One of the few IFBB events that are by invite only has become one of the most prestigious events of the year. The 26th Annual Arnold Classic will be held Feb. 28 – March 1, 2014. New this year will be the Arnold Classic 212 division. Absent from the line-up will be the Ms. International. The fields in the Fitness, Figure and Bikini International contests are some of the strongest you’ll see all year.
Leading the way in Fitness is defending champion, Tanji Johnson. She’ll look to fend off top contenders like Oksana Grishina and Bethany Cisternino. One of Canada’s brightest Fitness Stars, Myriam Capes will also be back looking to take top honors. The all-time winningest fitness pro, Adela Garcia will not be in the line-up for the second year in a row.
Nicole Wilkins is back after sitting out the Figure International. She’ll look to reclaim the title currently held by Candice Keene. Look for Keene and Wilkins to be your front-runners in the event. Heather Dees, Camala Rodriquez and Ann Titone will also be strong contenders for the top five. Keep an eye on newcomers Alicia Coates who won her first two pro shows and the NPC National Figure Champ, Elissa Martis. Fan favorites, Larissa Reis and Ava Cowan will look to get back into the top spots. Mallory Haldeman and Erin Stern both finished in the top six last year however opted out of the show this year.
The leading ladies from the Bikini Olympia will be on stage in Columbus and good luck trying to predict who will win this one. Ashley Kaltwasser was tenth at this show last year but finished the year the new Olympia champion. Yeshaira Robles and Stacey Alexander had their best finishes in Vegas by going second and third and will look to be in the mix again at this event. Juliana Daniell has one the the most athletic physiques and returns to the stage after sitting out last year. Look for her to mix things up in the top spots. Courtney King will make a run at the top five in her Arnold debut. The champ, India Paulino is back to defend her title but as you can see will have her work cut out for her to hold onto the crown. Nathalia Melo is on the path to redemption after finishing second here last year and going the year without a win. Look for her to be at her all-time best. Amanda Latona will try to shake things up in the top spots along with seasoned vet Jessica Mone (formerly Paxson). Janet Layug will be making her pro debut and talk about jumping into the deep end of the pro pool. Will see if she sinks or swims with this line-up. Of course you can’t count out Canada’s Justine Munro who has come into her own the last year and a half.
If you’re a gambler, don’t bet on Bikini. The only sure thing is that you’ll lose trying to predict the top spots in order on that one.
The Men’s line up is stacked this year with Shawn “Flexatron” Rhoden, Victor Martinez, Brandon Curry, Roelly Winklaar, Dennis Wolf and others. The 212 Arnold Classic will likely end up being a duel between Olympia champ Flex Lewis and runner-up David Henry. Jose Raymond will look to get back into the top spots after finishing the season on a low note.
Congratulations to all who were selected and best of luck in your prep. It’s never easy dieting through the holidays and in the winter months but the sacrifice will be worth it if you’re the one shaking Arnold’s hand after a victory.
Fitness International (15)
Figure International (17)
Bikini International (16)
Arnold Classic (13)
Arnold Classic 212 (10)
Richard “Tricky” Jackson
James “Flex” Lewis
Angel Rangel Vargas
The events will take place at Veteran Memorial and the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Visit www.ticketmaster.com/arnold or 800-745-3000 for ticket information.VIP Ticket Packages and individual event tickets are available. Daily EXPO tickets are available for $10 in advance (plus service charge) or $15 at the door of all Arnold Sports Festival venues. Children 10 and under free.