Femme Physique

Steve Wennerstrom

Ms. Olympia Turns 30

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For those ardent fans who have followed women’s bodybuilding from its earliest days, it’s difficult to fathom the reality that the Ms. Olympia contest will turn 30 on September 28, when the 2009 edition takes place in Las Vegas. And if that isn’t enough to sufficiently jog your memory, consider that it’s been 20 years since Cory Everson won her last Ms. Olympia title in 1989. Time does indeed fly.

An event that has evolved into the world’s most prestigious contest for female bodybuilders, the Ms. Olympia is the pinnacle of competitive muscle display that every bodybuilder worth her weight in protein powder aspires to be invited to enter.

Over the years the contest has singled out the women who are now legendary in the sport. Lenda Murray leads the way as the most successful female bodybuilder of all time with eight Ms. Olympia crowns to her credit. She, with six-time Ms. O Cory Everson and the first Ms. Olympia, Rachel McLish, will forever be recognized as a stalwart trio of pioneers who contributed mightily in the development of the sport.

It’s interesting to note just how elite the contest itself has become in terms of competitor numbers. Since its inception in 1980 thousands of athletes worldwide have aspired to qualify for it, but, in fact, only 210 women representing 28 countries have made it to the Ms. Olympia stage over the past 29 years. Just 210 bodybuilders out of an international cast of countless thousands chasing the dream of entering this contest.

Virtually all who did make it would freely admit it was a thrilling experience and the culmination of their efforts to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

Today women’s bodybuilding, with the Ms. Olympia as its premier event, continues to thrill its participants and fascinate its loyal fans. And with the relatively new fitness and figure divisions, along with the fledgling bikini category, serving to further push along the evolution of how women challenge their physicality through muscular development, the next 30 years will no doubt offer even greater frontiers of accomplishment.

Ms. Olympia Firsts

• The first Ms. Olympia contest was held on August 30, 1980, in the ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia.

• The first Ms. Olympia promoter was George Snyder.

• The first Ms. Olympia was Texan Rachel McLish.

• The first time the contest was held outside the United States was in 1984, when it was staged at the Place des Arts in Montreal. It was also Cory Everson’s first of six straight Ms. Olympia victories.

• The first non-American Ms. Olympia was Finland’s Kike Elomaa in 1981. The title would not be taken by another non-American again until 2000, when England’s Andrulla Blanchette and Ukraine’s Valentina Chipega captured their respective weight classes. No overall was chosen that year.

• The first Fitness Olympia contest was held at the Atlanta Civic Auditorium in Atlanta on September 8, 1995.

• The first Fitness Olympia champion was Mia Finnegan.

• The first non-American Fitness Olympia winner was Denmark’s Saryn Muldrow. To date she is the only non-American to win that title.

• The first and only time the Fitness Olympia was held outside the United States was on November 7, 1998, when Monica Brant took the title in Nice, France. Since then the event has been held annually in Las Vegas.

Ms. O Factoids

Over its 29 years the Ms. Olympia competition has understandably produced numerous bits of trivia that have helped shape its legacy. For example, Holland’s Erika Mes (1984) at 102 pounds and American Michele Ralabate (1995) standing 4’11” make up what can be fondly referred to as the Itty Bitty Muscle Committee—the most diminutive statures to grace the lineup. Meanwhile at the opposite end of the spectrum, New Yorker Nicole Bass holds both records as the tallest-ever Ms. Olympia contestant and the heaviest, standing 6’2” and weighing 204 pounds in 1997.

In addition:

• A field of 20, 17 of whom were from the United States, competed at the first Ms. Olympia in 1980, while the largest field was 30 in 1990.