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The Item: IFBB Pro League Contest Results, Sports Festival, Andrew Oye's IFBB Pro Athletes Roundup

ARNOLD CLASSIC PREJUDGING
Just Announced: Over the weekend, at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, OH, IFBB Pro League athletes contended at the 22nd Annual IFBB Pro Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic Bodybuilding Championships. On Saturday afternoon, the International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness judges' panel had a difficult task at the Arnold Classic prejudging event, which is the only time during the bodybuilding competition that all the competitors appear onstage at the same time. This year's field of 13 hungry pro athletes was scrutinized by the judges to decide who would advance to the finals that evening.

The judges mixed up the lineup during the group "call-out" rounds to compare and contrast the physiques performing the compulsory poses and to determine the best physique in terms musculature, balanced development, muscular density, definition. symmetry, conditioning, aesthetics and mass.

Early predictions rotated names like IFBB Pro K. Greene, IFBB Pro Phil Heath, IFBB Pro Dexter Jackson and IFBB Pro Branch Warren as top contenders. So it was no surprise that these athletes comprised the first call-out group. All of these competitors, and then some, were in remarkable shape. So the ultimate winner would simply be a good selection from among a good selection.

Greene was lean and mean with freaky mass and a defending champion's swagger on his side. He had deep-valley cuts to go with his style he uses to his advantage to show the house that hardcore bodybuilding built. He is a living comic-book character, and the champ would not go quietly.

Heath's wel-constructed physique was marked by mounds of round, pumped muscle. He was a pre-show favorite and it is apparent why. He seemed to pose the biggest threat to Greene, if on popularity alone. His lone physique issue becomes apparent when standing next to Greene, specifically the visual illusion of a sweeping, broad pec-to-shoulder span, which he easily fixes when posing.

Warren was who Branch Warren always is -- beastly in size, dry in condition, but not overwhelmingly "classically aesthetic." He seems to be riding the wave of his 2nd runner-up finish at 2009 Joe Weider's Olympia Weekend, but it's unclear if his brand of bulk translates to an Arnold Classic 1st place trophy -- even though he has won the "Most Muscular" Award multiple times.

Dexter Jackson looked acceptable, but the man called "The Blade" has come in more peeled on previous occasions. As an Olympia titleholder, Jackson "needed" this victory more than anyone to solidify a legacy that is seemingly teetering on a trajectory that is no longer rocketing upward at the same rate it once was.

The second call-out group consisted of IFBB Pro Toney Freeman, IFBB Pro Ronny Rockel, IFBB Pro Roelly Winklaar, IFBB Pro Hidetada Yamagishi, and IFBB Pro Melvin Anthony. Freeman is simply a behemoth, but a behemoth with fine lines and a pleasing shape. Has he been more peeled in the past? Sure, but his height alone made him a fearsome presence. Rockel presented an ever-improving physique, refining his symmetry, shape and size, but he still needs some sort of physical siren to get even more of the growing attention starting to come his way. Winklaar made a commendable pro debut, bringing a shape (along with cuts and density) that is prime for the top tier but not quite level with the vets yet. 

Yamagishi looked fairly crisp, yet at certain angles he needs more 3-D work to display the full dimensions of the Mack trucks near the top of this pack. Anthony looked, well, almost normal, in the sense that not much about this athlete who is widely regarded as part of what I call the ABC (Aesthetic Bodybuilders Club) was standout enough to bump him to the top.

The third call-out group consisted of  IFBB Pro Robert Piotrkowicz, IFBB Pro Tarek Elsetouhi, IFBB Pro Johnnie Jackson and IFBB Pro Sergey Shelestov. Piotrkowicz needs more time and space to get the product on par with the top-shelf guys, beginning with his wheels. Elsetouhi has mass, but the composition needs work, i.e., crispier balance will be key to advance. Johnnie Jackson was rolling on the riptide, with ripped cuts that couldn't, however, overcome a lower body that needs targeted development to contend. Shelestov has brawn but needs additional overall muscle dimension to get a second glance.

