Unpredictability ruled the day at the 2012 Arnold Classic Europe on Saturday in Madrid, Spain. At the top of the lineups two out of the three divisions went as projected, as both Shawn Rhoden and Erin Stern continued their recent string of success.
But starting with Fitness, where Oskana Grishina ended Adela Garcia’s run of dominance, things got murky, particularly in the Figure division, where two relatively unknowns leap-frogged one of the top competitors in the world.
To say Shawn Rhoden has had a breakout year would be the understatement of the decade. Heading into Madrid, Rhoden was riding high after his third-place finish at the Olympia – which came on the heels of two consecutive wins in August. All of which established him as the clear-cut favorite in Spain, ahead of even Dennis Wolf, who traveled to Madrid looking to redeem himself from a somewhat disappointing sixth at the Olympia two weeks ago.
The big questions – could Rhoden hold his conditioning for what has now been essentially two months, and how would he deal with an improved version of Wolf? The answers: Yes, and fairly easily. Even though Wolf was slightly improved from the Olympia, Rhoden arguably was too. Which left little doubt as to who would walk away with the title here.
Things weren’t as clear-cut in the rest of the top six, as Roelly Winklaar (3rd) moved into the top three one week removed from finishing behind Toney Freeman (5th) at the Sheru Classic. It wasn’t just Winklaar who moved ahead of Freeman – so did Robert Piotrowicz (4th), which raised eyebrows as well.
Erin Stern won her record-tying fifth contest of the year, putting her in the history books as having one of the two most decorated seasons the sport. Her win here was her third in as many weeks and tied her with Nicole Wilkins for the most victories (5) in a single season.
Stern, who also won the 2010 Figure Olympia, managed to hold her conditioning – and even improve – since early September, when she kicked off her fall successes with a win at the Valenti Cup.
Most predicted Stern’s toughest competition to come from Candice Keene, who had finished third in both the Olympia and Sheru Classic. Keene’s performances since last year’s Olympia – where she finished fourth, which was her last time finishing outside the top three – had solidified her as one of the three elite competitors in the figure ranks.
But here, she was relegated to fifth – behind a pair physiques that would have trouble finding their way to the Olympia stage in Kati Alander (2nd) and Natalia Revajova (4th). Alander, who finished 2nd at the Nordic Pro in September, has yet to compete in the United States while Revajova’s highest finish in four US competitions was her 12th-place finish at the 2010 Ft. Lauderdale Pro.
Ava Cowan slid into third, looking fuller – but a tad softer in the bottom half – than she did when finishing 9th at the Olympia.
All good things come to an end and for Adela Garcia, that end came in Spain at the hands of Oskana Grishina. Garcia, who won her record-setting seventh Fitness Olympia two weeks ago, hadn’t lost since the 2007 season.
Grishina, who finished 2nd at the Olympia last week, notched her second win of her career, both of which came in 2012. She won the first contest of her career at the St. Louis Pro in March.
Diana Monteiro finished 16th at the Arnold Classic in March, but things were very different overseas. In Spain, Monteiro placed third, ahead of Olympia third-place finisher Tina Durkin.