When the 2014 Arnold lists were announced in December, it appeared to be a two-woman race for the coveted Figure International title. After sitting out the 2013 Arnold, Nicole Wilkins’ name was on the list and, coming off a win at the Olympia, she seemed poised to win in Columbus once again. Defending champ Candice Keene was also on the list and, with Erin Stern’s name absent, you had to figure it was a Wilkins versus Keene show. That was, of course, until Nicole announced she would not be competing in the show due to a nagging shoulder injury.
Four of last year’s top 10 will not be absent from the 2014 line-up—most notably third-place finisher Erin Stern and fifth-place Mallory Haldeman. Cheryl Brown and Kamla Macko rounded out the top 10 last year, but they're also absent from this year’s lineup. With such an open stage, the 2014 Figure International may be Candice Keene’s show to lose.
Here's a look at the full lineup, followed by my predictions for the top 10.
Katie is an international competitor who tends to come in vascular and with a lot of muscle on her frame. She has monster delts and muscular quads, which makes her waist appear much smaller from the front. She was 13th at the Figure Olympia and, while she holds her own in the front poses, she’ll need to come into this show with much tighter glutes. I’d like to see her not flex her quads in the front poses, as the separation she demonstrated at the Olympia was closer to women’s physique than figure. I’d like to see a bit more width to her lats from the back, as well. She’ll have to bring an entirely different look to this line up if she wants to crack the top six.
Dana will be making her Arnold debut and has put together a string of successful showings since turning pro at the 2012 NPC Jr. Nationals. Dana’s lowest finish as a pro is 10th, which she placed at her Olympia debut. She had a successful run in 2013 with five top-five finishes, and she earned her first victory at the Dallas Europa. Dana is one competitor that many people may be sleeping on, but don’t be shocked if she is in the top 10 and a contender for the top six spot. While she could add a bit more detail to her back, Dana’s back pose is where she makes up some ground on the other competitors. She always comes in tight and balanced. She continues to add some size to her quads, which helps her from the front. While I’d like to see her tilt forward just a bit more in her front pose, look for Dana to hold her own in Columbus.
This Arizona girl has heated things up since turning pro at the 2013 NPC JR Nationals. She won the D class but lost the overall. That was the last time she tasted defeat. She went on a string of victories as a pro to close out 2013. Alicia debuted with a victory at the Kentucky Muscle Pro and followed it up with another victory at the Felicia Romero Classic. Winning a pro show is a huge accomplishment, and winning your first two pro shows puts you in elite company. Now it’s time for Alicia to test herself against some of the biggest guns. No disrespect to Alicia or the competitors in her first two pro shows, but the Arnold is another level of competition. It’s where you see how you hang with the leading ladies in the division.
Can Alicia hang? Yes, but it won’t be a walk in the park. She has a good look and will definitely stand out. I’d like to see more thickness to her back, especially in the upper areas. She brought her legs down from the NPC Jr. Nationals into her pro shows, and she'll need to match that look in Columbus. She’s a little shallow through the upper chest, and I’d like for her ribs not to show in her front poses. That said, she has the chance to finish in the money here.
We haven’t seen Ava on stage since the 2013 Figure International where she finished seventh. Recently, she’s openly shared her struggles to get back into a contest-ready position after suffering an injury last year. Will she return to top form? That’s the question that looms, and we won’t know the answer until we see her on stage. She’s never finished out of the top 10 as a pro and should finish in the top 10 once again. Still, with hungry newcomers to the lineup, it won’t be easy. Ava tends to mix up her look not only with her physique, but also her hair color and style. She tends to go back and forth between a hard and softer look. If she brings a similar look as she did to the 2013 Figure International, she could be a top-six finisher. If she doesn’t measure up, she’ll be fighting for the top 10.
Heather Dees has slowly refined her physique and made changes to her look over the years. She’s brought up her legs and her delts to help give her waist a smaller look. She used to appear blocky in the mid-section during her earlier competitions as a pro. She was second at this show last year, and she’s obviously looking to move up into that winner’s position. I like the look she brought to the Houston Pro, where she finished second. If she brings that to the stage, she’ll be in the mix. She won the California Governor’s Cup the last two years and hasn’t finished out of the top five since the 2011 Olympia. Look for her to be in the first callout being compared for the win once again.
