Wayne's Hard News - 2008 NABBA Universe Report by Wayne Gallasch, GMV.
”A YEAR FOR NEW FACES!”
Having been in Southport as recently as May for the NABBA Britain, it was like coming home being back there again on October 4th for the 2008 NABBA Universe. Although the year 2008 has no special significance with NABBA, it was the 60th anniversary of the first ever Universe held in UK and won by John Grimek. Next year 2009 will actually be the 60th edition of the NABBA Universe (1950 to 2009 inclusive), with the 60th NABBA Universe Diamond Anniversary to be celebrated in 2010, according to NABBA Chairman Bryan Robinson.
Once again the 2008 event was brilliantly staged and run by the usual band of hard working NABBA people with the brunt of the stress borne by Val Charles who always appears to take it in her stride. Just imagine trying to help around 200 people check in at the Prince of Wales Hotel, many with messed up bookings being no fault of Val, some with no bookings and many from Eastern Europe who spoke little English!
As usual I will start with my thoughts on the Men’s Classes followed by my comments on the Women’s Classes.
MASTERS OVER 40
This year was no exception with a quality that was truly unbelievable. I know I say this almost every year. The top 3 guys could easily have placed in the open classes. Take for example TERRY FISHER who was 3rd. Over the years I have seen Terry produce some wonderful results from being a class winner to competing in the Professional class and so on. The experience he has is quite astounding and it really shows. The competition was so close that it produced one of the toughest classes of the whole Universe, with last year’s winner NORTOM JAMES MURAYAMA of Brazil finishing a whisker in front of a the Russian MIKHAIL BRYUKHANOV.
The reason that Murayama is so tough to beat is partly due to his youthful looking physique, his symmetry, overall balance and his great condition. The posing routine was also outstanding.
MASTERS OVER 50
In this class it was victory to Holland with WALTER VAN ELDEREN taking the title narrowly over England’s own DAVE STEELE. Walter had size, good muscularity and excellent condition. Dave was also outstanding and had probably slightly better overall balance. But the big Dutchman could not be denied. Third place went to the champion from the Czech Republic in JOSEF RAC. Josef recently won this class at the World Championships and although razor sharp and still in great shape, he appeared a little small compared to the first and second place-getters.
JUNIORS UNDER 21
In this class the Czech Republic competitor was not to be denied with the brilliant young physique star JAKUB SUBRT taking the title in most convincing fashion. He had an almost perfect score and displayed a very mature physique for one so young. In second place it was STEPHEN COATES narrowly over 3rd placed JAMES DAY - both sensational young English lads. These young men represent the future of the sport and I would still love to see a lot more competitors in the Junior class. It was rather disappointing that only 4 competitors made it to the stage. Part of the problem is the degree of dedication and discipline required in our sport, compared with the many distractions and instant gratification available to young people these days.
AMATEUR MR. UNIVERSE - MR CLASS 4
After the disappointment of placing second two years in a row, MARILANDIO PONCHET of Brazil doubly made up for it by winning this class for the second year in a row. I will not say is was a convincing victory being only a point in front of second placed SIMONE MEATTINI of Italy. However the victory was well deserved in my opinion when you look at the total package Marilandio presented. His posing routine was THE men’s routine of the whole contest and probably saved him in a photo finish.
Marilandio’s routine was innovative and well constructed, and included a wonderful sound track which told the story of his journey through various sports to finding bodybuilding to becoming a Mr. Universe winner. You will need to see it to get the complete picture. He was outstanding in all body parts with excellent arms, great legs and back, amazing symmetry but with one slight weakness this year that nearly cost him the title. His condition was a little “off” compared with last year’s condition.
In 3rd place it was JOSE FLORES SANCHEZ from Mexico with a most pleasing physique.
The big surprise was former Junior Universe champion DAVID DAHAN of France who could only manage 8th place this year. He was down on his usual ripped to shreds condition and paid the price, based partly on his past brilliant performances which must stick in the judges minds - and also beaten in a class that was of the highest standard.
MR CLASS 3
This class was as even and as tough as any class in the Universe with first and second place results extremely close. This year it was PETR VANIS from the Czech Republic who moved up to the victory position from his 3rd place finish last year. Petr is as rugged as they come and looks like he has been hewn out of marble. His rock-hard physique is backed up by a muscle maturity and symmetry that proved to be unbeatable. Petr has great arms, fantastic legs and on top of all that, he is a very experienced campaigner.
Once again England’s TONY MOUNT had to settle for 2nd place. Tony has a very impressive physique, possesses great symmetry, and with an ounce of luck can win this class in the very near future. In 3rd pace it was ARTHUR BARON from South Africa. Such was the standard that current NABBA Britain winner JUSTIN TROLLOPE could only manage 5th place in this tough line-up.
