The 2011 Arnold Classic Report
By Wayne Gallasch
The Arnold Sports Festival is the largest multi-sport event in USA and the largest of its type in the world. It is based around its original core of Pro bodybuilding and fitness competitions. It also now includes the Arnold Amateur Bodybuilding event as well.
This year's event was held in Columbus, Ohio at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and the Veterans' Memorial on March 3-6th.
My Report Part 1 is on the Men and Part 2 is on the Women. Special thanks to my 2 photographer friends Jason Breeze and Gary Phillips for the photos and overall help with this report. (jasonbreeze.com and garyphillipsphotography.com)
Branch takes the top prize from The Oak! For a number of years I have watched and waited at the Arnold as Branch took home 4 Most Muscular awards, but never the main trophy. This year Branch stood up as THE man of the event, taking home the overall title, as well as the Most Muscular Award for the fifth time! His brutal size and condition simply overpowered his opposition.
He looked like the winner from the start of the Prejudging till the final award from Arnold. He was the absolute champion for 2011. It was a nice touch to also bring his wife Trish Warren on stage when he received his trophy. She placed 3rd in her class and no doubt Trish will continue to strive for the top Fitness Award at the Arnold to make it a family double.
Of the other top men, Dennis Wolf was probably the best he has ever looked in placing 2nd and a week later winning in Australia. His V-shape is simply amazing. Dennis also took home the "best presentation," award in recognition of his great posing routine.
Victor Martinez was close to his all-time best in placing 3rd and reminded us he can still win another big one.
Evan Centopani is something of a mystery man in that he does not do many shows and this time placed a very credible fourth in his first Arnold Classic.
Dexter Jackson is a survivor and this time had to settle for 5th. He could not match his winning condition of the 2008 Arnold.
Ronny Rockel rounded out the top 6 with his symmetrical physique, and was not quite tight enough in the mid-section to place any higher this time.
Johnnie Jackson took home 7th place this time and seems to be on an upward curve again in his bodybuilding career after a bit of a flat spot.
Roelly Winklaar in 8th has been doing a lot of contests these last 18 months and maybe this is costing him a higher placing as his body finds it harder and harder to get the edge needed to place in the top 5 or 6. He has huge potential and is still a fairly new pro on the scene.
Toney Freeman was 9th and still has the X factor with the fans but no so with the judges. Unless Toney is shredded he does not seem to do well at the top level and tends to then place a bit lower than he deserves.
Rounding out 10th place was Canada's new young pro Ben Pakulski. Great legs and huge potential that will be realized with time and more experience.
See the MEN'S PHOTO GALLERY here.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Lou Ferrigno was the very worthy recipient of this award. From humble beginnings he shared a few experiences on his life which has been an incredible journey and a remarkable success story.
Man-mountain Brian Shaw was too good for the international opposition and won the $45,000 first-place prize. He was enormously popular with the crowd.
This was the first year of this new event at the Arnold and was staged on the Saturday night along with the men's contest. A very popular class with the fans, especially with the men in the audience! It was Nineteen-year-old Nicole Nagrani who took out the first place trophy and an on-stage chat with Arnold at this the inaugural Bikini International contest.
The big women of bodybuilding are badly needing some positive publicity and this was there chance to shine. They train just as hard as the men and probably harder than some who compete in other classes.
It came down to a battle between the veterans Iris Kyle, Yaxeni Oriquen and new rising star from Romania now living in Switzerland, Alina Popa. All displayed some amazing bodyparts and when it came to the final decision,it was still Iris Kyle who remained unbeatable. Her genetics are outstanding for this sport and her glutes, hamstrings, back and arms are perfection. To top it all off, she always comes in in her 100% best (make that normal) condition. As great as the Oriquen physique is, it is just a little too much for her to topple Iris. Watch out for Alina Popa in the future as here is a new superstar on the rise.
This is the class for athleticism, strength and high energy not to mention innovative new routines. The Fitness division has now switched from 4 rounds to 2 which greatly tightens things up.
Adela Garcia was without doubt the very clear winner and she like Iris is exceedingly hard to topple. Her performance is always amazing and incredible! No longer a spring chicken her routines are always an exquisite work of art.
Tanji Johnson in 2nd place and 3rd placed Trish Warren are not too far behind with Trish being the one to watch in the future. She is improving every year, has husband Branch to help and further motivate her, and can win this contest when Adela call it a day. Maybe even sooner than that!
The top 4 were extremely close in my opinion, with the top 2 being a matter of personal opinion as they presented 2 different looks. Here are my thoughts on them.
1st place - Nicole Wilkins is a past champion of this class and proved again that she still has what it takes. A very neat and pleasing figure with wonderful symmetry. This time she came in a little harder than she was at the Olympia.
2nd place - Erin Stern, current Figure Olympia winner had to settle for second as that is how the judges saw it. Erin has a long lean athletic look and wonderful shape also. But in a tight finish she had to settle for 2nd.
3rd place - Ava Cowan and 4th placed Felicia Romero were very close and in my opinion this decision could have gone either way. Both women are outstanding examples of what the pro figure class represents and all 4 women are champions.
I must mention my good friend Rosa-Maria Romero of Australia who without doubt travelled the furthest to be a part of this contest. As usual she looked wonderful and has great charisma and stage presence.
See the WOMEN'S PHOTO GALLERY here.