Arnold Classic Australia 2019 PRO SHOW Coverage
ARNOLD CLASSIC AUSTRALIA
PRO DIVISION COVERAGE 2019
Unequivocally, the Arnold Classic Australia (ACA) is the most anticipated competitive event of the year. The enormity of the festival, is something the industry eagerly anticipates as much as record numbers of athletes continue to flood to this arena – further indicating the importance of this event and its significance as THE most notable event on the Australian bodybuilding calendar. Its inclusion into the bodybuilding, fitness and sporting landscape is now cemented as a cultural landmark and one which Melbourne is proud to host year after year.
As Bob Lorimer once said to me in an interview, Arnold is the most recognizable person on the planet and that in itself demonstrates why this competition is the premier, multisport event that draws record numbers – numbers that continue to increase both for competitors and spectators alike. Though the multitude of disciplines is most impressive for many, the IFBB Pro League bodybuilding show is the main course that satiates the appetites of the masses – importantly those that have long followed the sport. That ‘Doherty Dynamic’ is the undeniable ingredient that makes this show so well regarded and from a logistical and organizational perspective, these are the best run bodybuilding shows in the country. Tony and his dedicated contingent manage to condense this world class Pro League event into a three hour event – in fact this year, the duration came in at under 3 hours. The pacing and tempo that Tony has crafted, boasts quality over quantity; the excitement never fades thanks to expert logistics and planning. This ensures the audience is energized rather than drained; inspired yet never bored. His event is comparable to a rock concert, complete with the pyrotechnics and special effects ushering in all the IFBB Pro athletes on stage in a spectacle that delivers more than what is expected of a bodybuilding competition. Yet this is not just any competition. This is the Arnold Classic Australia, and with the now iconic logo serving as the backdrop to Tony’s trademark delivery the show brings on the biggest and baddest the sport has to offer.
Considering the worldwide appeal of this international event it was no surprise that it attracted several notable industry luminaries which included the likes of Lee Priest, Paige Hathaway and Shawn Rhoden among others. This is where the best and finest athletes come to compete and pick their skills against one another in what has become of the greatest BB show in the southern hemisphere.
MEN’S BODYBUILDING PRO
Jeffrey Beckham commenced the line up with a very melancholy and somewhat sombre posing routine; there was a sense of ease in the way he presented his muscular form, enabling the audience and the judge's to relax and enjoy; especially following the now famous fireworks and pyrotechnics that usher in the show.
William Bonac seemed to be gunning for the title and in the prejudging it was evident that he presented what was the complete package that garners him ongoing victories on the Pro comp circuit; he was incredibly thick and dense boasting what was a unmistakable lat spread that never fails to impress. Indeed every facet of this IFBB Pro was gigantic in every sense of the word, a giant of a man that is seemingly more beast than man; his muscularity is riddled with veins snaking across a physique that is clearly superhuman.
First time on the Arnold Classic Australia stage, Mark Dautruchee presented some impressive width and though his routine appeared to be more freestyle and somewhat less structured, he did well to exhibit leaner and longer limbs. Though not game breaking he did not seem to get enough stage time, suggesting a somewhat shorter routine and posing slightly more imprecise when compared to his contemporaries. From the continent that is South Africa the massive Andrew Hudson pleased the crowd with his massive hamstrings and quads definitely someone that drew much crowd support. Here is one to watch for future events for sure.
Yet the reception that our hometown hero received was nothing short of monumental; after a temporary sabbatical giant Josh was back and with that behemoth physique that is matched only by his genial on stage manner. He bowed to his adoring fans posing to Joe Cocker’s 1974’s love ballad ‘You are so beautiful’ it was quite simply, electric. The undisputed king of the gym has that insane wingspan, and knows how to use his size and charm to great effect. His ever growing star enabled him to clinch the best posing routine at the Arnold Classic Ohio, just 2 weeks prior. The routine itself expertly crafted by the renowned and charmingly irreverent, Craig Lucas was well received by none other than Arnold himself, with Josh being awarded a whopping $10,000US. Irrespective of the clear patriotism, Josh has fans all over the world due to his astute manner and humble sensibility. Regardless of his size and popularity the man is always known for his tremendously personable, ethical character.
