Erin Stern Takes Over Pro Figure Throne

•September 28, 2010 • 1 Comment

Stern Statement: The Sunshine State's own Erin won the 2010 Figure Olympia Saturday night. Photo credit Dan Ray.

Erin Stern made a bold statement this past spring when she finished runner-up behind reigning Figure Olympia champ Nicole Wilkins-Lee at the Arnold Classic. Over the weekend, the fancy heel was on the other foot as Erin edged Nicole to win the 2010 edition of the Big O in Las Vegas.

The 30-year-old resident of Tampa, Florida became the third different competitor to capture the crown in as many years, a sharp contrast to the current dynasties in other divisions — Adela Garcia won a second straight fitness title (fourth in the last five), and invincible Iris Kyle remained bodybuilding’s Ms. Olympia a fifth consecutive year — but that could change.

Many believed Nicole was equal to the challenge and looking perhaps better than last year — improvements to her upper body and a stylish new haircut had fans (including me) buzzing about a repeat — but, alas, it was the consistently elegant and classy Erin bringing a similarly flawless physique, remarkable poise and championship confidence that proved just enough to snatch the grand prize away from the grasp of the great Michigan competitor.

Trailing the titanic pair, Heather Mae French entered as a good sleeper pick with three wins to her credit this season but settled again for third place. The feisty 33-year-old shortie from Denver, Colorado — winner of this year’s New Zealand, Pittsburgh and California Pro shows — should remain a contender although several improving hopefuls will be eager to scramble the top three come next fall.

New Pro Skadi Frei-Seifert Starts Strong

•September 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

IFBB Pro bodybuilder Skadi Frei-Seifert

East German bodybuilder Skadi Frei-Seifert hopes to build on a successful rookie campaign in the IFBB ranks this summer, during which she followed a 13th place finish at the Tampa Pro with a sixth place showing at the Europa Battle of Champions. The hardcore 34-year-old lifter — whose dream came true when she turned pro with a heavyweight and overall win at last year’s German International Championships — is already looking ahead to the 2011 FIBO Power Pro Championships.

Skadi’s recent string of accomplishments came as no surprise; she’s been a successful athlete all her life, starting in elementary school when she began running track & field and excelling in events like the javelin and discus throw. Still training at least four times a week, by the time she took on University studies in sports sciences as a teenager in 1995, it was clear she was on her way to a lifetime interest in the health and fitness world.

Before launching her career in physique competitions, Skadi became a certified fitness instructor, worked as a physical education teacher, and spent time in Switzerland where she managed the national professional cycling team. She first took the stage in bodyfitness shows — winning two of them — back in 2004 before eventually crossing over to bodybuilding.

You can keep up with Skadi on her website. Meanwhile, check out a new sample clip from her recent Las Vegas shoot. The European champion’s 5-foot-6, 160-pound frame is highlighted by deadly 25-inch quads and massive 16½-inch calves.

Interview with Figure Competitor Courtney Bynog

•September 16, 2010 • 2 Comments

Courtney Bynog is an extremely busy bee. Considering the 36-year-old full-time mom juggles a lifelong love of working closely with Quarter Horses and other animals on her Louisiana ranch, raising two outstanding children, and tirelessly training for appearances, photoshoots and competitions in what has rapidly become an increasingly significant role as one of the leading talents in the world of figure, you wonder how she has any free time at all.

“Angel” on the Rise: Coached by Kim Oddo, Courtney will be a serious contender on the figure stage in 2011.

With this in mind, I must extend extra thanks to the ambitious, hard-working and amazingly beautiful Southern Belle for setting aside a few moments from her demanding schedule to do this interview. Courtney has been one of my favorite girls on the site from the very beginning — long before she shook up the figure world by winning the 2009 Emerald Cup figure overall in only her second show — and remains one as she continues her quest towards qualifying for the pro ranks.

The way Courtney cheerfully manages to single-handedly balance all her responsibilities — including faithfully sticking to contest diets and enduring all those seemingly endless cardio sessions — with energy and enthusiasm to spare makes her one of the most appealing and admirable as well as dynamic and inspiring women in the industry. Time for a closer look at this quintessential Supergirl and Supermom.


Dean: Back in high school you competed as a powerlifter. Did you play any other sports growing up?

Courtney: “Yes, I did play other sports besides powerlifting. I was a cheerleader, played softball, gymnastics and rode horses.”

