Juanita's Tampa disaster

Juanita Blaino says she is excited to make her Ms. Olympia debut next month – despite the disaster she had at the Tampa Pro last weekend. The 44 year-old Cook County cop was one of the favorites going in to the show after winning the overall at Nationals last year (left) and placing second on her pro debut in her hometown in July. She says that her prep went well and that, the morning of the show, she looked as good as she did in Chicago. “I was ready!” she says. But just as she was leaving her hotel room to go to pre-judging, her fingers and toes started to cramp and she took magnesium to combat it. She thinks that was probably the reason her body suddenly “fell apart”. When she didn’t make the second callout, she “knew something had to be wrong.

A lot of people at the show thought Juanita should have made top 10 on the basis of her size and shape alone  it seemed like they were judging her against her previous condition rather than the other competitors onstage. But although she didn’t place, she already had enough points from placing second in Chicago to qualify for the O regardless of what happened in Tampa  though she didn’t realize that until after the show. “Had I known that I already qualified, I would not have done Tampa”, she says. “I didn't need a first place win or the money  I work for a living!” But even though it turns out she competed unnecessarily, she says she has no regrets. “I learned a few lessons from Tampa, so it was worth it!” she says. Next up: the Olympia in Vegas on 27 September. “I’m going to get to live my dream of being on the O stage!” she says. 

Helle's insane legs at 6 weeks out

Helle Nielsen sent us this insane pic of her legs at 6 weeks out from the Tampa Pro. The 37 year-old who first exploded onto the scene exactly 10 years ago when she won the 2003 Jan Tana on her pro debut relocated from Copenhagen, Denmark, to LA last year. She now trains at Gold's in Venice, where she has been using all the equipment to fill out the gaps in her physique and especially to hit her back from every possible angle. "I've leaned so much since I moved to LA", she says.

At 5-foot-5, Helle is currently at around 175 pounds but says she isn't sure what she will weigh onstage in Tampa on August 9. "I've been too weight fixated in the past", she says. "This time I want to focus on the look rather than my weight." From the pics we've seen, she definitely looks like she is ahead of schedule. "Usually I'd be flat as a pancake by now" she says. "One thing is for sure: I'll be bigger, rounder and harder than ever."

It sounds as if there is going to be a stacked line-up of female bodybuilders in Tampa - the last chance to qualify for the Ms. O in September. But Helle says she is not thinking about who she might be onstage with. "I don't even know who's competing", she says. She is also not worried about the rumors that, after the Arnold dropped women's bodybuilding, this might be the last Ms. Olympia. "I don't believe that", she says. "But I do believe we need a new ambassador for our sport to lift it and blow some air into it."

Shannon "bringing it all" to the USA

There is a lot of buzz right now about 21 year-old national-level female bodybuilder Shannon Courtney, who is about to start her prep for the USA in Vegas in July. "I am so excited for this prep", she tells us. "I am bringing it all to the USA!" California girl Shannon placed third in the light-heavyweights at the USA last year on her national-level debut (left). At 5-foot-2 and 130 pounds onstage, she looked incredible. What made it even more impressive was that she turned 21 just a couple of weeks before the USA (she had her first legal margarita after the show!). In his contest report, women's bodybuilding historian Steve Wennerstrom said she had "beautifully shaped thighs" and predicted a big future for her. Since the show, Shannon has been focusing on bringing up her upper body to match her legs and especially on lower lats and biceps. She says she's had her "best off-season yet" and thinks she'll be around 138-140 pounds onstage this time. Her role models in bodybuilding are Anne Freitas and Debi Laszewski. For more on Shannon check out her facebook fan page - she describes her interests as "moving heavy ass weight!" - and follow her on twitter.

Helle hits the "Mecca"

Helle Nielsen tells us she is happily settled in LA after relocating from her native Denmark in October. “I love it!” she says. “20 degrees, a blue sky every day – it’s just great to be here!” Helle lives two minutes away from Gold’s in Venice where she now trains.  “It’s really motivating because there’s a lot of great athletes and the best trainers in the world”, she says. The woman who Steve Wennerstrom called “Denmark's queen of density” plans to compete at the Tampa Pro in August. Last year she placed 9th at the Europa, 2nd at the Chicago Pro and 12th at the Olympia – the first time she had ever done 3 shows in a year. “It was hard”, she says. She says she was disappointed with her placing at the O. “I didn’t achieve the look I wanted”, she says. After taking seven weeks off, she started training again after the holidays. Currently at around 185 pounds, the 37 year-old is focused on getting more depth and detail into her back and improving her lower traps to compete with Ms. O Iris Kyle. She is using all the different machines at Gold’s to hit her back from different angles: “I’m like a kid in a candy store!”

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