Former Arnold classic winner Cedric McMillan stepped into a confronting opening score, intriguingly he spent considerable time beneath the ACA logo ripped and vascular and standing with in his lack post it was subdued yet somewhat powerfully haunting. With fuller muscle bellies and a very self assured demeanor, McMillan still engaged the fans even from the temporary confines of the aforementioned logo, famously trading poses for applauses time after time. As clichéd as it may sound he gets better and better, and isn’t afraid to modify his presentation or his style. The muscular dimensions of his physique always compliment any music – never the other way round.
The Ox, that is New Zealander Steve Orton seems to improve his condition year after year despite the fact that what he presents at the time is always a sight to behold. His masterful posing was made all the more pronounced with each cue, tailored swiftly to what was yet another idiosyncratic but effective musical score. Fellow Aussie, Sam Pearce was himself classically inspired one of his most notable traits is the fact that he can activate is stature, the command of his poses with something that was indeed very profound evidently his most muscular was a crowd favourite. He always manages to achieve that dryness and hardness, juxtaposing this condition with sweeping movements that exaggerate and, thereby enhance his balanced and proportioned physique.
A true rising force from Great Britain, Luke Sandoe opted for a more aggressive musical track veering somewhere between rock and heavy metal which seemed to amplify his sheer size from his traps to his obliques this big Brit had an incredible taper. Sandoe cut an incredibly menacing yet impressive mass on stage. Exhibiting a barrel like chest and fuller muscle bellies, the big Brit used a very heavy rock score to pose to which was certainly the standout for this journo; much like he was last year Indeed, something about Sandoe’s presentation was heavily reminiscent of the sword and sandal films of the bygone era – particularly those starring Reg Park and Steve Reeves.
Making his IFBB Pro debut was Aussie icon Justin Wessels, grainy beyond all measure and calmly confident in his ‘marble in motion’ delivery. This a long-standing world class champion who brings back a classically inspired physique, but one that clearly shows more density and boasting incredible vascularity. At this pro level it was satisfying to see how far he had come, clearly transcended all previous efforts and finding a true home and true Pro status within the IFBB Pro League. It may be pure conjecture, but the choice of the Beatles iconic ‘Come Together’ seemingly a unifying yet welcoming song choice to herald in his pro debut.
Last but not least was last year's winner Roelley Winklaar who came across bigger, badder and wider; the transition from hitting his side tricep to back double bicep, seem to be somewhat of a signature move which both did his creativity and may good use of his Beastly incredible size. The daring Dutchman certainly did not disappoint, with this beast dominating the stage matching mass with quality striations. Roelley’s seems at his best when he delivers very slow and deliberate routines, however this seem to be a deliberate tactic to accentuate his massive arms and equally massive delts – his condition evidently getting better years after year, comp after comp. His massive wingspan was juxtaposed against some diamond shaped calf spike that were activated much to the delight of the ravenous crowd.
The comparison round is an ever complex analytical undertaking, that is thankfully overseen by the ever reliable Steve Weinberger whose calm demeanour never fails to impresses. At this high level each of these competitors make the poses look so effortless, however those of us that know the sport well, understand that this is in itself, high pressure and physically taxing. The enthusiastic units such as Josh clearly relish the most muscular pose as much as the crowd do; Cedric and Roelly appear to solicit more emotive responses from the audience; always resulting in vocal crowd support. The newcomer Wessels is a seeming threat due to his graininess; champion Bonac is a mass monster that boasts bigger volume (with quads seemingly on another level!); Roelly is striated and masterful in his posing whilst the ever composed McMillain has some superior width in his upper body. The ever impressive Orton visibly enjoys the opportunity to pose alongside his Pro alumni, including the likes of the established vascularity of Pearce and the yet stoic behemoth in Sandoe. Many were excited to see Giant Josh in the call-outs and comparisons, clearly adding more size to his already imposing frame, upcoming stars such as Datruchee show clear promise
When it comes to the Posedown it has become somewhat of a tradition for the heavy weights to venture into the audience, and engage more actively with the fans. It was truly incredible to see Josh and Cedric make their way up to the higher levels of the auditorium of the plenary much to the delight of the fans; even happily taking selfies with various lucky folks – undoubtedly, this collectively brought smiles and vocal cheers from the fans.
