This year there may be no Ms. Olympia, but instead, the Wings of
Strength Rising Phoenix World Championships took it's place and in
doing so also presented one of the biggest purses in all of
bodybuilding with a $115,000 prize awaiting the first place champion in
the form of $50,000 in cash and a custom Jeep valued at over $65,000.
San Antonio hosted this first-time event and promoter extraordinaire Tim Gardener
teamed up with Wings of Strength to put on the show, which was also
part of a bigger weekend that included the Wings of Strength Texas Pro
(Masters Women's Bodybuilding, Pro Figure, Masters Figure and Pro
Women's Physique and Masters Physique) as well as the NPC Tim Gardener
Texas Extravaganza National Qualifier.
Much of the buzz though was about how this show had such a big prize
pool for the female bodybuilders (more than the Ms. Olympia had when it
was running). In fact, the womens cash prize for first was five
times that of the IFBB Pro Men's first place check - perhaps an
unprecedented occasion (I'm sure IFBB Women's Historian Steve
Wennestrom would know the answer).
A total of 15 IFBB Pro women took the stage to battle it out for the
Jeep and $50,000 and in the end it was a heated battle between Helle
Neilsen and Margie Martin. Both were always in the middle
during prejudging and the judges put the two, alongside Debi Laszewski,
Yaxeni Oriquen and Alana Shipp through the ringer for about five or six
rounds of comparisons - it was that close.
While the final scoresheet may show it being closer, it was a battle
that could have gone either way with the judges rewarding Martin the
overall title. Neilsen may have been better conditioned but the
lines Martin showcased and her genetics overcame that. Neilsen
will definitely be a threat in the future as she has consistently been
showing up in top shape at her recent competitions and seems to only be
Post show we caught up with her and said she had talked to the judges
who said she could bring up her back to match her otherworldly lower
body so she was already talking about how excited she was to get back
to Gold's Venice to train back and cause an eclipse next year when she
takes the stage casting a shadow over all the judges when she hits her
first back shot!
Third and Fourth went to two veterans, Laszewski and Oriquen
respectively. Laszewski had worked on tweaking her physique to
bring a revamped look to the stage while Oriquen seems to have lost a
bit of her edge coming in a little less full than previously. The top
five was rounded out by another rising star, Alana Shipp, while another
young pro, Aleesha Young, looked great in taking sixth with lots of
thick muscle that she presented well.
Coming back around to the show itself, it was quite intense during
prejuding knowing that first place was a $50,000 cash prize and the
custom Jeep, whereas second got $25,000. $25K is nothing to
sneeze at but the top prize was quite impressive and with the judges
putting the top group through their paces for mutliple rounds of
comparisons it almost felt like a heavyweight bout with Neilsen and
Martin throwing poses for pose to see who could gain the edge.
Many thought they would be re-judged again at finals and indeed they
were. The Finals had some nice touches and since this was the
first year, you had to expect them to try things out to make an
impression. The introductory volcano scene and reveal of all the
competitors was pretty cool (see lead photo above). The volcano
perhaps could have been more impressive but hey, the audience was there
to see the physiques, not pyrotechnics.
Also when the athletes came out to do their routines, they all had an
intro bumper. For some, it was a video montage, but for others,
just their name. It would have been nice if they were all more
consistent and similar in tone etc. The variances were more that
not all the athletes chose to provide the content required for the
video intros but perhaps it's something that can be tweaked for 2016?
Also on the the topic of other things that we'd love to see in 2016,
for the special invites it would be nice if they could perhaps send out
provisional special invites far enough ahead of the competiton so
athletes could prep knowing they would be doing the show. It's
kind of a catch-22 though since you want people to earn their spots
through competing, but if there were specific athletes they wanted for
sure that had any sort of issues making competitions, etc. they could
provide a provisional special invite earlier in the year so they could
prep etc. (Maybe even one for the overall NPC USA champion for
There were far more positives though such as the great first class
treatment the athletes got and a well run production. We only
cite the above as ways to improve the Rising Phoenix World
Championships and look forward to covering the 2016 edition!