2008 IFBB WORLD WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS – SANTA SUSANNA, SPAIN TEARS OF HAPPINESS AND TEARS OF DESPAIR by Andrew Michalak The biggest IFBB women’s amateur contest is over. 176 athletes from 43 countries participated in these Championships. The number of athletes is exactly the same as in the last year but the number of countries is a new record in the history of this event. 27 European countries and 16 non-European countries from 5 continents sent their national teams to Spain, so there was a review of many races, colors of skin, types of physique and beauty. In opinion of many IFBB officials and judges these Championships were of the highest level in the IFBB history. Many world, continental and national champions created a top exciting competition in all nine official categories, including men’s fitness. And many of them had problems to enter the finals as rising stars attacked their positions and some of them got to the medal zone. For me, the most spectacular victory took place in bodyfitness 168 cm class, where the 2006 world junior champion Olga Muntian of Ukraine won the gold medal in the most tough category, ahead of 31 other athletes. I don’t remember any other case in the IFBB history when the junior champion climbed up to the top of the world sport hierarchy in less then 2 years. We also saw very successful come backs like Ukrainian fitness star Alevtina Titarenko, who won the bronze medal in 2001 and then focused on her professional career in the Cirque de Soleil, performing in Las Vegas, Nevada, and now returns after long 7 years, wining in great style the world title in fitness over 163 cm category. I don’t have to tell you how deeply she was touched. And we witnessed also dramatic situations. Polish national bodyfitness champion and the 4th competitor of the 2008 European Championships, Renata Jablonska, who took the 3rd position after the semifinals in bodyfitness 168 cm class, was 30 seconds too late to the stage in the finals and lost the great opportunity to win her first world championships medal. At these Championships tears of happiness mixed with the tears of despair. The contest was, as usual, perfectly prepared by the very efficient team of the Spanish organizers, whose efforts and devotion was awarded with distinguished IFBB awards presented to them during the opening ceremony of the Championships by the IFBB President Dr. Rafael Santonja. Among them were: Santa Susanna Mayor Jose Monreal, Spanish Federation’s top officials Jose and Carlos Ramos, former champion Jose Donato, manager Mariona Ayala and photographer Erwan Grey. The contest was perfectly run by the experienced emcee and Vice-President of the Spanish Federation Armando Marquez. It was for the sixth time in a row that the best built world women came to this Spanish seaside spa to combat for the titles and medals. BODYBUILDING: SWISS PERFECTION 36 muscular women were equally spread between two categories: up to 55 kg and over 55 kg. Three former world champions: Jana Purdjakova (Slovakia), Irina Muntean (Romania) and Alina Cepurniene (Lithuania) as well as current South American Champion Patricia Pereira (Brazil) and European Champion Branka Njegovec (Croatia) were the main pretenders to medals in the lightweight class. Pereira showed the best muscles hardness and definition in the line-up but muscle quality is only one factor taken unto account by the judges. This time they scored higher perfect body proportions and symmetry displayed by Purdjakova (1st place), Muntean (2nd place) and Natalie Foreau (3rd place). It was the sixth world title won by Purdjakova who is now closer to record holder of the world titles in the IFBB, El Shahat Mabrouk (8 titles). Foreau (France) deserved for the title of the most improved bodybuilder in this class, placing ahead of many well-known medal winners. The heavyweight category was dominated by two Swiss bodybuilders: Alina Popa and Rahel Ruch. Popa came back after three-year break and in a new national team – Switzerland. Previously, she represented Romania, winning silver medal at the 2004 European Championships. This time her muscles was fuller, rounded and developed in ideal harmony, what impressed the judges so much that she won all three rounds with perfect scores and then grasped the overall title. Ruch and Skadi Frei (Germany) were the most improved bodybuilders, advancing to the 2nd and 4th positions respectively and pushing down 2008 runner-up and 2008 South American runner-up Larissa Cunha (Brazil) into the 6th position. And it was one surprising move: 2008 world fitness champion Jana Stockelova (Czech Republic) decided to compete in bodybuilding and placed in the middle of the group (9th position). It was also interesting to watch top bodybuilders from new countries like China, Paraguay, Chile, Nicaragua. Bodybuilding map of the world has become bigger. FITNESS: TWO DOUBLE WINS It is very rarely that both fitness categories are double won by athletes from the same countries but it happened in Santa Susanna this year. 20 competitors battled on the stage in the short class. The new champion emerged from… bodybuilders. Olga Guryeva was a gymnast in her youth but later she trained bodybuilding for several years, coming to the top of the ladder in Europe, when she won the continental title in 2007 in over 55 kg class. And then she unexpectedly moved to… fitness. Having gymnastic background, she has no problem with performing difficult fitness routines and having bodybuilding background she has no problem with shaping her body. Ideal combination. And adding her elegance, femininity and perfect symmetry, we obtain the image of fitness role model. To support this point of view she won all three rounds in her category and then was crowned with the overall title. Vera Egorova repeated her 2nd place from the last year while two Brazilian and South American stars: Diana Monteiro and Loana Muttoni dropped to the 4th and 5th positions. 