One physique the judges didn't have to consider was that of IFBB Pro Silvio Samuel, who finished in 5th place at the 2009 Arnold Classic but withdrew from this year's contest, deciding instead to use this time to refine his physique for the later part of the IFBB Pro League contest season.

On another note, it's surprising that there is no 202 Division in the Arnold Classic. Granted, it was only last year that the 202 Division was added to the Olympia main stage. Step by step the smaller giants are getting their due at other pro contests throughout the year, and they may eventually get a chance to shine in the future at the Arnold Sports Festival as well.

ARNOLD CLASSIC FINALS
The emotion and enthusiasm in the auditorium was palpable as the lineup of 13 athletes at this prestigious. invitation-only competition were announced. 2009 Arnold Classic Champ IFBB Pro K. Greene returned to the Veterans Memorial stage in Columbus to defend the title. After a 4th place finish at his Olympia debut, Greene was ready to revisit the stage where he had actually experienced 1st place victory.

"This is the 22nd year of the Arnold Classic, and each year the level of competition gets better and better," said Arnold Classic co-producer Jim Lorimer.  

Greene went toe-to-toe with 12 other top IFBB Pro League bodybuilders also fighting for one of the largest prizes in pro bodybuilding - a $130,000 check, a $20,000 luxury watch, a Tony Nowak Arnold Classic jacket, and the 1st place Arnold Classic trophy. Greene claimed the overall winner's crown at the 22nd Annual IFBB Pro Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic Bodybuilding Championships, making it two in a row. Young phenom IFBB Pro Phil Heath placed 2nd in the competitive contest. Massive IFBB Pro Branch Warren finished in 3rd place. IFBB Pro Dexter Jackson took 4th place, and IFBB Pro Toney Freeman occupied the 5th place spot.

During the evening finals, the scores from the afternoon prejudging event are thrown out and the top competitors start from zero, which is good for Greene who actually trailed Heath by three points in the pre-judging scores. The finals kicked off with the first of two rounds -- the individual posing routines set to music. While this free-posing round is not scored and factored into the final decision, it represents the entertainment that draws many fans.

For the second year in a row, Greene was rewarded for his stage presentation with the "Best Poser" Award and an additional $10,000. Moving a 255-pound physique like liquid stone, Greene's seems to be dominating this aspect of the game (something vets like Melvin Anthony used to do).

The second of the two rounds - the side-by-side comparisons of eight compulsory poses - represents the battle for the placings and, ultimately, the crown.

The champ took to the stage, displaying round muscle bellies that bubble from top to bottom, massive low-hanging lats and full pecs sitting atop flared quads. Even though the Top 6 competitors were all in phenomenal shape, Greene came in drier than he was in the morning. The way the various muscles fit into the puzzle of his physique drew the judges' favor.

Phil Heath had dropped in Olympia placings last year (from 3rd to 5th). While he skipped the Arnold Classic last year, this year he was hoping to improve upon his 2nd place at the 2008 Arnold Classic. His prejudging scores had him headed toward his first win, but is he the future of the sport as many suggest? It seems a little more time will tell the story.

Heath was massive looking, with etched abs, monstrous biceps and meaty legs, but landed in 2nd place in the finals once again. The guy looked borderline phenomenal, so it's no wonder only centimeters separated him from the title. His overall flow, while commendable, doesn't read quite as sweeping as Greene's does, but his build is undeniable. With his crowd-revving wildebeest facial expressions on stage, Heath is pumped-up, electric youth. Greene is thick, oil-slick symphony. Both styles can win shows.

Although Branch Warren was the runner-up to Jackson in his Arnold Classic debut in 2006, he won the Most Muscular Award back then -- the first time in Arnold Sports Festival history a non-winner was given the award. Ironically, Warren has never won the Arnold Classic, but he had won the Most Muscular Award three times before this weekend.