Dean: Explain a little bit about your work as a Quarter Horse breeder. How long have you been involved with it and do you also work with other animals? Do you ever have any trouble meeting the physical demands of the job?

Dazzling Superstar: The future figure covergirl flexes playfully during a shoot.

Courtney: “My love for horses started when I was a little girl and never grew out of it. I definitely love all animals and had several growing up. Actually, I have several now — horses, dogs, cats, chicken, rabbits — my little farm, lol. But as far as my horse farm, I started breeding Quarter Horses for racing in 2001. It can be quite challenging at times. The physical demand comes more around when I work with weanling (babies). You have to overpower them sometimes if they are not used to humans. But as they get older it’s more of a mind game and being quick on your feet (to move out of the way when they want to paw, kick or run over you). And then the fun part when you have to help deliver!”

Dean: Being one our fittest moms on the site, would you share some thoughts and opinions from your family regarding your figure career? What do your children think of your physique? Have they picked up any of your healthy habits — either with nutrition, exercise or both?

Courtney: “Aww, thank you! I have such wonderful children (boy, 15 years and a girl, 11 years). They both are so understanding and supportive. And yes, they both have benefited from watching me train and diet. Not only do they like and want to eat healthy and workout (my son of course wants ‘big muscles’ and is wanting to do powerlifting in high school and my daughter just wants to ‘live a healthy life’ and cheer & dance), but they learned discipline, determination and setting goals.”

Dean: Back to some strength questions. Not too many figure girls go for max lifts, but a former powerlifter might. Do you still like to challenge yourself by throwing around the heavy plates? Could you share some of your best lifts?

Courtney: “Well, honestly I haven’t maxed out since high school (high school max was bench 125, squat 275 and deadlift 310), but I have just started to lift a little heavier to gain where I need it most. I’ve been too scared (and lazy) to lift heavy ever since high school because of a slipped disc (too painful and took forever to heal if I flared it up).”

“Weight” Until Next Year: The Louisiana belle posted a nationals best at Team Universe this summer and will only get better.

Dean: How about describing an instance, either at the gym or in public, when a friend or training partner reacted surprised by your physique or strength? Have you ever armwrestled?

Courtney: “LOL, I did arm wrestle just playing around at times. Funny thing is that I did beat a few men (boys). It’s pretty crazy how much attention, comments and questions I get ever since I competed. I’ve always been known as ‘fit and muscular,’ but it seems that I get WAY more eyes on and comments now than ever before (has to be the low body fat, more veiny).”

Dean: On the contest trail, you had the honor of handing out awards at this year’s Emerald Cup. As the returning champ, how did it feel coming back to the stage where you won your first figure overall title? Did everyone treat you like a celebrity?

Courtney: “Yes, I did and I was so honored to be able to hand over the trophy/crown along with Alicia Marie and Branch and Trish Warren. I felt like I was as important and popular as they were, lol.”

Dean: You also presented your good friend Patty Zariello with a trophy for finishing third in her class. Where did you two beautiful girls first meet and did you do anything else together or have any other adventures while you were in Seattle?

Courtney: “That was also an honor and neat to be able to hand my good friend Patty her trophy as well. It’s crazy how she and I met and had so much in common. She and I competed at the ’09 Cal State show and met backstage. After talking, we realized we had the same trainer, Kim Oddo, which we both met through Monica Brant’s FEM camp and both were asked to work the BNRG [Bio Nutritional Research Group] booth at the GNC convention with Monica. From that point on, we have been following each other at shows and working together at BNRG booths. We have become long distance BFFs!”

Dean: Now that you’ve had a taste of national-level competition, what kinds of things, presentation or physique-wise, have you been working on to try and impress the judges — and hopefully win a pro card — next time you take the stage?

Figure BFFs: Courtney poses her peaked bicep for the camera while pretty pal Patty Zariello looks on.

Courtney: “I have certainly learned so much in my short year and half of competing and going to different bodybuilding events. I have also learned there is always something to work on and for me, that would be my presentation and to slim down my waistline (widen my lats).”

Dean: What are your contest plans for this summer and fall?

Courtney: “Last two shows that I did were the Greater Gulf in New Orleans, placing first and overall in Masters and second in open; then went to Team Universe in New Jersey, placing fourth in Masters and sixth in open. Now that I know what I need to work on, which is posing and lats, I will focus on that when I train next time. I plan on taking the rest of the year off and attempting another show in the spring of 2011!”

