- Friday evening, February 16: As I anticipate the 2001 Pro Ironman bodybuilding show, the main talk on the web site bulletin boards are about Chris Cormier, Lee Priest, and Shari 'King' Kamali. With King Kamali generating controversy in a series of comments and interviews, Chris Cormier was the first to shoot back, stating that he will retire if King Kamali ever beats him! Chris is determined to win the 2001 Pro Ironman, and prove to all that he is destined to be the next Mr. Olympia, king of all bodybuilders! Lee Priest also has been generating waves by many fans saying that he deserves to win, that this year will be his best year. So going into the 2001 Pro Ironman Show, the predictions is that Chris Cormier will win it, Lee Priest will come second, and King Kamali will be third. However, there are a lot more competitors out there who will come out strong, and we will see who shows up Saturday morning at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Auditorium.
Based on two weeks before the show, the competitors who were slated to compete included Chris Cormier (Marina del Rey, CA), Lee Priest (Venice, CA), Craig Titus (Marina del Rey, CA), Jason Arnst (Berkeley Heights, NJ), Melvin Anthony (Placentia, CA), Garrett Downing (Carlsbad, CA), JD Dawodu (London, England), Shari King Kamali (Vienna, VA), Patrick Lynn (Garden Grove, CA), Ken Jones (Ozone Park, NY), Charles Kemp (Coral Springs, FL), Rod Ketchens (Sioux City, IA), Marko Savolainin (Oulu, Finland), Yohnnie Shambourger (Washington, DC), John Sherman (Houston, TX), Rodney St. Cloud (Bronx, NY), Hans Hopstaken (Monrovia, CA), Gustavo Badell (Carolina, PR), Dennis Francis (Derby, England), Alessandro Komadina (Pasadena, CA), Christian Lobarede (Miami Beach, FL), Ali Malla (Redondo Beach, CA), Lawrence Marshall (Port of Spain, Trinidad) and Rudy Soliman (Montreal, CAN)
These competitors had not yet signed so we do not know if they will compete or not. They are Aaron Maddron (Medford, OR), Shaun Davis (Nottingham, England), Raffaele Morandini (Milan, Italy), Johnny Moya (Central Islip, NY), Constantino Polesel (Venice, Italy), and Ahmad Haidar (Pompano Beach, FL).
- Saturday morning, February 17: I arrived early, way before the competitors came, when the stage personnel was just setting up. It is always interesting to come early, for you see all of the work that goes to set up a pro competition. The venue, as it has been for all of the Pro Ironman shows, was the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Auditorium, which is actually on Manhatten Beach Blvd. The weather for prejudging looked nice, but it was overcast, with rain being forecast for the evening show.
The bad part about the venue is that there is no food or drink allowed inside where the seats are, nor is there room for sponsors to put booths inside to showcase their wares. Thus, each year they pitch a big tent up where the booths are. So unlike the Arnold Classic, or the Mr. Olympia, there are only a handful of booths at this show.
The competitors who are not from around the area stay at the Marina Pacific Hotel in Venice, and they take a shuttle to the hall, which is about 15-20 minutes away. Surprisingly, this year, about 10 competitors took the shuttles, while the rest drove there own their own.
The Pro Ironman Bodybuilding Contest is an open cast call. That means any pro bodybuilder can choose to do the show, provided they have told the promoter in advance, and signed up. However, in the morning, you never know exactly how many athletes will show up. You always worry that they will arrive on time. For if you are not there at 11am, one hour before the prejudging is set to begin, you do not compete. The competitors meeting is extremely important to be at, for that is where the drug testing agreement is signed, and where you randomly choose the button which will tell you in what order you are to appear on the stage. The buttons are chosen in alphabetical order, so no one has an advantage over another.
It was a somber mood this morning. Twenty five competitors were in the back room, and very few were talking to each other. King Kamali had his shades on, sitting in a chair with his hands in this jacket pockets. Chris Cormier was laying down on the ground, looking relaxed and definitely the man to beat. Lee Priest with his Superman emblems around him was quiet waiting patiently. When the meeting was called, all wives, girlfriends, and other non-competitors are asked to leave the room. It's time for business.
Jim Manion takes the lead. He is the president of the IFBB, the man that commands utmost respect. He knows everybody. Everybody knows him. And today is a special day. Today is Jim Manion's birthday, and also his wedding anniversary. And he was in the auditorium, taking care of business. Jim Manion is devoted to the sport of bodybuilding. Next to him was John Bailik, the owner of Ironman Magazine, MuscleLinc Products, and the man behind the only pro bodybuilding show in Southern California. Sandy Rinalli was on the other side of Jim Manion, as well as Lynn Conkwright, Director of Athletes for Weider (and was 3rd in the first Ms. Olympia). They conducted the official meeting of athletes.
Once the meeting was over, the competitors start to get ready. Some, like Chris Cormier, and Craig Titus, start early, putting on their tanning coloring, and a special 'Pam' oil to highlight their body parts. Others, like Lee Priest, wait until 10 minutes to go before they are ready to go. Repeat competitors are territorial, as Lee Priest always picks the same corner each year in the dressing room, as does Chris Cormier. The newcomers are in awe, some of them this being their first competitions, and do not know necessarily what to expect. The press and photographers are also allowed in the room, and in the case of the more popular athletes, they are surrounded by them.
One does feel a little sad for the athletes who are not as popular, and do not have a chance in making the top ten, but people must understand that this is a sport of perseverance, of personal determination, and if they think they come to the pro ranks because they have hit the big time, they are wrong. As one competitor told me, I come because even though I will barely get any callouts, I truly have the best seat in the house to watch the show! I come because I breathe the sport of bodybuilding, and for me, this is an honor. I come to learn, because I truly enjoy bodybuilding.
Prejudging started on time, with 25 athletes ready to go out. The first group had 13 competitors, the second group had 12. Attendance this year was less than the previous years, giving all who came excellent view of the athletes. Perhaps attendance was low because of the weather; or perhaps because of the faltering economy; or perhaps because the speculation that the lineup was not as strong as it should be. Predictions before the contest said that Chris Cormier had no competition, that he was unbeatable today.
Round One callouts, as much as I listened too, was as follows: