2018 INBF/WNBF World Championships
Stage photography courtesy of Nick Colvill, Better Aesthetics
On a typically cold and dreary mid-November morning in the UK, Team UK boarded their flight bound for the Worlds full of enthusiasm for the sunnier climes that awaited at the other end as we once again had the honour and pleasure of being hosted in the Mecca of Bodybuilding, Los Angeles. Our trip to the same location for the 2016 Worlds had left us all looking forward to the next time we would have the chance to compete there and 2 years on we would have the chance again.
From arriving, all was just as we’d experienced in 2016 with a very short journey to the host hotel which was conveniently close to supermarkets and training facilities and in no time at all Team UK had set up camp for the next few days. The following mornings registration and drug testing went like a dream as always as our West Coast hosts Bob Bell and Tina Smith did an incredible task of handling the 280 athletes who had come to do battle in Natural Bodybuildings premier event.
Formalities complete until that evenings athlete meetings, the team had a chance to enjoy the LA sunshine for a few hours as they split their chosen pursuits for the day between a final workout at Dave Fishers Powerhouse Gym just down the road, relaxing by the pool and a for some a little retail therapy at the local mall while I had the privilege of heading to the venue to set up for tomorrows event which gave me the chance to spend a great few hours with my stateside WNBF colleagues making sure that everything would be perfect for our members as they stepped onto the World Stage.
And before we knew it, Saturday Morning arrived and as always Team UK left for the venue prepared for the long day ahead. All 18 athletes who made up arguably our strongest team to date would soon walk the boards and have their fate decided against representatives from 22 other countries by the panel of experienced judges, which featured its first UKDFBA representative in the form of 2013 WNBF Pro World Champion Mark Oakes who had the honour of head judging a number of classes today and doing an incredible job as he did. Here’s how the day panned out...
The first class of the day was Pro Womens Bodybuilding and boasted two Team UK athletes in the form of 2016 and 2017 UK Champs Yvette Arthur and Danni Terresa, who found themselves thrown immediately into the mix of this incredible 12 woman line up. Moved towards the centre of the line and kept there throughout, both ladies looked incredible and Yvette especially appeared to be fighting it out for top spot with former champ Lisa Lum and decorated WNBF veteran Candace Hatch. Danni was locked in her own battle with the Faroe Islands Jorun Morkore for the fourth and fifth places. That evening, the close battle for the top three ended with Yvette taking a best ever third place with Danni in fourth. Both ladies were an absolute credit to the UK and to womens bodybuilding.
With no representatives in the first of the four mens weight classes which was won by the come backing Clement Yearwood in incredible shape, 2015 and 2016 UK and World Champions Damian Lees and Ben Howard came head to head in the mens lightweight (up to 160lbs) division. Once again, both men were drawn into the middle of the line up and looked to make up the top three in this class along with last years fourth placed Italian Matteo Petrucci, with the incredible Spanish debut Pro Adria Alviol Abiles possessing an absolutely incredible physique which could have upset them all if he’d managed to obtain the last few percent of the required conditioning in a class of this calibre. Damian, Ben and Matteo each bought their best package yet to the stage for this contest and reading the judging it looked at the end of the mornings prejudging session that Ben was the choice of at least some of the panel having been moved out to the end of the line for the last few comparisons but pushed all the way by the other two men, with Damian looking to have repeated his 2017 win over Matteo and so close to Ben that it could go either way without complaint. That evening, the champion in waiting Abiles would take fourth leaving the others relieved that he hadn’t hit peak conditioning leaving the predicted top three to take their placings. A surprising bronze medal was announced for Damian who I genuinely thought was pushing for top spot with Petrucci took Silver leaving a shell shocked Ben lifting the title in his usual humble disbelief and heading to the overall for a shot at the sports biggest prize.