Dean: Thanks so much for doing this interview, Courtney. Hope we can catch up again soon. Before I let you go, is there any other news you can share or some friends or trainers you’d like to spread kudos to for helping you during your figure journey?

Courtney: “It’s my pleasure! Thank you for interviewing me. Most definitely, I have to be thankful for my family and friends for supporting me with my fitness goals and more importantly, Kim Oddo, for making me believe in myself that I can do this and being the best trainer (I couldn’t have done it without him), and of course Monica Brant, my mentor who has led me to this level.”

Lauren Quinn Joins Lingerie Football League

•September 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Friday Night Delights: New Chicago Bliss player Lauren Quinn is ready to kickoff the new LFL season.

The league’s notorious pin-up girl dress code makes it prime fodder for derision from feminist pundits, but one must appreciate that many women of the Lingerie Football League not only are beautiful and sexy but fit and athletic.

And they play hard.

Today, Lauren Quinn begins her quest to become the next Great of the Bikini Gridiron as the hard-hitting hardbody from the Windy City takes the field as a new linebacker for the Chicago Bliss. The team opens it’s season at home against Dallas.

As faithful readers know, Lauren is no stranger to full-contact women’s athletics. She played college rugby at the University of Illinois-Chicago and later for the Chicago Sirens professional team.

Sporty Girl Next Door: Lauren poses during her studio photoshoot.

This year, she’ll join a Bliss squad loaded with fresh faces playing for consecutive trips to the championship game in the 10-team league. Last season, the Bliss fell to Los Angeles in the title game.

Just a couple days ago, the team suited up in their pumpkin-colored two-pieces and posed for pictures during media day at a trendy downtown restaurant. Click here to check out more images and other news from the event.

It’s pretty easy to spot Lauren when glimpsing the team picture, smiling with her bulging biceps, rippling abs and powerhouse quads. If opponents try navigating through the middle of the Bliss defense, they better be quick and shifty enough to avoid steely #16.

If not, they face a punishing tackle from the most muscular and strongest girl on the field, if not the entire league. Game on, ladies.

Elsie Wins Class; Alli Rallies at North Americans

•September 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Short & Sweet: Elsie becomes newest A-class champ at last weekend's North Americans.

During my interview with her back in early July, Elsie Velazquez still hadn’t decided whether to compete beyond this year’s Team Universe. “I have a few friends who may be doing North Americans and I am contemplating it but will decide in a few weeks,” she said. “I am exhausted and think I may need a break.”

Exhaustion likely gave way to elation on Saturday night for Elsie, who lined up on stage at North Americans and narrowly missed walking off with a pro card after winning class A. It was easily her best show of the season after finishing 11th in New Jersey and 10th at Jr. Nationals.

Even better was the fact that Elsie, a Cleveland native, captured the win while spinning quarter turns in front a hometown crowd. Glad she decided to go ahead with this show as she was clearly on top of her game.

We’re currently working through a backlog of shoots but stay tuned for more of Elsie, the Mighty Mouse of Figure, coming soon on the studio!

Strong Second: Alli back in contention after best finish ever.

Elsewhere at North Americans, figure overall and class C champ Kaylen McKenzie (a gymnastics coach from Tennessee) along with runner-up and class D winner Meredith Berthelson (a former bodybuilder out of Montana) were the lucky two competitors to turn pro along Lake Erie. Kaylen’s look was an especially dazzling mix of athletic muscle and femininity — she’ll be a rookie to keep an eye on in the IFBB.

And major props to the resurgent Allison Moyer, who finished second in class E and rebounded stirringly from a disappointing showing at Team Universe. The Pennsylvania hardbody brought her best package ever to the national stage and launched herself right back into the pro card sweepstakes.

Followers of Alli’s blog know she was determined not to end up anywhere near last call outs again, and her plucky, inspired effort to claw back to the top — channeling her emotions and energy into correcting flaws in the gym rather than complaining about scoring — shows both how passionate she is about her goals in the sport and what having a winning attitude is all about.

Interview with Figure Competitor Jodi Marchuck

•September 4, 2010 • 1 Comment

Beautiful Jodi Marchuck hits the weights during her shoot.

Originally from the Big Apple, up and coming figure competitor Jodi Marchuck headed west and quickly fell in love with the sun-kissed sands and mild climes of scenic Huntington Beach, California.

