In just over an hour, my flight home from Columbus will land in Ft. Lauderdale. The cold gray Ohio sky will be replaced by the warm, blue and green backdrop of South Florida. There is no place like home...but there is certainly NOTHING comparable to the Arnold Fitness Weekend.
The bodybuilding and fitness universe invaded Columbus this weekend in record numbers. Jim Lorimer and the guy we affectionately call "Arnold" joined forces for the 15th time as they presented the 2003 edition of the Arnold Fitness Weekend.
The Main Event: On Saturday Night, a field of 14 "invited" athletes faced off at the Arnold Classic Men's final. The lineup was a collection of "A" players. Defending Champion Jay Cutler, past Champion Kevin Levrone and perennial runner-up Chris Cormier were joined by Dexter Jackson, Marcus Ruhl, Darrem Charles, Melvin Anthony, Ahmad Haidar, Tommi Thorvildsen and JD Dawodu. The lineup also featured top newcomers Troy Alves, Quincy Taylor & Eddie Abbew along with veteran Stan McCrary. Flex Wheeler was forced to forego the event do to illness.
From the very first call-out there was little question who the winner was. Jay Cutler was clearly superior in his comparisons with the other top guys. Jay's quad detail, size and separation were too much for anyone to overcome. Jay was NOT at his all-time best, but he didn't have to be on this night. Jay's victory earned him a cool $100,000 along with a 2003 Hummer H2 and a $20,000 solid gold Rolex. In other words, it's good to be Jay! Jay also became just the 2nd athlete to successfully defend their Arnold crown (Flex Wheeler did it in 1997/1998).
The drama was in the battle for 2nd as Chris, Kevin and Dexter battled for early supremacy during pre-judging. But NOT SO FAST fellas. Marcus Ruhl, The German Giant, was at his all time best. Personally, I am not a fan of the "Ruhl-Type" physique. He is a real-life bodybuilding cartoon. However, Marcus deserved credit for presenting a much harder version of his massive physique. The crowd, as always, responded well to the freaky Ruhl. When the dust settled, Cormier secured the #2 spot. Ruhl managed to slip into the #3 spot ahead of Dexter Jackson. Dexter wasn't quite as dry & sharp as we've seen in the past, however, he continues to present a very symmetrically sound and well conditioned package worthy of a top 4 placing. One of the bigger surprises was Kevin Levrone. After reaching his all-time best shape at the Olympia in October, Kevin was a bit off the mark and fell all the way to 5th.
Rounding out the top 6 was Darrem Charles. Competing in his 7th career Arnold Classic, Darrem presented a larger, more muscular version of his razor sharp physique. He showcased improvements in his hamstrings, calves and glutes in addition to greater thickness in his quads. In the evening show, Darrem's spectacular posing routine brought the capacity crowd to their feet. In the end, Darrem assumed his position in the final posedown. Well deserved.
Ahmad Haidar showed improvements from his Ironman appearance 2 weeks earlier, however in this tough line-up he had to settle for 7th just ahead of 8th place finisher Melvin Anthony. Quincy Taylor and Troy Alves rounded out the top 10.
After Party: A special Thanks to Craig Titus & Kelly Ryan for the VIP invite to their late night jam following the Men's Final. The party was attended by several familiar faces. But, it wasn't the faces that made this a memorable event... it was the bodies! I was surrounded by an impressive collection of scorching HOT fitness models. The party was a blast! Be sure to attend the next "After Party" in New York City the weekend of the N.O.C.!
Go Figure: The inaugural IFBB Figure championship was held on Friday. The event featured the highly anticipated return of fitness icon Monica Brant. Monica was stunning, head to toe. But the night belonged to Jenny Lynn who defeated Monica to claim the figure title.
A Big Time Production! The Stage production of the Mens & Womens Finals are unsurpassed anywhere in the sport. Jim Lorimer's crew continues to set a new standard with breathtaking set design and superb sound & lighting. Several top performers were also brought in to elevate the overall production. The Arnold Fitness Weekend is an awesome reminder of how far the sport has come!
Quote of the day: While Lonnie Teper (master of ceremonies) was introducing Quincy Taylor he informed the audience that Quincy was an astounding 6'4'' 300lbs! I was sitting 3 seats to the left of Arnold. When Arnold heard this, he turned his head toward Jim Lorimer and anxiously said "Is this true? Can he really be that size?" It was further proof that Arnold continues to stay true to his passion for bodybuilding. Arnold is still a fan.
Score one for Betty: Heavyweight Bodybuilder Betty Pariso provided a refreshing moment of comedy. Her posing routine was a very entertaining collection of impersonations. She and her husband Ed provided voice-overs describing her imitations of Ronnie Coleman, Gunter Schlierkamp, Mike Mattarazzo and even fitness star Kelly Ryan. The 47 year-old Pariso finished 2nd in the heavyweight division behind overall winner Yaxeni Oriquen.
Movin' on up: Stacy Hylton continues to elevate her status in pro fitness. After finishing 6th in her first Olympia, Stacy climbed to 4th at the Arnold Fitness International. Remarkably, Stacy underwent major shoulder surgery less than 4 months ago. She endured an intense recovery program to ensure that she’d be ready for the Arnold. Stacy is now regarded as one of the Top 5 pro fitness athletes in the world!
A very special thanks to Matt Lorz. Matt and his team at Lorz Communications did a tremendous job organizing several phases of the Arnold Fitness Weekend including the media. Their efforts made it possible for hundreds of media outlets to cover the event. Pro Muscle Online is grateful for their hardwork and assistance!
Fitness Coverage: We are currently preparing a complete report covering the Fitness International event. Check back soon!
Athletes Only: As many of you know, Bob Cicherillo organized an ATHLETES-ONLY meeting. The meeting was held in the athlete's hotel following the Women's Finals on Friday night. EVERY IFBB Pro was invited. Those who attended discussed a list of several key issues. Unfortunately, there is an even LONGER list of athletes who opted to skip the meeting, including several of the biggest names in the sport. Check back soon for a full report of the meeting.
Blacked Out: It was originally reported that this years event was being produced for Fox Television as well as a special edition DVD. Unfortunatley, the production was cancelled at the very last minute. Executive Producer Lee Sills indicated that Mr. Lorimer's office opted to cancel by fax on Wednesday evening. We will bring you more on the situation as infromation becomes available.