“Oh sh*t”, I believe I said to my sister. Because over there was Chiara, the lady who placed 1st at the BNBF Finals last year (winning her BNBF Pro Card in the process) when I placed 2nd. The last person I expected to see, and pretty much top of my “competitors likely to make me say “oh sh*t” when I’m not in my best condition” list. ;D
However, that’s the nature of this sport: you never know who’s going to turn up on the day, and you never know what they’ll be looking like, either. I reminded myself that, even though I wasn’t as lean as I wanted to be, I’d improved a lot since last year, that the class was anyone’s to win, and that my main goal was to qualify and move through to the Final.
Backstage, I found myself a corner and popped my feet up. My Mum came to find me, and told me that loads of friends and family had arrived. I had a massive support crew, most of whom had never been to a bodybuilding competition before.
My sister was flying back and forth tanning me up, taking pics of me posing so I could see how I was looking, and generally keeping me smiling. We were giggling like mad when she was doing my Dream Tan: you have to slap it on, almost smacking the competitor with your palms. She’d smack my tan on (“slap! slap slap slap! slap! slap slap!”) and pause for breath, at which point we could hear Fran next door being Dream Tanned up by her trainer Ian (“slap slap! slap slap! slap slap slap!”) It sounded like two woodpeckers trying to out-peck each other in the woods. My sister started taking her tanning responsibilities very seriously. “Ian is slapping a lot more slowly than me!” she fretted. “Am I doing it wrong?” “He’s got more people than you to tan up,” I told her. “He’s just conserving his energy. Plus he’s dieting for the Worlds. Don’t worry, you’re doing a great job.”
Before long I was tanned, in my bikini and ready to go and pump up.
On stage, I found myself in the middle thanks to my number – a great place to be. I felt really good, confident and very happy. I just love being on stage, and the fact that I had so many supporters made it even easier for me to smile. The judges put us through our 1/4 turns, then our compulsory poses. The head judge reminded the crowd that you don’t need a big class for it to be a tough one. I got the impression that things were pretty close, and I worked as hard as I could. I’d forgotten how much posing “for real” hurts! My lower back was aching and my legs were shaking even before the judges asked us to go through the poses a second time.
We got shuffled around (so the judges could compare us as they wanted to) and went through everything one more time. I was working as hard as I could and trying to remember everything, but found it very hard to tell how I was doing. Although the three of us were competing with each other, there was a really friendly atmosphere on stage. It’s hard to explain, but you know it when you experience it! Chiara bumped elbows with me during a double bicep pose and whispered “I’m sorry!” At one point, when we turned to the back of the stage, we all started huffing and puffing with the effort, caught each others eye, and smiled.
We were sent off stage to prepare for our individual posing routines, and chatted to each other, cheered each other on and shared water. It was nice! I’ve met and competed with both ladies before and it was genuinely a pleasure to be on stage with them.
My routine went well – I remembered it all for a start! – and people seemed to enjoy it. I stood backstage watching the others, shaking a bit with effort, excitement and nerves, and wondering how I’d place. I really had no idea at all. I knew Chiara looked good: she carries more muscle than I do, and it’s thicker, denser muscle. She’s shorter than I am, too, so all that muscle is packed down onto a more compact frame. And of course she’s shown how good she is by winning a Pro Card with another federation. But… I felt good. By no means did I feel sure I’d won, but I dared to think that I could have done.
After we’d all done our routines, we were called back on stage to go through the poses one more time and then do a posedown. I got a sense that the judges were having a bit of a tough time coming to a decision, but before long we were told to line up to hear the results.
Third place was lovely Fran.
This is it… this is it… have I won?
Second place… Nicola Joyce. I’d taken second to Chiara again, and I felt disappointed but not surprised. I could see why she’d won, and was happy to take second place to such an accomplished competitor.
We posed for our group photo and then Fran and I left the stage whilst Chiara had her winner’s photo. I felt OK. I would have loved to have won but, honestly, as soon as I knew Chiara was in the class I knew it would be a big ask. Just one question remained: had I qualified for the Final?
I sought out the head judge and he told me that yes, I certainly had. Phew! Mission accomplished, then, even if it wasn’t quite in the most decisive way!
The rest of the day was great fun: chatting at length with Fran and Chiara backstage, cheering on the Figure ladies who competed a little later, sitting with family, friends and my bodybuilding buddies and watching the rest of the show.
I ended up the night going out for dinner with my sister, something we haven’t done in a long time. I felt good: I’d made it on to the stage after a very difficult period in my life and, whilst I hadn’t won, I’d placed 2nd and qualified for the Finals. Done, and done.
The professional photos in this post are from official show photographer Fivos Averkiou photographer.
Thank you so much to my sister for everything (not just the excellent tanning) and to everyone else who came to watch – I really appreciate it!
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.