2007 European champion Anna Urbanikova (Slovakia), who recently married to the world bodybuilding champion Andrej Mozolani and changed her name, displayed great improvements and advanced to the 3rd position. Fitness, despite all its difficulties, attracts more and more girls from all corners of the world, so we could see competitors from Kazakhstan, South Africa, Venezuela, Thailand and Mexico in this category. Good perspective prior to the fitness debut at the 2009 World Games. All top six finalist in the tall class were very well-known fitness stars; however two of them came back after some break: Alevtina Titarenko (Ukraine) – after 7 years and Natalia Nazarenko-Kiivikas – after one years, delivering a baby in summer 2007. Titarenko, former world acrobatic champion, perfectly prepared her body and won all rounds, being pressed by… her team-mate Tetiana Babicheva, who won her former achievements under her maiden name Belousova. Tetiana’s physique is lighter, very delicate but also harmonious and symmetrical. Her routines are full of feelings and artistic soul – the real fitness poetry. These two great Ukrainian stars were scored a bit higher than the two great Russian stars: Evgeniya Filyanina and Tatiana Tishchenko. Filyanina was the 2007 European overall champion, while Tishchenko won this category in Europe in 2008. The next great player in this class was Nazarenko-Kiivikas, former Ukrainian champion living in Estonia now. She displayed her best life condition and beautiful, technically perfect routine, advancing to the top group of the world elite fitness athletes. MEN FITNESS: ELEVEN SUPERMEN If someone looks for the role model in sport nowadays, fitness men would be the perfect choice: they are strong, flexible, muscular, dynamic and shaped. Do we need something more? Watching the exciting and technically perfect fitness routines of Andrzej Baczynski (Poland), Luis Montero (Spain), Wanchai (Thailand) or Wang Ziliang (China) we could have this impression. Montero and Sergey Klyepchev (Ukraine) showed the best physiques with very low bodyfat level and sharp definition. They were tied in physique assessment rounds but Montero placed 2nd in the routine round what opened him the road to the gold medal. Perfectly prepared Klyepchev kept the second position while Baczynski placed 3rd, same like in the past year. But he can be happy as he was not in his best shape this time but won the routine round. He had had difficult moments in his life recently as his dad passed away 2 weeks prior to the Championships, after longer stay in the hospital. Russia’s new artillery, Sergey Kolenchikov, former Karate Shotokan champion, showed nice physique but must work to improve his routine. Anyway, he placed 4th, ahead of more experienced competitors: Costin Bacura (Romania) and Urs Zumstein (Switzerland). BODYFITNESS: NEARLY 100 COMPETITORS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD Bodyfitness categories were really overcrowded and the IFBB will have to consider if it is not a good moment to create more height categories and, maybe, bodyweight limits, like in men classic bodybuilding or men fitness. I heard many opinions that bodyfitness girls have reached body quality of bodybuilding level and their physiques are similar to women bodybuilders. This is a great challenge to the IFBB how to modify bodyfitness in the nearest future to make it more attractive and allow the girls to show their bodies in move and how to assess bodies if the top muscle quality is an “unwanted” factor. Currently, it depends on the judging panel: in one categories more refined and harder bodies were preferred; in the others – more delicate and slimmer. Two world champions appeared on the stage in the 158 cm class and they remained untouched by the others. First round went to Natalia Revajova – Lenartova, bodyfitness pioneer from Slovakia, but she failed to keep the top place and slightly lost the next two rounds to Anna Rasputnyak (Russia), 2007 world and European champion. Finally, Rasputnyak won the gold medal by 1 point. But the next two athletes are the new faces: Giada Simari from Italy and Tiina Sarlin from Finland. Young, attractive, symmetrical physiques with hard-trained, toned muscles. Beatriz Gomez of Spain improved greatly and advanced from the 9th place last year to the 5th position this year. In this situation European Championships medal winners Martina Tarkova (Slovakia) and Yolanda Esteso (Spain) dropped to the 6th and 7th places. The next category, up to 163 cm, was the biggest one at these Championships, with 32 competitors in the line-up. Fantastic former junior Olga Muntian (Ukraine) over passed two very experienced athletes: 2008 European overall champion Zrinka Korac (Croatia) and multi world champion Katarina Verbovska (Slovakia). I consider this as the greatest sensation of these Championships. The second Ukrainian “newcomer” at this level Natalia Kamzolova, entered the finals and took the 4th position, ahead of former medal winners: Paloma Parras (Spain), Eleni Kritikopulou (Greece) and Nelli Tsyshkevich (Russia). Nelli defeated all top Russian champions at the Baikal Elite Tour in August and, maybe, is a bit too tired in this autumn season. Lithuanian champion Ingrida Blagusauskaite was in so perfect shape that 2007 world champion Glauce Ferreira (Brazil) couldn’t stop her in 168 cm category. Ingrida, who didn’t enter the finals at this year European Championships and placed 10th in Santa Susanna last year, was now unbeatable, defeated all her famous rivals. Ferreira placed second and Molokova (Russia) moved up from 9th place to the bronze medal position. The tallest category was lucky for the next new Ukrainian champion Evgeniya Prutskova, who won the 2008 European Championships first. Adding the world title, she finished her extremely successful first year in the international circuit. The 2nd place winner Nina Moe of Norway jumped six places up and even won the second round. This spectacular attack of the two challengers pushed down two former world champions: Yulia Zabelina (Russia) and Sonja Kopcokova (Slovakia) to the 3rd and 4th places. The same changes could be noticed outside the finals, where new faces: Cordula von Keitz (Germany), Marina Richardson (Sweden) and Erika Torronen (Finland) placed ahead of better-known champions from Spain, Poland and South Africa. Many new competitors with great potentials emerged at these Championships and their battle against more experienced champions was very exciting and brought big changes in classification in many categories. The next championships will be held next year but in the meantime athletes will have the opportunity to take part in many international cups, national and continental championships.