2014 Arnold Classic Predictions
2014 is upon us and another Arnold Sports Festival is fast approaching. From its humble beginnings in 1989, when Rich Gaspari and Jackie Paisley were crowned the inaugural Arnold Classic champions, to its expansion beyond even Arnold’s wildest dreams, the Arnold Classic is considered the most lucrative contest in the IFBB.
The following is a brief history of the IFBB Pro categories:
1989: Arnold Classic and Ms. International are introduced by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer; Rich and Jackie beat out their competitors in very tough, deep line-ups
1994: Arnold and Jim announce the addition of the Fitness International competition; Carole Semple takes top honors
2003: Ms. Figure International is introduced; Jenny Lynn wins her first of three titles in a row
2011: The first ever Bikini International is held; Nicole Nagrani is the category’s champion
2014: Ms. International is swapped out for the Men’s 212 International; Iris Kyle’s almost impeccable record – seven wins in ten years, dating back to 2004 – comes to an end
The beauty of the Arnold Classic is that there’s not always a clear-cut winner, as is often the case with the Olympia. Often, the torch will change hands from one year to the next and it’s rare for a competitor to have a stronghold on his or her category. For example, since 1989, only six women have won the Ms. Olympia, whereas nine have won the Ms. International.
With that said, the following is not your typical “Top Five Predictions for the Arnold Classic” article. In this sport, it’s not just about who places; it’s about who’s a favorite to win, who has a chance of dethroning the reigning champ, and who’s going to come out of the shadows and surprise EVERYONE! Without further ado, here is my own personal opinion about where an athlete stands in her respective category and who I see making waves at the 2014 Arnold Sports Festival.
The Favorite: A competitor considered likely to win.
The Underdog: A person who is not expected to win in a contest or conflict. For the purpose of this article, however, the underdog will be defined as the competitor most likely to cause an “upset” for the “favorite.”
The Dark Horse: A competitor about whom little is known, but who may unexpectedly win or succeed.
Favorite: Ashley Kaltwasser
This title could go to a number of girls if we’re looking purely at statistics. In 2013, Ashley placed first at the Powerhouse Pro, the Toronto Pro, the Sheru Classic… and she just happened to win the Olympia. In her other shows, she slipped to second at the New York Pro, the Pittsburgh Pro, and the Europa Orlando, but who’s counting, right? She’s still on fire. Winning the Olympia makes you a favorite going into the Arnold, in my opinion. She’s one of the newest, freshest faces in the sport. Despite having only turned pro in 2012, she’s already made a name for herself. I predict big things for this kid.
Underdog: India Paulino
India had a good season in 2013, despite only competing in three shows. She placed first at the Arnolds and the Australian Pro, and landed in the fifth spot at the Olympia. We know she has what it takes to do serious damage here, as she placed second at the ASF in 2012 and 3rd at the Olympia in 2012. This 26 year old is still young and has MANY more successful years ahead of her in the sport. I’m excited to see this dark-haired exotic beauty give Ashley a run for her money!
Darkhorse: Jennifer Andrews
She doesn’t have the most impressive track record and her placings haven’t been what I’d consider consistent since she joined the Pro leagues, but there’s something about her that makes me wonder if she just might have what it takes to be a top contender at the Arnold this year. I was at the Ft. Lauderdale Cup this year (where she won by a landslide, in my opinion), and I saw a passion in her that stood out among the other competitors. She had that je ne sais quoi on stage that made your eyes gravitate to her at all times. She won the 1st Phorm St. Louis Pro twice (2012 and 2013), and improved her Bikini International placing from 12th in 2012 to 7th in 2013. Maybe we’ll see her in the Top 5 in 2014!
Favorite: Oksana Grishina
Don’t tell me you didn’t expect her to be the favorite going into the Arnolds. The Queen of routines has the complete package: poise, beauty, conditioning, and the most creative routines in the business. Oksana hasn’t placed out of the top 10 since her first pro show in 2007 and in the last two years, she’s nabbed four firsts, five seconds, and a third. She was second at the Arnold Classic in 2012 and 2013, so something tells me she’s in it to win it in 2014.
Underdog: Tanji Johnson
This 5’3″ dynamo deserves credit where credit is due. She won the Arnold Classic AND the Arnold Classic Europe in 2013, and placed 3rd at the Olympia. Competed three times, won twice- I’d say that’s not a bad way to end the year. Tanji has been competing as a Pro since 2002 and the fact that she’s only placed out of the Top 10 ONCE (in 43 shows!!!) is a testament to her infallibility, her undeniable talent, and her unprecedecented longevity in this sport.
Darkhorse: Danielle Ruban
After a full year and a half off from competing (we haven’t seen her on stage since the Arnold Classic Spain in October 2012), expect this blond bombshell to come out of the gates with a vengeance and a purpose. I image she’s looking to bring a little more muscle to the physique round and a little more creativity and energy to the routine round. Who knows how she’s been training or dieting for the last 17 months? That’s what makes her a dark horse. I foresee Ms. Ruban making a splash at the ASF this year.
Favorite: Candice Keene
I don’t know why it came as a shock to some people when she won the Arnold Classic in 2013. This girl has only placed out of the Top 9 ONCE in 26 shows over the course of 5 years. In the last two years, she has accumulated 7 firsts, 2 seconds and 5 thirds! Most notably, third at the 2012 ASF and O, and 1st and 3rd and this years ASF and O, respectively. She upset Erin Stern at the Arnold in 2013, and with Nicole Wilkins out of the running this year, there’s no doubt in my mind she can make this a two-peat, and establish a reign of her own.
Underdog: Heather Dees
This 2013 Arnold Classic Runner-up has the makings of a champ in her. And by “makings of a champ”, I mean, she’s already an absolute, kick-ass rockstar. Last year, she placed second at the Houston Pro and the Arnold Classic (two big, prestigious shows), 1st at the California Governor’s Cup (which she won in 2012 as well), and fourth at the Olympia (also a repeat of her 2012 placing). That’s a stellar record! She has the potential to take this all the way if she wants to, and something tells me she DOES want to.
Darkhorse: Natalie Waples
Talk about a consistent competitor! In a perfect example of Murphy’s Law, Nat was JUST starting to pick up a ton of momentum as the 2013 season came to a close. She made HUGE improvements from 2012 to 2013, and if you look at her record, she didn’t place any lower than 4th in 5 out of the 8 shows she did in 2013. She got solid feedback from the judges at the Arnold and the Olympia, and made herself a force to be reckoned with! She was just about to hit her stride as the season ended. Now it’s time for her to pick up where she left off.