NATIONALS REVISITED

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Past champs speak about winning the NPC Nationals

By Dave Lee

November 14, 2009

FLEXONLINE.COM

The 2009 NPC National Bodybuilding, Figure & Bikini Championships is set to go off November 20-21 at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood, Florida, where the country's best amateurs will try to win a pro card and gain entry into the IFBB Pro League.

Before the new winners are crowned, we spoke with past Nationals champs about the biggest night of their amateur careers and how it impacted their lives.

LEE HANEY
1982 HEAVYWEIGHT and OVERALL WINNER

WHAT I REMEMBER
"My most memorable moment in winning the Nationals was just that: I won the NPC Nationals. A fantasy had become reality. I recall standing on the stage with guys from all over the USA, and there I was, a country boy that no one had ever heard of who took the Nationals the first time around. Wow!"

WHAT IT MEANT
"Winning the Nationals meant that there was a strong possibility that I had a chance to make it to the top in professional bodybuilding. After all, if you won the Nationals you were poised to win the IFBB World Championships. Big time, baby! It also meant that the sacrifice and hard work that began at age twelve had paid off. I thanked God for the blessings."

 

ANNIE RIVIECCIO
2003 HEAVYWEIGHT and OVERALL WINNER

WHAT I REMEMBER:
"I know this sounds silly, but the most memorable part was that it was an awesome spot: Miami Beach. I had a few friends with me and we had a great time before, during and after the show - especially after!"

WHAT IT MEANT:
"That win meant so much to me because of the amount of time it took for me to get there; I’d been competing in the NPC for fifteen years! It was great to finally have the opportunity to get to the IFBB."

 

TONEY FREEMAN
2002 SUPER-HEAVYWEIGHT and OVERALL WINNER

WHAT I REMEMBER
"Saturday night, I got there early so I was the first one backstage. I saw the overall trophy on a table and nobody was looking, so I walked up and whispered in its ear, ‘You're going home with me tonight.’ I knew I had a good chance if I brought my A-game, and I did, so I was pretty confident."

WHAT IT MEANT
"I won it my fifth time out, and when I left the stage, I said to myself, ‘I'm at the top of the bottom.’ I was the best amateur in the country, but now I had to start from the bottom of the pros. It was the end of one journey and the start of another."

 

BILL WILMORE
2005 SUPER-HEAVYWEIGHT and OVERALL WINNER

WHAT I REMEMBER MOST
"Leading up to the show, I was forced to relocate due to [Hurricane] Katrina. Because of the help of some very good people, I was able to compete. They made sure I had everything I needed to be my best for the show. After all of that, when Shawn Ray and Kevin Levrone raised my hand up for the overall title, it was the biggest relief of my life."

WHAT IT MEANT
"After the loss to Chris [Cook] the year before and Matt Duvall in 2003, it was great to get the win and move onto the pros. It was an amazing feeling and something that will remain at the top of the list long after I've finished competing."

 

ERIN STERN
2008 FIGURE CLASS F and OVERALL WINNER

WHAT I REMEMBER
MOST: "The whole experience. I still think back and can't believe that I went from being an unknown competitor to a pro in a matter of hours! It all happened so fast; it was almost a blur."

WHAT IT MEANT:
"It opened doors. It meant I had more opportunities. I had the honor of meeting and working with the best people in the industry. It’s been the stepping stone to much bigger things and it will always be one of my fondest memories and greatest achievements."

 

ED NUNN
2008 SUPER-HEAVYWEIGHT and OVERALL WINNER

WHAT I REMEMBER MOST:
"Earlier in the year I won my weight class [super-heavyweight] at the USA's, but Brandon [Curry] and Curtis [Bryant] got the pro cards. So going into the Nationals, I was more determined than ever. Not only did I want to win my class, I wanted that overall. My goal was to dominate everybody."

WHAT IT MEANT:
"It meant I was ready for the pros. I was the best of the best of all the amateurs in the country. Standing on that stage with the overall trophy was a reward for all the hard work and dedication I put into the sport. I couldn't have done it without the support of my friends, family and trainer. When I held the trophy, it was like we all won."

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