Three seems to be the not-so-magic number for Warren. While it's undoubtedly a respectable placing in any contest, in this show, it doesn't represent advancement for the big Texan, who also finished in 3rd place at last year's Arnold Classic. Warren is burly personified, evidenced by winning his fourth Most Muscular Award at this year's show. He never fails to bring the beastly thickness -- huge quads, hamstrings and calves, and a gradually widening back, which may bring him the balance his body needs.

Three-time Arnold Classic champion and 2008 Mr. Olympia Dexter Jackson was extra hungry for some 1st-place cake. He lost the Olympia title in 2009 to IFBB Pro Jay Cutler, falling back to 3rd place and breaking the long string of multiple, back-to-back Olympia winners. If Jackson had won this past weekend, he would have tied IFBB Pro Flex Wheeler's all-time Arnold Classic record of four wins. But alas, one of the most consistent physiques in the game is not the most overwhelmingly massive. Again, the vet "needed" this win more than anyone, but he had to settle for 4th place and consider that some shift will need to occur in his body to thwart guys who came into the game after him but are gradually outshining him.

The adrenaline-pumping posedown is the competitors' last chance to give the judges and crowd a look at how they stack up against each other. The remaining athletes ranked as follows: IFBB Pro Ronny Rockel (6th), IFBB Pro Roelly Winklaar (7th), IFBB Pro Hidetada Yamagishi (8th), IFBB Pro Melvin Anthony (9th), IFBB Pro Robert Pietrkowicz (10th), IFBB Pro Tarek Elsetouhi (11th), IFBB Pro Johnnie Jackson (12th) and IFBB Pro Sergey Shelestov (13th).

After his victory, Greene nipped the already buzzing Olympia talk in the bud. "Before we even start thinking about the future. I want to digest this evening first. And realize that this was a long time coming and it definitely didn't happen overnight," said the champ. "This is about work and tireless effort and having the right people who are just as focused and committed as you are."

"Bodybuilding is a steppingstone. At the root of this experience is my self-mastery. I'm developing myself. There's a much deeper meaning going on here than just the physicality of getting onstage with great arms," Greene went on to say. "These are tremendous athletes who have worked hard over the years to distinguish themselves with the things they have standing to their credit."

Ever the gracious winner, Greene stated, "I don't want to celebrate this accomplishment tonight in a way that minimizes the better efforts of the other men who came here and represented themselves as best they could. I want to thank the other athletes who came in tonight. It makes me bring my best in order to be rewarded."

ANDREW OYE'S VERDICT

The champ accepted his overall award, presented by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, departing with words of gratitude and an encouraging message about goal-setting and the possibly of achievement. Hmm, achievement. There seemed to be a lot of that going on at the Arnold Sports Festival this past weekend.

The 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Hollywood action-movie star Sylvester Stallone by his buddy, event host and fellow action-movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Decked in dark shades and speaking with his signature raw-dog drawl, Stallone accepted the award to a standing ovation for his contribution to the world of bodybuilding and fitness via his muscle-fueled action flicks. 

Future IFBB Pro card-carrier Essa Obaid won the the Super-Heavyweight and Overall titles at the Arnold Amateur Bodybuilding Championships (like Winklaar and Elsetouhi before him). As always, the Arnold Classic featured quality pro-muscle competitors chasing a coveted bodybuilding title granted by a legend of the sport -- 7-time Mr. Olympia IFBB Pro Arnold Schwarzenegger (who belongs to the distinguished class of Olympia-winning bodybuilders including IFBB Pro Larry Scott, IFBB Pro Sergio Oliva, IFBB Pro Frank Zane, IFBB Pro Franco Columbu, IFBB Pro Samir Bannout, IFBB Pro Dorian Yates, IFBB Pro Lee Haney, IFBB Pro Ronnie Coleman and others).

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