When it came to a triple threat of Bonac, Winklaar and Macmillain it seemed to be the battle of the heavyweights, with our Josh holding his own; evidently Roelly seemed to get a surge of adrenalin as he appeared to be more denser than thicker as he posed alongside his rivals. Yet the term rivalry must be loosely applied, with clear elements of camaraderie displayed amongst these champions; it is always inspiring to see this level of sportsmanship and support each Pro offers one another.
Top 6 were Luke Sandoe, Steve Orton, Josh Lenartowicz, Roelly Winklaar, Cedric Mcmillan and William Bonac, with the top three placings awarded to Bonac, Mcmillan and Winklaar. Whilst celebrating his win with the Austrian Oak, the living legend invited the winner’s wife on stage where they shared a tender moment with both casually describing his nutritional intake and his training regimen. The audience was understandably drawn to Bonac, who remained upbeat and amiable whilst discussing the battle between giants, in which he hailed victorious.
WOMEN’S FIGURE PRO
IFBB Figure Pros possess that real je-nes-ce-qois which is not seen anywhere else, yet often unsuccessfuly replicated in other lesser federations. Each of these women have a real element of glamour, yet effortlessly boasting superior physiques. Though devoid of mandatory poses once requirements of previous years, it is evident that the IFBB Pro Figure line up is characterized by an overall healthy muscularity with the entrants resembling athletic models – yet still possessing greater physical proportions than mainstream fitness models.
Seemingly matching last year’s number, these 11 ladies were truly indicative of what the high level of IFBB Pro League Figure means to the sport, as a whole.
Evidently the home ground advantage is certainly a beneficial element, thus working in the favour of Jacqueline Mync. She appeared comparatively smaller to the others in the line, but had added more muscularity and was a fine addition yet again. Fellow Australian Stacey Steiner is an ever statuesque presence with a finely tuned upper body, that was both wide but also well-muscled complimented by a tiny waist. She is one of those competitors that is very eye catching, retaining incredible shape and she remains one of the most appealing Figure stars on the circuit.
The superlative newcomer Annika Barnett personifies quality before size, with a stark warmth in her eyes and a real showstopping quality. Indeed her V-taper is really something and her sting ray-esque back was certainly a jaw dropping feature, as much as those defined legs. Established Figure Pro Yvette Brown was impressive as always, if you are talking abs and a wider back, this ladies ripped mid section boasted the most stunning serratus in the line up! Her celebrity has built up over the years, her recognizable proportions making her a sought athlete at various events the world over.
If we’re talking mainstream appeal, than look no further than Kristine Terese Finsas. Possessing a figure physique that is incredibly well-conditioned especially in her back and legs – both facets boasting balance in the upper and lower quadrants of her world class body. Refined muscularity was certainly present in Camala Rodriguez, with the raven haired stunner, exhibiting more fuller muscles and a leanness that certainly made her an eye catching sight. Her impossibly tiny waist was almost akin to something out of a comic book, and made her dimensions stand out more prominently.
One profound revelation was that of Carly Starling-Horrell, whose movie starlet looks beckon her to portray the next big action heroine – though no CGI enhancements are needed when it comes to this superstar. Presenting a wide back, small waist and capped shoulders this raven haired beauty was picture perfect presentation and flawless pose. Almost immediately, this journo had her picked if not for top three but for one Figure star that will enjoy a meteoric rise. Fellow American Krystal Ricci was another highlight in the line-up, having that excellent mix of shape, balance and decent conditioning; no wonder she was a crowd favourite amongst the Aussies despite not having the most prominent dimensions in the line up.
The confident and stunning Jessica Reyes Padilla, had both the award winning smile and those finer figure lines that judges and audience alike look for, it’s that star quality that translates well to any media platform, one could easily see her at home on syndicated television. Compared to 2018, Serbian Bojana Vasiljevic had evidently added more muscularity which was enhanced by her poise and radiant demeanour.
Tarryn Garlington certainly showed off a very streamlined and tapered physique, that quality was enhanced by insane conditioning in her quads, an incredible derriere and delts that would be the envy of any female athlete. Garlington certainly boasted one of the finest sets of washboard abs in the lineup, with hers expertly crafted and honed – much like her posing.