With reigning Overall Champion Babacar Niang of Italy taking the Middleweight division over Prince Bada Lekan, there was one spot left in the overall left to fill with the winner of the Heavyweight division. Pro Debutant and 2018 Overall UK Champion Ali Stewart came to the contest just hoping to hold his own in the line up and in his own words “not come last”, but we knew just how good our man was and were quietly confident that he’d more than stand his ground at this level. As predicted, it soon became apparent that Ali would be very much in the mix for the placings as he was drawn towards the centre with the experienced Robert Peacock of the USA, Francesco Paleari of Italy, fellow debutant Emmanuel Adejoh and Californian wonder kid and current Pro USA Champion Kendahl Richmond. Each of the five men had very different physiques and it was a real tough group of men to split into any sort of placing order. Adejoh was big but somewhat off condition wise and to my eyes was likely to land in fifth, but beyond that things got tough. Paleari was a little lighter than the others but had a lovely shape and was in great condition. Peacock and Richmond were huge and well balanced but neither truly conditioned and Ali had the best condition of the lot with incredible leg development but despite having decent overall size needed a little more general upper body mass to balance out his physique. It really was a contest of the most diverse array of physiques and any one of the top four could have justifiably taken the title.
That night, Adejoh did indeed take fifth and Paleari Fourth. Peacock was awarded the bronze medal and an overjoyed Ali the silver in his pro debut leaving the aesthetically incredible Richmond to lift the title vacated by our own Sam Watt who took it in 2017.
A short time later, Niang muscled his way to his second consecutive and history making Overall win, becoming the first man in history to lift the Overall title twice. Our own Ben fought hard and held his own amongst his fellow class winners but the huge adopted Italian could not be denied today.
Next up for Team UK was Lucy Walton in Pro Fit Body. Having ruled the roost as the UK’s number one athlete in this discipline for a number of years now, Lucy took her latest shot at World honours looking as incredible as ever, albeit a little short of her best ever shape which she showed at the 2014 Worlds where she took the bronze medal. Lucy found herself in one of the toughest Pro Fit body line ups I have ever seen today, with the standard beyond any seen previously at this contest. Lucy fought hard with impeccable presentation both in her mandatories and he evening stage walk and was on the fringes of the top five throughout the prejudging for this incredible 13 woman line up which was eventually won by a rock hard Tracy Springer over the defending multi time champion Tracy Rabbit. She eventually landed in ninth place which was perhaps a little harsh but took it in her stride like the absolute professional she is. Lucys best is yet to come though, and we look forward to being there to see it.
Then we moved on to the Amateur divisions. First up was UK Junior Champ Henry Manning, competing in both Junior and Open Light Heavy divisions. In the Junior division, he stormed to victory over Irelands Cian Brennan and Swiss Champ Yves Zwyssig to make him the third UK Athlete in a row to bring home the World Junior title. In the Open Class, he repeated his victory over Zwyssig who placed fifth, before besting Chinas Ming Zhe Han and Irish Heavyweight Champion Simon Collins into fourth and third respectfully and going head to head with eventual winner Romeo Zhupa of Italy, who proved just a little too mature physique wise for our young prodigy who finished in second place. A superb end to an incredible season for Henry who has a strong future ahead of him in the sport.
In the Ladies amateur bodybuilding division, Michelle Lawrence took the stage fresh from her recent UK International win against 7 other ladies and from the moment they lined up together it was clear that Michelle was in a class of her own with her imposing height and shoulder width and ample muscle mass, completely sealing the deal as she turned to the rear and literally blew the rest of the field away with arguably the best back in the sport. There was no way that anything but a win could be on the cards for Michelle today and she duly took the title and WNBF Pro status with her customary humble delight.
Henry Elsom kept the amateur team streak rolling with one of the clearest victories of the day in taking the Grandmasters title. Ji Chen Gang of China and Bernd Wilhof of Switzerland were admirable foes, but no match for Henrys youthfully conditioned and massively muscled physique. Andrew Rocco of the USA and Mahsuhdur of India rounded out the top 5 of this class.
