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2007 NABBA Universe Report by Wayne Gallasch, GMV.

2007 NABBA Universe Report by Wayne Gallasch, GMV.

Once again the NABBA Universe was back in Southport, this time a little later in the year being on October 27th.  The first Universe was in London back in 1948 with John Grimek defeating Steve Reeves. Next year, 2008, will be something very special being the 60th year anniversary of the staging of the NABBA Universe. All that aside, this year’s Universe was something very special with a record entry and a supremely high standard. The competition was so tough that many recent NABBA World class winners from Malta in June were not able to repeat as class winners in the Universe. One of the exceptions was the brilliant Maltese Junior winner, Daren Borg.

First my comments on the Men’s classes followed by my comments on the Women’s classes.


I say this almost every year that the quality in this class was phenomenal.  This was no exception in that many of these top guys could still hold their own in the open classes.  The competition was so close that it produced one of the toughest classes of the whole Universe, with the winner NORTON JAMES MURAYAMA of Brazil finishing just a nose in front of a very disappointed DAYO AUDI from UK. What made it a bitter pill for Dayo was that he was also second last year.
FEDERICO FOCHERINI of Italy was an outstanding 3rd place finisher and we have all seen Federico many times at the Universe in several different classes over the years. He had great condition and being a tall guy did not quite have the shape and balance displayed by Norton.

HUGH ROSS from USA displayed a most impressive physique and nice improvement over last year but due to the hot competition, could not place higher than 5th this time, edged out of 4th place by ROBERT McROBBIE of UK. 


This proved to be a great victory for GRAHAM PARK of UK after his 4th place last year. Graham had size, good shape and excellent condition , with excellent, well defined legs.   I feel this better balance in the legs is where he beat the shredded runner-up BRIAN CONNOLLY from Kerry  Kayes' Betta Bodies Gym in Denton. I mention this only because I was training at this gym prior to the Universe and observed Brian training like a demon in the lead up to the Universe! His abs in particular were outstanding. I should also mention that Graham is owner of Results Gym in Aberdeenshire. He sure lived up to the name of his gym!

Third place went to the very neat and extremely well conditioned Czech physique star, JOSEF RAC. He was too sharp for a rather grumpy PETER ANDREAS of Germany who felt he had been short changed in the playing time of his music. Peter has won both the Masters Classes in the past, but this year was not his best year.


It was a repeat victory from the 2007 Worlds for Junior star, DARREN BORG from Malta. He had a most mature physique that literally seemed like it was carved out of one of those Maltese rocks! Although not displaying a tiny waist like 2nd placed  GIOVANNI  AZPEITIA of Mexico, Daren’s symmetrical size and good condition saw him through to a clear victory. I would not have been surprised if the ripped Mexican Junior had won.

MILAN KRESSOJEVIC of Serbia showed huge potential in taking 3rd place with UK’s NATHAN DE ASHA in 4th place, same place as last year. 


After placing second for two years in a row, MARILANDIO PONCHET of Brazil made it to the central ”victory position” of the plinth this year.  Once again it was LEONARDO FLORES of Mexico placing right behind Marilandio, and his second this year was one place higher than last year.  Marilandio was outstanding in every way and had everything with no obvious weaknesses. Great arms and abs and a very well balanced and defined physique.

Former Junior champion DAVID DAHAN of France was 3rd and was a little too mature in his muscle density for 4th placed PAUL STEWART of UK. I predict that Davis will win this class in the near future.


As I said last year, what a tough class this was with only a few points separating 2nd from 3rd place. However the toughness was the outstanding quality of the winner SALVATORI ORAZIO of Italy who got straight firsts from all of the judges. Back in 2001 in Austria he was overall NABBA Mr. World.

It was a superb TONY MOUNT of UK with a very strong 2nd place finish from the recent NABBA World class winner PETR VANIS of the Czech Republic. Petr had not been able to hold the razor sharp condition he had displayed in Malta in June. He was still very impressive however.


This was another outstanding, clear-cut repeat victory for the Czech Republic’s TOMAS BURES. Last year he went on to take the overall Amateur Mr. Universe title.  This guy had “professional class” stamped all over him and there were no obvious weaknesses in his sharply defined physique. Once again he was totally impressive in every way and in every aspect of physique display. From his outstanding back to his overall leg development to his well defined abs to his superb upper body. This year he did not get straight firsts from every judge but was not far off it.

In second  place was big DAVID FOX from Northern Ireland. David looked fantastic – the best I have ever seen him look and 2nd place was a just reward. In most other years, David’s shape, size and condition would have been enough to get him that first place trophy. I feel sure he will do it in a year or so with just a fraction more refinement.

Third place went to ALISTAIR SMYTH of UK with another well sculptured physique in the British tradition. He proved to be too strong for the veteran and former Universe class winner JOSE MANUEL ACOSTA of Spain. Jose displayed much of his old flair and style but it was not enough to place higher than 4th when up against the opposition on the day. 5th place went once again to SAMUEL VIEIRA of Brazil.


These were the tallest guys, the biggest and usually the heaviest physiques in the amateur competition and the last class to be judged.  Their presence is always keenly anticipated and not because they signal it will soon be a break for the hard working judges and officials, and might I add video cameraman!
The tall Italian ALESSANDRO GRASSI proved to be quite a surprise packet in convincingly winning this class. He almost had straight firsts. In 2nd place and only a couple of points ahead  of 3rd was RUSSELL FREAKLEY of UK.   I have seen “The Freak” around for some years and I feel this was the best I have ever seen him look.  Close behind in 3rd place came a leaner and tighter CHRIS WALL, also of UK. This was the equal highest Universe placing for Chris and he is back on track for that coveted number one position before long. The important thing about Chris is that he has fine symmetry with no single body part dominating.

