Saturday, February 19, 2000 was a beautiful day in Los Angeles. The sun was out, the temperature was a balmy 70 degrees; a perfect day for the first professional bodybuilding contest of the century. I arrived at the Performing Arts Auditorium a little after 10am, with a couple of friends. The Auditorium is in Redondo Beach, a town by the Pacific Ocean about 10 miles south of Venice, and 4 miles south of the Los Angeles Airport, on the corner of Manhatten Beach Blvd and Aviation. The venue is perfect for bodybuilding events, as it seats a little over 1,500 people, and the stage is large enough with good sound. Backstage, it has a number of dressing rooms, and a room where the bodybuilders can relax and work out with weights.
Every Ironman Show, we bring in a number of performance drinks for the athletes, most notably, American Body Building drinks. This year was no exception, and that is why we arrived early, to set up backstage for the 34 competitors a cooler full of drinks and water. Before the prejudging, the athletes like carb-loaded drinks, such as Carbo Force, and low calorie drinks, such as Maximum Fat Burner. After the prejudging, they went for Pure Pro, which contains 40 grams of protein, and Mass Recovery, a 2-1 ratio of protein to carbs. In the evening show, they went for everything, from Speed Stack to Ripped Force to carb drinks to protein drinks. By the end of the evening, there was not one bottle left.
The prejudging was at 12 sharp, but by 11am, all the competitors had to be there for the IFBB meeting and roll call. It is at this meeting that the competitors are called, and they choose a white button, which, when turned up, has a number on it which tells them the position of when they will pose. Thus, while no one wants to pose after Chris Cormier or Flex Wheeler, this is the fairest way to do it. Once all 34 competitors had their line up numbers, they went their separate ways to start preparing for the contest. Jim Manion presided over the meeting, and Sandi Rinalli typed up the official list on the computer.
Some went to take the drug test, as all competitors are required to take it sometime between the 11am meeting and right after prejudging. Others went to put on their tanning, usually with the help of someone, either a trainer, loved one, or friend. Still others started working out with the dumbbells that were set up backstage. And others just rested on the floor, waiting for the golden moment when they would get on stage in front of their fans, their peers, the photographers, and most importantly, the judges.
The judges. Many complain about them, how they do not judge fairly, how everything is political, and as I spoke to a number of judges this morning before prejudging, the question of excellence is how a competitor looks at the precise moment of prejudging. Not before, not after, not what his reputation says about him, not what they heard in the hallway before. It is what they see at that very moment.
The prejudging. At 12:10pm, 34 competitors lined up to take the center stage, in groups of 12, 11, and 11. Because the group was so big, the lineup was split into three groups. The lineup, as randomly chosen, was as follows:
The first group included Mark Lampard, Craig Titus, Chris Cormier, Dave Fisher, Charles Kemp, Jocelyn Peletier, Edward Van Amsterdam, Jamo Nezzer, Craig Licker, Jostein Oedegaardaen, Gustavo Badell, and Flex Wheeler, in that order.
The second group included Jason Arntz, Fauzi Hanst, Sylverster Solomon, Christian Lobarde, Milton Holloway, Dexter Jackson, Tom Prince, Federico Focherini, Stan McCrary, Cloude Groulx, and Anthony Williams, in that order.
The third group included Darrrem Charles, Gunter Schlierkamp, Dennis James, J.D. Dawodu, Patrick Lynn, Ahmed Haider, Rod Ketchens, Dennis newman, Johnny Moya, Bob Weatherill, and Ntuk Ntuk, in that order.
Once all 34 competitors were on stage, the first callouts began, This first round lasted quite a while, with over 20 caparison callouts of three competitors at a time. Afterwards, each competitor had the stage alone, where they were required to pose the seven mandatory poses, which include, in this order, Front Double Biceps, Front Lat Spread, Side to Side Chest, Back Double Biceps, Back Lat Spread, Side to Side Triceps, and Hands Over Head Abdominals.
The last phase in the prejudging was the Round Two Callouts, which were as follows:
Jason Arntz - Gunter Schlierkamp - J.D. Dawodu
Jason Arntz - Dennis James - Darrem Charles
Craig Titus - Anthony Williams - Chlaud Groulx
Craig Titus - Tom Prince - Dennis Newman
Gustavo Badell - Patrick Lynn - Ahmed Haider
Gunter Schlierkamp - Darrem Charles - J.D. Dawodu
Gunter Schlierkamp - Dennis James - Darrem Charles
Patrick Lynn - Edward Van Amstedam - Charles Kemp
Craig Licker - Johnny Moya - Rod Ketchens
Chris Cormier - Flex Wheeler - Dexter Jackson
After three hours, prejudging was over. The competitors would have 4-5 hours to rest before the finals, which start at 8pm.
The evening show began promptly at 8pm, but by 7:30, there were hundreds of people just socializing outside the venue, looking for their favorite bodybuilder or fitness star. Many of the top pros were there, including Ronnie Coleman, Shawn Ray, Paul Dillett, Kim Chivesky, Timea Majorova, and Kelly Ryan, as well as amateur and retired competitors, including Albert Beckles, and Rico McClinton. Backstage, all 34 competitors were getting ready, with the exception of Patrick Lynn, who complained of dizziness and not feeling well, and withdrew from the evening rounds.
Because of the large number of competitors, only the top 15 competitors went on to round three, where they performed their posing routine. From there, it went to the top 10, and as it dwindled to the top 5, the excitement mounted. The top five then proceeded to round 4, the posedown, where each competitor tries to outmuscle and outperform the other, to the delight of the audience.
The final results were considered by many in the audience to be a fair and precise judging. There were no loud boos at all, only applause as the largest Pro Ironman show ever came to an end.