Reigning World Champ Lorraine Hills returned to the Worlds stage not only to attempt to retain her Masters title but this time to try and add open Fit Body gold to her CV. With a closely fought battle with Australian Sue Ann Smith in the Masters division first on the agenda who matched Lorraine for development and had a very similar shape and structure but was a fraction adrift of the perfect level of conditioning shown by the 2-time UK Champion, mission 1 of 2 for the day was completed as Lorraine indeed retained her title.
A short time later, Lorraine took to the stage in the Open division where she was joined in the 10 athlete line up by fellow Team UK member Karla Evans. Both ladies found themselves in the mix and drawn towards the centre of the line up almost immediately with Lorraine looking to be a decisive winner and Karla on the fringes of the top 3. This was a deep, talent rich class which required round after round of comparisons to properly assess but little changed for our athletes position wise. At the end of the battle, Lorraine did indeed add another World Title and her WNBF Pro card to her collection after being announced winner with Karla taking an incredible fourth place in her first International contest, just missing out on a top three spot but a safe bet to return and be fighting for the winners circle in the not too distant future.
Karla also competed in the 13 strong Open Figure short class which was won by eventual overall winner Felicia Thomas. Although Karla more than held her own, eventually finishing in a creditable eighth place it was evident that she was far better suited to and happier competing in the Fit Body discipline.
Oli Perry demolished the Masters division next, running out a comfortable winner against Kenneth Lo of the USA and Fabio Barazzutti of Italy to take his first World title. Not content with one, he later stepped out with the Open Heavyweight division, this time fighting tooth and nail with Spains Roberto Hernandez to take a close but well deserved second title of the day, leaving American Dennis Horton unable to topple the two European powerhouses and finishing third.
The Open Bantamweight division saw newly crowned UK Champ Chris Paling go into battle with 6 others, namely Americas Jason Reed, Andrew Rocco and Nic Prenrecaj who took up the rear 3 places and Rafael Luque Moyano of Spain in fourth. Irelands junior king Brennan took third place, predictably leaving the fight for the title between Chris and Italian Rosario Galgano. Chris was absolutely shredded as always with his usual superb muscle density but had to settle for second today against the breath taking shape and size of the Italian, who was one of the most impressive Bantams I’d personally seen with a ton of muscle for his weight and impeccable presentation. Chris did us proud though and it’s only a matter of time before this title is his.
Middleweights next, with Grandmasters champ Henry back in the fray joining UK Middleweight Champ Andrzej Krawczyk. On paper, this should have been a fairly clear cut battle between Andrzej and Danish sensation Frederik Ipsen who had been runner up to Andrzej at the UK International 4 weeks previously. However, it was not meant to be today as a few last minute issues had left Andrzej a margin down on the shape he had been in last time the two met, appearing a little flat and drained for the prejudging with Ipsen a few percent harder than their previous meeting and looking to have taken a clear and decisive victory. Andrzej instead battled for silver with Spanish Carlos Campos and our own Henry with the three men difficult to pick apart. By the time the night show had rolled round, Andrzej had rehydrated and filled out tremendously and looked considerably better than a few hours earlier but alas too late to alter the scoring and having to settle for fourth place, with Henry third and Carlos taking the runner up spot behind Ipsen. Andrzej however has had a whirlwind of a first season in the sport and has stepped onstage with the very best in the sport in record time compared to other first year competitors and to have cracked the medals in the biggest amateur bodybuilding line up of the day (with last years second and third placed Steven Helaire and Marc Hurliman both failing to crack the top 5) is an incredible feat and one to be very proud of.
The overall Mens bodybuilding title was won for the second time by incredible Australian Joel Ramintas who took the lightweight division, repeating his victories of 2013 in Boston. If he now decides to accept his Pro Card, he will make significant waves in the Pro Lightweight division without a doubt.