Amanda is no stranger to this stage, but her last time competing at the Arnold was in 2003. She’ll definitely be the veteran of the line-up, and the lone representative of Australia. She’s coming off a 14th place finish at the California Governor’s Cup. Her highest finish as a figure pro was a pair of sixth place finishes at the 2012 Sheru Classic and the 2013 Australian Pro. I don’t see her cracking the top 10 in this competitive field, but never say never. She’ll need to tweak little things like her posing, especially from the back, as she tends to flare her arms out a bit too far to the side.
Allison has been on a roller coaster when it comes to placing since achieving pro status at the 2011 Team Universe. She’s been as high as second and as low as 11th. This will be her first time competing at the Arnold, and she’ll have her work cut out for her to get into the top six spots. She’s come a long way since turning pro, adding muscle and a refined the look to her physique. Structurally, she’s not as genetically gifted as some of the other competitors, so she has an uphill battle from the get-go. You have to give her props for how far she’s come in the last three years. She could sneak into the top six, but a top 10 finish would be a solid showing for Allison in this line-up.
Karina Grau (Karina Grau Servin)
Karina is a virtual unknown in this line-up. She comes to the competition by way of Paraguay and has competed in Columbus before as an amateur. She finished out of the top 10 in the 2012 Arnold Amateur. Her win at the inaugural Arnold Classic Brasil Amateur granted her pro status. Karina has one pro show to her credit. She finished 13th in her pro debut and will need to bring a tighter look with improved posing to hang in the top spots at this show. If she brings a look similar to the Arnold Brasil, she could be in the hunt for the top ten. She has the muscle; her placing will come down to her conditioning and posing.
The champ is back, and she has a target on her back. Candice has positioned herself as the one to beat and, as the defending champ, she’s earned that right. She’s one of six women to win the title since it was introduced to the Arnold Sports Festival in 2003. She’ll look to join the elite by winning it more than once, an honor only Jenny Lynn, Mary Lado, and Nicole Wilkins have earned. She was third at the 2013 Olympia and, with Nicole and Erin both out of the picture, Candice is her own biggest competitor.
You have to go all the way back to 2009 to find a show where Candice was out of the top 10, and she hasn’t been out of the top five in three years. She was eighth at this show in 2011 and third in 2012 before winning it last year. Candice also had a break out year in 2013, recording three pro victories. If she can duplicate the look she brought to the stage in 2013, she’ll be the champ. If there’s one thing I’d like to see her improve, it’s her abs. It could be a genetic thing, but it’s the one body part that lacks in her physique.
Candice is one of the "bubble" girls in this line-up: She could be in the hunt for a top spot or she could be on the outside of the top six looking in—it all depends on what look she brings to the stage. Heading into the Olympia, Candice was a bit out of her element, and you could tell she was off her game. A move from Arizona to Denver might have been part of it, but now that she’s settled, that shouldn’t be an issue. The ninth place finish at the 2013 Olympia was her lowest finish as a pro and, after a stellar 2012 season, she’ll be looking to get back in the top spots. She was fourth at this show last year and, if her legs are down in size and she nails her conditioning, she’ll be in the mix once again.
Candice has a nice look and tiny waist, but her biggest challenge is her legs not looking overly muscular. It’s the one downside of years of running track. Still, Candice has proven she can be a top-five contender. She has six pro victories to her credit since turning pro at the 2011 NPC Jr. Nationals.
Elissa will be making her pro debut. She’ll make her presence known straight out of the gate. She carries a lot of muscle on her frame, but she has a good look. She’s always smiling and, while it might seem silly, when you see it on stage you can't help but be drawn to the positive energy she exudes. The biggest challenge she faces is her lack of stage time. In 2013, Elissa was second in her class at the NPC Battle on the Beach. She followed that with another runner-up finish at the Southeast Classic.