MR CLASS 2
In this class an amazing new physique from France appeared on the Universe scene. This young man went on to take the Class 2 title, then the overall Amateur Mr. Universe title and almost grabbed the Professional Universe title as well!! His name is LIONEL BEYEKE. It is hard to categorise his physique – but it was a breath of fresh air. He has a great V-shape with broad shoulders tapering down to a tight, small waist with good abs. He is slightly reminiscent of a young Sergio Oliva. Being his first ever Universe and completely unknown, he did not immediately dominate the prejudging callouts. However it soon became obvious that the major battle was between Lionel and the eventual runner up in ANDY JAMES from UK.
Andy was a class winner in the recent Britain and is a fast rising star after a long layoff. I spoke with Andy on the Sunday and he told me that he knows he needs a little more leg thickness. Given this fact, he almost stole the class title in that Lionel only defeated him points wise by having more first place votes. Watch out for Andy to achieve some major victories in 2009. Andy had a little more separation than Lionel who won on the sheer size and impact of his physique.
In 3rd place it was the muscular Italian STEFANO DI MUZIO who had the better condition and experience to finish in front of the massive Brazilian SAMUEL VIEIRA. For Samuel this was up one place on the previous year. It was such a tough class that Britain’s DAVID BELL could only finished a creditable 5th in front of the shredded current Mr Australia JUSTIN WESSELS in 6th place.
MR CLASS 1
The biggest guys coming out on stage rounded out the afternoon’s prejudging session with the Professional Class being judged and staged entirely at the evening Show. One of the reasons I stated that this year was the year for new faces was clearly demonstrated in this class. Only one competitor who placed in the top 6 last year competed this year and that was the 2007 6th place finisher, ANDRE SANTOS of Brazil. In an amazing turnaround, Andre won this class this year with a clear cut victory over UK’s LAURIE CARR. Laurie just made it by a point in front of ENDA WRIGHT in 3rd place from the Republic of Ireland.
Obviously Andre had made great improvement over last year, especially in his overall condition and presentation. Like all bodybuilders from Brazil, he posed superbly with charisma and style.
Laurie Carr has a most pleasing physique with no body part dominating. Enda Wright also showed great improvement moving up from being unplaced in 2007 to an outstanding 3rd placing in 2008. He is definitely a physique to watch. Another who caught my eye as having huge potential was the Czech star PAVEL VACEK in 5th place.
THE OVERALL AMATEUR MR. UNIVERSE
The Overall Amateur Mr. Universe title was decided at the end of the evening show. This year I saw it as an even battle, primarily between LIONEL BEYEKE and PETR VANIS for Overall, with the other 2 class winners from Brazil, PONCHET and SANTOS probably a fraction behind these two. This is only my opinion as I have no idea how close it was between these top 4 winners. As it turned out, LIONEL BEYEKE was a very impressive winner. He created history by being the first ever Frenchman to win the Overall Amateur Mr. Universe title.
The last French Mr Universe winner was in 1993 when Ed Kawak won the Professional Class representing France, also winning the Pro for France in 1982 and 1983. Prior to that, SERGE NUBRET won the Professional Class in 1976. It was a wonderful stroke of good luck that Serge Nubret was a special guest at the Universe this year and he must have been very proud to see the first ever French Overall Amateur Mr Universe crowned.
UK’s BILL RICHARDSON, the 1980 Overall Amateur Mr. Universe winner was also present, and like Serge Nubret, he was presented on stage. I love to see our past champions honoured on the Universe stage when ever possible.
PROFESSIONAL MR. UNIVERSE
Lionel Beyeke, the Overall Amateur Mr. Universe, now joined the other 10 competitors in this Professional Class. The final result once again saw a new face in his first ever Universe taking out the Professional Mr. Universe title. That winner was ALESSANDRO SAVI from Italy. It was something of an amazing victory in my opinion for such a short and unknown physique defeating the more massive LIONEL BEYEKE who placed 2nd, and CHARLES MARIO of Brazil in 3rd place.
Savi has style, charisma, good symmetry, excellent condition and a hairstyle that made him really stand out! His overall package was enough to get himself in front of the Frenchman who did not seem too disappointed at his first and second placings in 2 separate sections.