On to the Amateur Mens Physique divisions, and with the height split a little different to the one we had at the UK International both Levi Walker & Bobby Fotheringham found themselves battling it out in the Tall class this time round. With them having been so closely matched on previous occasions it was no surprise to find them both very much in the mix in this huge 15 athlete line up, with both men switched in and out of near centre positions repeatedly as the judging panel clearly had a tough time working things out. To me, it appeared that Levi had reversed the UK Overall decision today and would run out a fairly clear winner. Bobby for my eyes wouldn’t be far behind and appeared to be locked in a battle with Majkell Marjalaj and Zachariah O’Connor for second to fourth spots. When it came time for the presentations, Levi did indeed lift Team UKs ninth World Title of the day and deservedly becoming the UKs first WNBF Pro Physique athlete before going on to narrowly miss the overall to Californian Chad Palaad who had won both the Junior and Open Short divisions. Bobby however fell victim to what I felt was a rare duff call as he didn’t make the top 5, with Marjalaj and O’Connor taking second and third respectively and fourth and fifth going to men who in my opinion were nowhere near as physically impressive as the UK Champ. Still, it’s a subjective sport and you have to take the rough with the smooth sometimes. Bobby took the result on the chin and will be back better than ever.
Beth Brennan was our penultimate representative, contesting the Open Bikini Short class against 13 other ladies. Beth, a little harder than her UK win and definitely the hardest in this class although no more so than the majority of the Pro Bikini athletes we’d seen earlier of the day definitely caught the eye as soon as she came onstage and for my eyes should have been caught in an “apples vs oranges” battle for the title with eventual winner Lisa Reid, who was softer but fuller and more shapely and had thigs panned out like I initially predicted would have taken a hard fought but well deserved class win with Beth hot on her heels. However, the judging panel saw the matter differently and almost immediately moved Beth out to the left and kept her there for the entire prejudging. Beth was not compared near the centre once, and never given a chance to pull herself back into contention. That evening she would eventually place eighth, with athletes nowhere near her standard beating her into the final five. It’s not often you’ll find me outspoken on matters of judging but to me this was a ridiculous call and Beth has every right to feel aggrieved at the decision. To her credit, she was sporting and humble over the matter and upheld the teams reputation admirably.
Team UKs final athlete of the day was Alexandra Dancso, the UK Tall Class Bikini champion who took the stage with 11 other ladies to decide the final class champion of this incredibly long day. From the outset, Alex shone like a beacon with superior shape and development and presentation that made her look like a seasoned professional. Placed smack bang in the centre of the line and not moved once, hopes were high that Team UKs day would be ending on a high note with our 10th World title of the Championships. Indeed, this would be the case as Alexandra took her much sought World Title and Pro status that night in scenes of respectful jubilation after comfortably winning the class. Alexandra went on to narrowly miss the overall, as Short Class winner Lisa got the nod from the judges in a close battle between the two which bought todays contest and the 2018 season to a close.
Special thanks must go to Rich Walker, Scott Galton and AJ Morris for their help backstage at this years Worlds and Mark Oakes for representing the UKDFBA on the judging panel. Each of these 4 men worked a 14 hour day to help the team and the association and in the case of the backstage coaches missed seeing the entire contest for themselves. This kind of dedication and support makes us who we are and is appreciated by all of Team UK. Thank you guys.
At the end of a very long day there was still time for some post contest eating and drinking before we headed off to bed, before the next days customary tour of the Mecca itself as the team took in Muscle Beach, Golds Gym, The Firehouse restaurant and Santa Monica before reaching the Holy Grail at the end of the tour, the Cheesecake Factory before heading back to the hotel for the teams last evening together in LA, which was spent laughing and joking around the barbeque and fire pit before going our separate ways the following morning for the long journey home.
And with that, the 2018 season came to an official close and will always be remembered as our most successful to date at home as well as internationally. We look forward to 2019 and to seeing what it brings.