hatfield
Handsome devil isn’t he?
Another thing that the ANB do slightly differently from other federations, is that all of the fitness models are escorted on stage by a male chaperone – its a tough job, so usually Vicki has to bully some poor souls in to doing it and this year I think she found two of the shyest, quietist choir boys that ever walked this planet!
they were positively terrified at the prospect of getting on stage wearing just their pants and a ‘playgirl’ bow tie and cuffs….
please step forward Matt and Jarryd!
yeah, tough gig….!
The fitness models (male and female) have 3 rounds – swimwear, sportswear and eveningwear. I found myself a nice position just behind the stage that looked directly down to where the competitors walk up the steps onto the stage – its the place where each competitor stands right before their name is called – its the place where you can see the nerves, the last minute mental run through of the poses, steps, catwalk, or routine, its the place where last minute checks on bikini, hair or costume are made – its the place where you see the competitor switch into stage mode.
And if you are a bit nervous well I would imagine it would certainly be very reassuring to have such charming escorts…
After the first two rounds there was another intermission – thank goodness! I needed a cup of tea!
Right, refreshed and alert once more it was back into the fray – now we were up to the most venerable competitors – the Grand Masters men over 40 and over 50. Jason Walters another ANB blogger took out the over 40s, andGraeme Edgely took out the over 50′s. the masters women over 35 was won by Sharon Horner and the over 50′s was won by Janet Bramble.
by now it was beginning to get quite late – its a long day and most of the competitors had come and gone, so the hall was starting to empty out – it was beginning to look like the party where you get the guests who just wont go home…and even Lindy had stepped out of her heels!
Thats the strange thing about bodybuilding shows – the best is always saved to the last, but relatively few people stay around to watch it. Unless ‘your’ competitor has made it to the overalls, then most people go home after their category is over – for a well deserved cheat meal and shower to get all that top coat off!
The evening wear round of the Fitness Models resulted in a win for Lawrence Templar and Korina Garcia – she also won 3 weeks ago – watch out for her at the nationals.
Natalie came fourth and was also voted most inspirational female competitor
Alright! Now we’re at the business end of the day – the overalls.
First up, the women. Six category winners and I was keeping my fingers crossed for Phoebe – but it was going to be tough. Anita Nicolaou was in fine form and is a very experienced competitor, and this is Phoebes 2nd show.
The symmetry went well and then the compulsories – also completed very quickly. there was not much discussion from the judges – Anita won and Phoebe got second! Good work Phoebe!
And that led us finally to the Men. In the mens there were 7 competitors and when they were all lined up together you could tell it was going to be a tough decision. Tony called the sysmmtery and the poses, then 4 were called out – Halil, Rhyan, Sergio and Jason Walters. They were all giving it their best and the sweat was pouring off them causing their tans to run. After another set of symmetry and compulsory poses, the field was narrowed down to two – Rhyan and Jason….
And after a lot of discussion from the judges the winner was…Rhyan!!
What a good effort – its only his second show!
must be those crazy legs of his…
Never mind the competitors – I was exhausted! After running around all over the place all day, forgetting to eat properly and holding my camera at odd angles all day my shoulders were in a lot of pain – my camera only weighs 3/4kg but given the fact that I can hardly lift my arm at the moment, holding up a camera for 9 hours was definitely making itself felt.
To sum up, it was a good day – another show done, all those tropies that were lined up in front of the stage in the morning had found deserving new homes to go to, so after a few last conversations and goodbyes, I was time for me to head home too.
I’d like to say thank you to Maria for all your hard work in pulling the event together, your tireless devotion to the fast growing sport of natural bodybuilding is wonderful – people like you will take this sport to new levels and that is a wonderful prospect. I’d also like to thank all the judges for giving up their time – its a long day sitting at those tables watching every move of every competitor, making split second decisions and having to decide who wins or places based on the minutest of details – its a tough job, and there was a high standard out there today, which makes it all the tougher – my eyes were falling out of my head from taking so many photos, so I can imagine how you are all feeling by the end of it!
Tony Haranas – what a great job as compere and Lindy Olsen, as ever the true pro – things never go according to plan in a show – competitors go missing, or line up in the wrong order, the running order changes, categories are blended if there aren’t enough competitors, but Lindy kept up with it all, taking everything in her stride – even more impressive when you consider she had to be up at 3am to fly down to Melbourne – you’d never have guessed! And it was great to see Lindy giving Tony as good as she got in the verbal ‘competition’ as well :-p
All the backstage helpers – the show couldn’t go on without you – as a competitor if you don’t have your own backstage helper its reassuring to know that you’ll be in capable hands to help you get tanned up, be given appropriate time warnings and be ushered out to the collecting area. Special mention to Donna McInnes Irons, Anna Quach and Skye MacDonald – nice hands ladies!
Thank you to the sponsors – again where would the show be without you? Black and Blue, Body Attack, Physique Nutrition and Chobani Yoghurt – they were handing out as much as they could – just wish I had gone back for more! The Pineapple was delicious!
Well done to all the competitors, its a long hard journey to get onto stage and every single one of them gave it their all – and some clearly had a bit of fun up there too – and why not? You deserve your time in the spotlight!
And last but by no means least a special mention to Matthew and Jarryd, the playgirl boys ;-p
I sound like I just won an academy award!
I think I’m meant to cry now…aren’t I?