Juan Ramos (center)
Pump You Up
by Jim Provenzano
The flashy, fleshy Physique competition at the Sydney Exhibition Center proved as popular as ever at Gay Games VI.
158 bodybuilders of all ages and sizes had pumped, flexed, trained and strictly dieted themselves to the regimen of this unusual yet wildly popular sport.
Once again, claims of "sold out" were untrue, with hundreds of seats going empty. Strange that a financially strapped organization wouldn't consider selling more tickets, but this was also a problem with the event at Gay Games V.
Some confusion by the MC's was broken up at intervals between posing sessions. Asking medal winners in the audience to stand and announce their sport, a wide range of victories proved that bodybuilding fans come in all shapes, ages, sizes and interests.
Posing was enjoyed by the rapt audience with two large TV screens available for up close muscle-striation viewing.
Juan Ramos (Gold medalist, Grand Masters Short, 50-55) was proud to medal at his fourth Games. The Sacramento native ran track at the first Games in '82, won gold in lightweight Physique in '86. "We also got the gold in team competition, which they don't do anymore." His return since Gay Games II was long-awaited, and he was a popular favourite to the audience.
"I actually started training and dieting months ago," he said. "My body's changed since turning 50. It's not metabolizing fat and absorbing nutrients like it used to."
Ramos studied records and photos of winners from Amsterdam online, so he virtually knew some of his potential competitors.
He said that it doesn't get any easier as time goes on, nor are the judges. "The hardest part's the dieting." His partner, John Hancock, joined him on the diet and training regimen. "He's been very patient with me. I couldn't have done it without him."
The diminutive Marina Nestoriadis packed a lot of power into her routine, and struck gold in Women's Pairs and silver in Individual Novice. she trained naturally without banned substances.
Like many, in her announced bio/statement, the Sydney resident thanked her partner, who aided her training months beforehand.
"It's a pretty amazing feeling," Nestoriadis said. "I entered not thinking I'd get anything at all. It's always been about giving it your best shot. I was pretty focused and determined, but I'm surprised and happy."
She'll also compete in Sydney's Mardi Gras Physique events in February, and in March at the International Natural Bodybuilder competition. One of the youngest in the women's ranks, Nestoriadis was congratulated by other female track stars and bodybuilders in the Exhibition Hall's lobby, and was proud to be among the affable Sydney host athletes.
WHO'S YOUR DADDY?
For his first competition in 25 years, Dawson trained for three months on a diet of "chicken and broccoli. You have to dehydrate the night before, so I told my partner, 'The minute we get done, the only thing I want is a bottle of cold water."
Strangely, the silver medal obviously belonging to Dawson was awarded to another competitor, who stumbled through his routine in a daze, proving a bit of bias in this subjectively judged sport. Still, Dawson's fans surrounded him with congratulations and sympathy afterward.
A star of the San Francisco Mr. Drummer contests (he won that honor in 1989) and acclaimed sexy kink videos "Steel Dungeon," Dawson recalled a leather event where a fan asked him to sign a magazine. Expecting to autograph a copy of "Drummer," he was instead presented with a mint condition "Playgirl," for which Dawson posed to wild acclaim in the late 1970s.
Of his diverse fame, Dawson said, "It's important that you be able to mark things in your life. I didn't start out to be a porn star. I'm an SM practitioner. It was interesting, and I'm glad I did it. At 50 years old, it's important that I celebrate that, and Gay Games seemed the appropriate place."
"It was exactly 90 seconds, too, so it was perfect," he said.
Being part French, and bodybuilders being a sort of beautiful alien creature to most folk, Fornachon agreed that athletes embody the idea that the human spirit is the fifth element ready to save the world - or at least in tonight's case, make a more muscular world. Thrilled by his victory, Fornachon is now setting his sights on Montreal in 2006.
When asked after the competition when he might consider breaking his strict diet with some junk food, he replied, "How about now?"