The Ms. International
Steve Wennerstrom, IFBB Women’s HistorianA Prestigious Display of Muscle Since 1986
Any passionate female pro bodybuilder will tell you that an invitation to compete in the annual IFBB Ms. International is a dream come true—and an honor of the highest order.
Over the years, as the Ms. International has grown into what is now one of the most prestigious bodybuilding contests for women, it’s been called everything from the Columbus Colossus and the Beef Bonanza to Ms. Olympia’s Big Little Sister. With promoters Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer lending their expertise to the event for more than 20 years, the Ms. International—along with the Ms. Olympia—is a prized contest jewel that can put an exclamation point on the competitive career of any pro flexer.
The Ms. I can claim a double inauguration—one in 1986, the other in 1989. In ’86 the contest was held in conjunction with the men’s event, which was called the IFBB Pro World Championship. In ’87 the women’s contest simply didn’t materialize. In ’88, however, Lorimer and Schwarzenegger felt the women’s competition should become a regular event along with the men’s.
With the coming of 1989, the men’s Pro World Championship was renamed the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic, and the Ms. International became a permanent fixture of what is today called the Arnold Sports Festival while continuing to use its original name.
Throughout its 22-year run the Ms. International has been considered the gold standard for classy contest promotion, as well as for its outstanding treatment of competing athletes, giving them all the amenities that make for a memorable competitive experience.
All that said, the show has also taken on a personality of its own, complete with colorful stages for both the prejudging and finals, an annual group of highly competitive contestants who are inspiring, motivating, occasionally controversial, but always entertaining and impressive—all qualities we have come to expect of the Ms. I.
Here are some facts about the Ms. International:
• In the contest’s 22-year history a total of 144 different bodybuilding competitors from 21 countries have vied for the Ms. International title.
• The first two events, in ’86 and ’88, were designated as pro-am contests, and top amateurs were also invited to compete. In ’86, when 20 contestants from six countries took part, Ben Weider proclaimed that the top six finishers would qualify for IFBB pro status (if they weren’t already pros) and be invited to compete at the ’86 IFBB Pro World in Toronto. That rule held true for the ’88 event—if an amateur placed in the top six, she was given the opportunity to move into the pro ranks.
• The total prize money at the ’86 Ms. International was $10,000, and the winner’s share was $5,000. The ’09 Ms. I offered a total of $156,000 to the top placers in bodybuilding, fitness and figure competitions.
• Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia and Iris Kyle are now tied as the only competitors to have won four Ms. International crowns, but three-time winner Vickie Gates is the only champ to have claimed the title three years in succession.
• Kim Chizevsky and Iris Kyle are the only Ms. I winners who went on to become Ms. Olympia in the same calendar year. The double victory combines to create the “grand slam” of women’s bodybuilding. Chizevsky won both titles in 1996, while Kyle has accomplished the feat three times—in 2004, 2006 and 2007—and possibly could do it again this year.
• The closest margin of victory at the Ms. International happened twice, with the winner taking the title by just two points. The first narrow victory came in 1991 when Tonya Knight topped Germany’s Anja Schreiner by a score of 30 to 32. Schreiner returned in 1992 to win the title. The second two-point victory occurred in 2008, when Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia edged runner-up Dayana Cadeau—also by the score of 30 to 32.
• Since 2002—a total of eight years—Yaxeni Oriquen-Garcia and Iris Kyle have been dominant as the only two competitors to win the Ms. International during that time.