The 2 Brazilians, JOAO BISPO DE ANDRADE and CHARLES MARIO who placed 2nd and 3rd in this class last year, had mixed fortunes in 2008. Charles Mario held his 3rd placing with Joao dropping to 6th this year. 4th place went to another new guy in CHARLIE CHIRAH ABBOH from Norway. 5th place went to England’s own MIKE SHERIDAN. Mike competed in the Mr. Olympia several years ago. The only thing that stopped Mike from placing much higher was his midsection. If he can better control his midsection, high placings are waiting for him.
FIGURE CLASS 2
Previous winner ANDREA CARVALHO of Brazil had moved on to conquer other fields this year, leaving this class wide open one would think for her great rival from Brazil, SILVIA FINOCCHI. It was not to be. RACHAEL GRICE from UK completely dominated this class after placing 3rd last year. At one stage when her number fell off during the prejudging, a wag in the audience called out “she needs no number, she is the winner”. So it proved to be with a convincing victory over current Ms World, AUXILIADORA BARBOSA from Brazil. Rachael simply had too many guns – just too much muscle for Dora. Both women looked sensational with Rachael looking unbelievable.
3rd place went to another amazing woman from Brazil in VIVIANE SANTOS. She had the typical package that would have won this class a year or so ago, being a little smaller than the top 2 women. That does not mean she was any less a physique than them - however these days size and condition is extremely important in the Figure Class at this level. In a way Figure Class is a mini physique class.
Such was the standard this year, SILVIA FINOCCHI was forced down into 4th place. She looked fantastic - displayed her unique style with excellent symmetry, beautiful shape, and a considerable degree of hardness, and then broke the rules. NABBA rules state no posing with props. If you are going to try to get away with it, do not try it at the Prejudging! Silvia posed superbly, but used a fan as a prop. I am not sure how much this hurt her with the judges, but it probably caused some damage.
FIGURE CLASS 1
The winner of this class was last year’s runner-up, MARIA STUKOVA from Russia . She left no doubt that she was the clear winner this year with a near perfect score. In my opinion she deserved straight firsts from every judge, she was that dominant. Her physique was faultless from head to toe, and to top it off, she presented THE posing routine of the night. It was a performance that I will not forget in a hurry. When she tensed, everything was defined and shredded from her abs to her back to her thighs. She gave a new meaning to the word “condition”.
In 2nd place was IRA MAYAN from Israel. I knew Ira from her time training in USA several years ago and she had greatly improved since then. She was also super defined, almost to the point where her legs looked a little too light to me for good balance. Is she can rectify this slight weakness, the title could be hers next time.
3rd place went to the tall and beautiful expat-Aussie LISA CARRODUS. Lisa was only a few points behind Ira and could easily have garnered 2nd place. In many other years, Lisa would have gone home with the first place trophy, such was the incredible standard this year in the women’s tall class figure. The outstanding thing with Lisa’s physique was the brilliant condition and symmetry she displayed. With a more dynamic posing routine, this class is hers for the taking.
THE OVERALL FIGURE MISS UNIVERSE
It was a tough battle between RACHAEL GRICE and MARIA STUKOVA with two totally different types of physique. As I expected, the judges opted for the slightly more traditional sleeker figure look as presented by Stukova. Rachael should also be very proud as she was also a huge winner in the eyes of the audience where she had many fans. In keeping with so many titles going to Europe this year, MARIA STUKOVA was crowned Overall Figure Miss Universe for 2008.
It was another title to Europe with Holland’s VIVIAN HIJLKEMA dominating this class receiving a first placing from nearly every judge. It was a clear cut and well deserved victory based on size, shape and muscularity. The holy trinity of muscle for bodybuilders. In second place it was a very impressive TRISH PORTER from UK with VALENTYNA YEFYMCHUK from Ukraine 3rd. Speaking of Ukraine, they had an outstanding team this year covering both men’s and women’s classes.
RIANA BEECH from South Africa was placed 4th with SIMONE SOUSA from Brazil in 5th place. I did feel that Simone showed real potential and if she had come in lighter could have placed around about 2nd, such was her ability and great genetics. Rounding out the top 6 was CAROLINE GAUME from France.
Once again my special thanks to all of the hard working NABBA officials from Chairman Bryan Robinson, to Val and Jim Charles, Paul Jeffreys, plus Mike Vaughan and Eddie Ellwood who always assist me with the video equipment. Special thanks to The Beef magazine for my photos. Last but not least a special thanks to the two major sponsors who were CNP Professional and LA Muscle.com
The theatre staff at the Southport Theatre deserve a special mention for their patience and professionalism, especially Vinnie for helping me get the lighting just right, and for his usual expertise with the audio feeds and playing of all the various music CDs.
To contact me with any comments, or to order the separate Universe DVDs, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
For a complete set of 2008 NABBA UNIVERSE RESULTS listing every competitor, please click here.