Indeed, here the judges need to apply a more critical and refined eye in gauging the quality of these physiques where this division lacks the aforementioned mandatory posing. Consequently, the top 6 were Yvette Brown, Carly Starling-Horrell, Camala Rodriguez, Tarryn Garlington, Bpjana Vasiljevic and Jessica Reyes Padilla. Ultimately top placings went to Padilla, Vasiljevic and Garlington in first, second and third respectively. In truly Arnold fashion, he brought solicited smiles from the winner, with Padilla clearly enjoying her win alongside the man himself.
It may seem like only yesterday that the IFBB Bikini division made its official debut but since that time it has exploded in popularity enticing record numbers and creating some of the finest Pro athletes in the sport today. Evidently friendly to the mainstream eye and boasting mass market appeal, the Pro bikini division boasts superior competitive traits in every forseeable way. To the uninitiated, these bodies may bear some resemblance to those seen in the famed Sports Illustrated calendars yet these IFBB Bikini Pros are indeed so much more. Undoubtedly, the IFBB Pro League Pro bikini line up is one that is frequently emulated by other federations (whether they care to admit it or not) yet the standard of these IFBB athletes is never successfully replicated in any other federations – and for good reason.
This division is best described as almost a fitness fused beauty pageantry of sorts, with their competitors doing a model walk to the centre of the stage, stopping for a front stance, a back stance and then back to front. Each of the 13 competitors in the lineup all possessed that overall stunning appearance and presentation, with a particular eye for balance and shape – each of these were very athletic, but still have that degree of mainstream appeal. Undeniably, this category would present a degree of complexity for the judges yet those present in this line up each possessed their own idiosyncratic qualities to distinguish themselves from one another. It is always tough to call when each of these beauties perfects their T-walk or turns on cue with such precision, yet the keen eye of the IFBB Pro League judges enables that higher level of assessment – resulting in an equitable outcome.
Whether it is the classy sophistication long associated with Janet Layug or the stunning Nordic physique of Frida Paulsen Stern, there is much to admire in what these ladies present. This great Southern land boasted a large number of Aussie Pros including Shannah Baker, Shanae DiCicco, Julia Barnard, Renee Garner, Ness Herrera and Jade McKee – each of our Aussies made commendable appearances amongst a largely international line up. The popularity of this federation and this division, attracted competitors from all over the world, with Katya Nosova and Claire Lehndorf from New Zealand; Ha Neul Seong from South Korea and famed US Pros such as Frida Paulsen-Stern and Ashley Janelle among other American beauties. From a journalist perspective, this high caliber of incredible ladies would make the judging incredibly difficult each lady presenting high degrees of superb conditioning, poise and marketability. Evidently, the elegance of Janet Layug was unmatched on the day Lauralie Chapados and Breena Martinez in second and third respectively. The Top six included also included Ness Herrera, Ha Neul Seong and Regina Tan.
As a welcome intermission of sorts, finalists in the Strong man contests were ushered on stage for the final award ceremony. It was intriguing as well as impressive to view the highlights of some of the strongman rounds, whilst each of the 12 finalists were ushered on stage – each don in matching ACA attire. These finalists provided a stark contrast to their bodybuilding brethren, boasting clearly differing builds which are built more for examples of explosive power and strength, with a focus on practicality over aesthetics. Of the 12 burly finalists, American Rob Kearney took out the prize; self-touted as the ‘World’s Strongest Gay’, Kearney informed Arnold that himself and his partner Joey would be exchanging matrimonials in Melbourne, the day after the event. Not only did solicit a thunderous applause from both Arnold, and the audience but reportedly Arnold himself appeared at the wedding! Undoubtedly both men would have been elated as well as honoured to have the legend make an appearance at their nuptials.
Once again, the IFBB pro Fitness Division proved to be one of the most entertaining segments of the evening with a suite of world class athletes from all over the world. Kicking off this division was Lauren Carre who's Harley Quinn inspired routine was imbued by multiple stylised maneuvers, the manic insanity of the character was inherent in the theme perhaps making it difficult to follow however it was none the less very enjoyable to to watch.
