This weekend will be the final tune-up in the United States before the big dance, as a host of competitors are headed to New Jersey for the Atlantic City Pro on Friday and Saturday at the Trump Taj Mahal. As of Wednesday, 80 competitors were slated to compete in the four professional contests - men's and women's bodybuilding, fitness and figure. The action will begin at 5 pm on Friday with the men's bodybuilding and figure prejudging. Prejudging for women's bodybuilding and fitness will begin at noon on Saturday, with the finals for all divisions scheduled for 6 pm.
In men's bodybuilding, some of the biggest names in the sport are expected to turn out for the contests, making the Atlantic City Pro perhaps the deepest lineup since the Arnold Classic. The top six competitors from last weekend's Montreal Pro - Darrem Charles, Quincy Taylor, Johnnie Jackson, Chris Cormier, Fouad Abiad and Troy Alves - will all be on hand at the Jersey shore. Charles came out on top a week ago with his win in Montreal, but a lot can change in a week. Two competitors hoping that statement rings true are Cormier and Alves. Both took time off over the past year, albeit for entirely different reasons.
Alves, who turned pro in 2002, took nearly a year off from the stage after placing 15th at last year's Olympia. He returned to competition in Montreal with the goal of winning the first professional contest of his career. And although Alves had added size during his time away - he weighed in at 236 pounds in Canada, nine pounds more than he was at the '06 Olympia - things didn't turn out the way he had planned, as he took the stage too smooth and fell to sixth.
Cormier, meanwhile, took nearly two years off from competing, though not by choice. A severe back injury he suffered in July of 06 left him in the hospital and unable to walk for nearly two months. He began training for his comeback in March of this year. Despite holding his own in Montreal, his first contest since the 2005 Olympia, Cormier left disappointed as he finished fourth and narrowly missed out on qualifying for this year's Olympia. Whether or not Cormier and Alves can rebound in Atlantic City remains to be seen.
Adding intrigue to the mix is Melvin Anthony's decision to enter the contest just two weeks before the O. Anthony, who underwent hernia surgery in late 2006, hasn't competed since placing 5th at the 2006 Olympia. Based on that finish, Anthony would seem to be the favorite entering the show.
Mary Ellen Jerumbo