I felt that GINO BARRIOS of Holland in 4th place had slipped back a bit this year. I had tipped him several years ago to be a winner of this class after he had placed a very good 2nd.


The Overall Amateur Mr. Universe judging took place at the end of the evening show.  In my opinion it was primarily a battle between the “giants” SALVATORI ORAZIO and TOMAS BURES.  No disrespect to the other 2 class winners PONCHET and GRASSI. They were all outstanding with possibly Ponchet runner up to Orazio. This aspect of the judging is something that is never announced and I would love to know who was actually runner-up. 

However it was no surprise that the judges preferred the total package of huge size, great muscle density and extreme muscularity of SALVATORI ORAZIO – the new 2007 Overall Amateur Mr. Universe from Italy. He was a worthy champion and could hold his own in any Pro lineup in any Federation.


As the Overall Amateur Mr. Universe, Salvatori now joined the other 9 competitors in this Pro-Am class. The final result was a second major victory on the night to SALVATORI ORAZIO producing a first ever Universe double of two Universe titles at the same contest. What more can I say about Mr. Orazio, Mr. Everything! He had the complete package, no one could touch him on the day or the night  and there is not a lot more I can say about his outstanding physique. His posing was also superb.

The 2 runners up were the Brazilians JOAO BISPO DE ANDRADE with CHARLES MARIO in 3rd place from the “bobble head doll” popular Russian ALEXEY NETESANOV. With 10 in this class, it is going from strength to strength.



ANDREA CARVALHO of Brazil came back with a vengeance to make it a sensational Universe double. She overcame her great rival from Brazil and last year’s Universe Figure Champion, SILVIA FINOCCHI.  Andrea truly has the complete package.  She displayed a charismatic style with excellent symmetry, beautiful shape, and a considerable degree of size and hardness but not too much size, and was leaner than last year. I feel that was the winning factor for her to come in a bit tighter and smaller, with no real weaknesses. 
Runner up Finocchi was also outstanding. When it comes down to separating these two brilliant competitors, overall condition and a judge’s personal preference for body type and shape is all that counts in the end.

In 3rd place and proving to be a huge surprise to me was UK’s RACHAEL GRICE. She was truly amazing with a hardness and size that was bold and somewhat staggering. Possibly she was just a touch too muscular for the judges, but she sure had loads of fans and massive support from her home audience. She is one I will tip to be a future winner of this class. I hope she will be back next year.


The winner of this class was no surprise . A superbly sculptured and perfectly conditioned MALIKA ZITOUNI of Northern Ireland took this class one title once again.  Her electric posing presentation was outstanding in every way and to me she was a clear cut winner over second placed  MARIA STUKOVA of RUSSIA. However the score sheet shows that the victory was much closer than many may have expected with Maria only a few points behind Malika. Malika’s super positive stage presence is such that she acts like a winner at all times and backs it up with what she presents to the judges with her well defined physique.

3rd place once again went to the tall, very popular and incredibly well built KAREN BRICKLEBANK of UK. Her abs were as usual quite outstanding and she presented a very strong physique on stage.


The battle was hard fought between MALIKA ZITOUNI and ANDREA CARVALHO with Andrea having a very slight edge in abs and thigh separation. In my opinion this was probably enough to get her the nod from the judges. Malika again this year had to settle for runner-up for the overall title. She looked absolutely beautiful with a body as tight as a drum. Believe me that is a compliment! I feel sure she will take this overall title in the very near future. Andrea is simply a super-star of figure!


This year the physique class welcomed a brand new champion in the form of ALINA POPA of Romania (now living in Switzerland). I felt that as soon as she walked out on stage in Round 1, I was looking at the winner. The judges agreed as Alina received almost all straight firsts.  It was a most convincing victory for a new-comer to the International NABBA stage. Her physique was near faultless with the best delts and arm combination I have seen in this class in years. The rest of her physique was pretty good with outstanding posing to match!  I predict an amazing professional career is ahead for ALINA POPA.

2nd place went to BRIGITA BREZOVAC of Slovenia. It is very pleasing to see these small countries in Eastern Europe providing such great champions to NABBA. Brigita also had a very symmetrical physique with nice lines, good size and condition.

In 3rd position and with her best ever Universe placing was Scotland’s own AVRIL CUNLIFFE KEITH. What a great character she is in this her farewell contest appearance. Being very tall, it is not easy to pack on size along with symmetry onto one’s physique. Avril had size, superb abs and great condition. You could say her farewell performance saw her go out in style. My only regret is that we will not see that wonderful physique and great personality on stage again. Congratulations Avril on a wonderful career.

A very large and appreciative crowd was in attendance this year with a number of sponsors' stands in the Floral Hall. Be sure you put next year’s event on your calendar for Southport, 4th October! Special thanks go to all of the hard working NABBA officials too numerous to mention.  However a special mention to NABBA Chairman Bryan Robinson, to Val Charles as secretary who takes much of the strain for the smooth running of the event and to Paul Jeffreys for his running of the backstage duties.

Last but not least a special thanks to the two major sponsors who were CNP Professional and LA

To contact me with any comments of feedback, feel free to email me at

Our Special Deal 2 men’s DVDs set from this event is available, please click here.

The Women’s Universe DVD is now available, please click here.

Our Super Special Deal of all 3 DVDs as a set is available, please click here.

For a complete set of UNIVERSE RESULTS, both for 2007 and all previous years winners, please click here.


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