Things got even brighter out in the Pacific last fall, when the 29-year-old won the overall in the NPC Tournament of Champions show — topping over thirty fit physiques — in Culver City. That resounding victory launched the 5-foot-3, 126-pound (115 in contest shape) curly-haired brunette into the national spotlight, where she continues to impress after placing eighth in class C at the recent Jr. Nationals.

We caught up with her a couple weeks after the Chicago show for a photoshoot and Jodi showed off her championship-caliber frame, including the dramatic quad sweep that helped her carry off the trophy in the greatest moment of her figure career so far.

The future personal trainer and curvy 2009 Tournament of Champions figure overall winner.

During a quick interview with Jodi last week, I was able to get the scoop on her latest flurry of accomplishments as well as a glimpse towards next season. On the figure stage, many more great moments and trophies lie ahead for the charming and talented native New Yorker turned Surf City girl.


Dean: How did you first get started working out? Did you play any sports in school or were you athletic growing up?

Jodi: “I was 13 and when asked what I wanted for Christmas, I told my dad I wanted a trainer and a gym membership. I didn’t play any sports, but anytime there was any type of track and field events, I participated.”

Dean: What are some of your favorite compliments on your physique that you get from family and friends? Are you also a personal trainer?

Gym Diva: Jodi strikes a pose at the weight rack

Jodi: “I get compliments on my legs, glutes and abs when I’m getting ready for a show. I am currently studying for my ACSM [American College of Sports Medicine] certification.”

Dean: Congrats on capturing the figure overall title at the Tournament of Champions last fall. Winning a show like that on the competitive California stage must have been very satisfying. Do you remember how you felt after winning?

Jodi: “Thank you. I was in shock! When they announced me as the overall winner, I cried!”

Dean: This summer, you looked wonderful and did very well in making the top ten at Jr. Nationals. How was the experience competing with many of the top amateurs? Did you make any improvements or do anything different in the gym to prepare for your national debut?

Jodi will be a pro card contender on the national stage in 2011.

Jodi: “It was great. The girls in my class were very friendly. I improved my overall physique by bringing my glutes and legs down more and increasing my shoulder and back size. (There are still more gains and improvements that we are working on for next season.)”

Dean: Speaking of that, what’s next for you? Are you planning to compete at Nationals or perhaps working a booth at any other shows this season?

Jodi: “I will be competing in the Cal, Jr. Nationals & USAs next year.”

Dean: Jodi, thanks so much for taking time to do this interview! As I let you go please feel free to give a shout out to anyone who might have helped or inspired you along your fitness journey or add anything else you’d like to share. Best of luck in your next show!

Jodi: “I would like to thank my trainers Terry Hairston and Kim Harris for all of their help, support and love that they give me. They are so knowledgeable and helpful. They have taught me so much and I couldn’t have gotten here without them. I love you guys!”

Andrea Giacomi Extends Exit From Bodybuilding Stage

•August 29, 2010 • 2 Comments

Break Time: Bodybuilder Andrea Giacomi is enjoying life away from the stage, for now.

After competing in four shows last year and placing first in two — the Atlantic States and Eastern USA — 35-year-old bodybuilder Andrea Giacomi appears to be continuing the hiatus that kept her from competing in 2010. “Throughout the year so far I have no desire to get on stage again,” she wrote on her blog following the recent USAs. “I kinda want to just move onto other things.”

Other things include a recent move back to her roots on the west coast after living in Manhattan, where Andrea will no doubt find brave new adventures to replace kayaking on the Hudson River and posing at the edge of a cliff while hiking in upstate New York.

Andrea started out doing figure and obstacle course fitness shows before shifting to bodybuilding in 2007. We caught up with the popular California bodybuilder for a photoshoot at her last turn, the ‘09 NPC Nationals; the 5-foot-8, 164-pound athlete — a former track, softball, volleyball and basketball player — finished 13th in the heavyweight class.

Sun-Splashed Muscle: Andrea relaxes by the fountain during her shoot in Florida.

Luckily, even though she doesn’t have the urge to flex under the spotlights in the near future, Andrea won’t be skipping out on the heavy weights in the gym any time soon. “Don’t get me wrong, I have no intentions of losing my muscle,” she promises. “I will continue to train in the gym everyday to maintain what I have.”

Just when she’ll get the itch to resume competing is anyone’s guess, but it’s likely we haven’t seen the last posedown from Andrea. She conveniently leaves the door open for a return, adding, “I never say never because you just never know.” For the latest, be sure to keep up with Andrea on her website and blog.


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