Despite a near mishap our Aussie Alysha Cliff, presented a dance based routine quickly evolving into a tumble into a somersault and safe landing. Her choice of the Aussie green and gold was further emphasized in a classic song by Men at Work; which certainly tugged at the patriotic heart strings!
One of Carly Dunn's most prominent features was his strength in a handstands very creative dance moves, clearly demonstrating transitions from floor work to quick turns in each maneuver. With sheer power and energy, she proceeded to present a multi faceted routine that comprised various athletic elements borrowing from dance to acrobatics.
Complete refinement came courtesy of last year’s winner, British IFBB Pro, Kate Errington whose routine was the most multi faceted and fluid presentation of the line up. Transitioning from graceful modern interpretative ballet, Kate boasted the unbelievable flexibility of an expert contortionist into the a constant stream of cross handstands, scissor leaps and aerial cartwheels – all flawlessly executed with precision. With her elegant physique and equally elegant accent, it would be no surprise if we see this incredible lady making in a career in movies one day.
The creatively cheeky Missy Farrell was a welcome sight, opting for some late 90s flare boasting a Britney Spears inspired routine, much to the delight of the fans; there was a somewhat gentle splicing in genres moving from floor works to flips and making these transitions evident in the changing manner of her movements. By sheer contrast Kristy Fenster-Avery adopted a hip hop inspired routine, the urban stylings enabled her to the emphasise sheer power moves as well as flexibility in numerous cartwheels and backflips in a superb display.
Coming off her recent American win, the dynamic powerhouse that is Ryall Graber proved just why she had dominated the Ohio stage a few weeks earlier: this stunning athlete moved from single arm push ups to twists to aerial moves in which she appeared to fly through the air with grace and superhuman mobility. People in the audience justifiably cheered her with such passion, the eclectic styling suitably representated by fast explosive combinations, that it left the audience wanting more.
The blonde bombshell that is Whitney Jones focused on her penchant on equal parts dance and equal parts Janet Jackson choreography. Evidently, there is such an intense discipline to Jones, whose potent move set and creativity are only matched by that infectious confidence. She is a Miss Fitness Olympia winner and it is easy to see why, when such a title is afforded to a class act.
Our Aussie Wonder Woman Annaleise Varga, always cleverly adopts cues from contemporary elements of society. Annaliese opts for those recognizable thematic elements (much like Oksana before her) to create an emotional nexus between herself and the audience. In this instance she focused upon a clear identifiable facet from pop culture; that being Marvel's Venom character. Femininely muscular and graceful, her intensely choreographed routine was intoxicatingly memorable yet also showed off her roots as a gymnast.
The final competitor in this star studded lineup was the fiery haired Rochelle Veale who did a combination mashup of various designs, emphasising strong holds and clean acrobatics though the use of a twirling rod (although unique) was slightly distracting however it did not entirely detract from what was a very entertaining routine.
Whitney Jones and Ryall Graber were absent last year so it was certainly worth the wait to see them share and dominate the Arnold Classic Australia stage in 2019
Top 6 in this fine line up were Carly Dunn, Kate Errington, Missy Farrell-Truscott, Kisrty Fenster-Avery, Ryall Graber and Whitney Jones. Top place went to the irrepressible Ryall Graber, with Whitney Jones in second and Missy Farrell-Truscott in third. Known to be this journalist’s favourite Canadian athlete (ahead of Kenny Omega and George St Pierre), the energised Ryall emphatically articulated her passion for the sport directly to Arnold, and asserted the importance of complete dedication to realizing ones dreams. As a side note, this journo was lucky enough to interview Ryall in 2016 and it was evident then, as it was evident now just how much she would achieve.
Undeniably, Tony Doherty, Bob Lorimer and their Arnold Sports Festival contingent deserve major kudos for creating what essentially, equates to magic. The spectacle, the scope, the pure enormity of the event which is unrivalled and will NEVER be matched nor replicated by any other federation. Considering how well this event has transpired every year, this is the only show I will make time to cover – it is simply, brilliant by any measure or contemplation. With this in mind, Arnold will be back, the IMW team will be as well…will you?
*IMW extends it gracious thanks to Keith Perreira and Pierette Charbel for their facilitation of this new media team into the event. Much appreciated!
picture credit:FITNESS VOLT