Elissa won her class at the 2013 NPC Jr. GB and narrowly missed out on a pro card. She slipped to seventh at the Team Universe contest before winning her class and the overall title at the NPC Nationals. This will be her sixth show ever. Don’t be shocked if she is compared for a top six spot. She has the potential to shake things up. The two biggest things that could hold Elissa back are her muscularity and her conditioning. She’ll need to be lean but not ripped. She’s definitely this show’s x-factor.
Larissa carries a ton of muscle on her frame, and many thought she’d make the move to the physique division. She didn’t compete in 2013, and the last time we saw her on stage was the 2012 Arnold Europe, where she finished sixth. She was 10th at the 2012 Olympia and finished sixth at the Figure International. She was sixth at this contest in 2010, 11th in 2011, and seventh in 2012. Larissa could crack the top 10, but I don’t see her in the mix for the top six. If she comes in conditioned without looking overly muscular, she’ll place. I’d like to see her posing a bit more refined, specifically in how she positions her arms.
Camala was a runner up at the 2012 Fitness International. She made her Figure International debut last year, where she finished sixth. She should be in the mix for top six once again, but it will all come down to her conditioning. She was seventh at the 2013 Olympia and is coming off a win at the Houston Pro. When it comes to competing, she’s her own worst enemy. Camala tends to be inconsistent with the bigger shows because she changes what works at the smaller shows. If she brings a look like she did to the 2013 Olympia and Houston Pro, she’ll be a real contender. If she comes in too big, too muscular, or not as conditioned, she’ll be left outside the top six.
This will be Giadi’s second trip to the Figure International. She was 16th last year, and if she works on some small details, she can move up this time around. Many times the international competitions tend to award a slightly leaner and more muscular look than shows in the GB. Like many international competitors, Giadi can often come in too lean. If she changes her suit cut, it would make a big difference in the look of her physique, especially from the back.
Gennifer struggled early in her pro career for coming in flat and losing muscle heading into a show. She was eighth at the 2013 Olympia, but before that she won the Pittsburgh Pro and Powerhouse Pro. This will be her third time competing at the Figure International, and she has yet to crack the top six. Gen was ninth in 2012 and placed eighth at last year’s Arnold. Genetically, she doesn’t have the same flowing lines to her physique as some of the other competitors, especially from the back. I’d like to see her with a bit more width to her lats and detail to her back. She has huge delts, which can help give the illusion of a smaller waistline, but she has to watch her vascularity and make sure she's not too shredded.
Ann is another competitor who has transformed her physique over the past two years. She’s brought up her upper body and improved the size of her legs. She’s brought the illusion of a smaller waist to the stage and is coming off her best showing in a big show. She was sixth at the 2013 Olympia and, before that, nabbed two pro wins in a row in Chicago and Toronto. Ann is a great example of being patient and putting in the work away from the stage. I look for Ann to bring an even more improved physique to the stage and finish in the top six. She was 11th at this show last year and, if you’re a gambler, put your money on Ann improving on that placing this year.
Natalie is the lone representative of Canada in this line-up. She’s tasted victory in Columbus before, but it was at the 2008 Arnold Amateur. She was 16th at this contest last year, and her placings have been all over the map. When it comes to the big shows—Arnold and Olympia—she struggles to crack the top 10. She fares better at the smaller shows. Natalie will be one of the smaller competitors in this line-up and will have to hope to get a look based on her structure. It’s not an impossible goal, but it’s a challenging one. Natalie tends to be consistent with her conditioning. It’s her lack of muscle compared to the others in this line-up that will be her biggest obstacle.
As always, the outcome depends on who brings their A-game, but it wouldn’t be a preview piece if there weren’t predictions. Here are my predictions, but feel free to voice yours in the comments, and be sure to check out the webcast here on Jyoto.info!
TOP 10 PREDICTIONS
- Candice Keene
- Heather Dees
- Ann Titone
- Camala Rodriquez
- Alicia Coates
- Dana Ambrose
- Candice Lewis
- Elissa Martis
- Gen Strobo
- Ava Cowan