By Liam Berti
Up to six months of methodical dieting, training and mental preparation for many came to fruition when Algonquin hosted the GNC Ottawa Championships on Nov. 2.
Competitors of all shapes, sizes and ages showed up for the event, competing in the fitness, bodybuilding, physique, bikini and figure disciplines, each evaluating unique aesthetic qualities. The competition was also a regional qualifier for the GNC Ontario Provincials, with upwards of 180 athletes competing in 42 divisions.
Members of Algonquin put themselves on the judging line to be sized up against the area’s best.
Most notably, second-year fitness and health promotion student Jamie Murchison placed second overall in the men’s physique tall division, while his classmates Jeffery Dupuis and Nicolas Antal finished first and second respectively in the men’s physique short category and Dilan Hayden-Lemieux placing third in the medium division.
“I’m very happy with it, absolutely. It’s worth every last second sweating in the gym, all the dieting, not going out with your friends and drinking; it’s all totally worth it now,” said Murchison after he stepped off stage.
Despite being his first competition, 21-year-old Murchison had an infectious stage presence that catapulted him to the top of his category. His result automatically qualifies him for the Toronto Pro Super Show at the end of May 2014. There, he’ll continue his journey to try and seek the coveted International Federation of Body Building pro card.
“I got the trophy, my girlfriend’s proud and my parents are proud. I totally recommend everybody join a competition, it’s a great journey,” said Murchison. “After weeks and weeks and endless hours of posing and juggling our diets, it’s just constant repetition to the point that it’s all muscle memory.”
Fitness competition is becoming increasingly popular with a younger demographic, which was evident in the junior fitness categories, showcasing athletes under the age of 10 in some cases.
For others, like third-year University of Ottawa psychology student Jenna Smith and bikini short athlete, being a fitness competitor was the natural transition after an athletic upbringing. The GNC Championships offered Smith the perfect opportunity to try her hand on stage and expose herself to the pressure of the competition.
“I’ve been doing some sort of fitness training my whole life, but when you hit a plateau you want to try something different and that’s led me here,” said Smith after her first ever pre-judging contest. “I definitely have expectations for myself. No matter what I’m doing I try to push and get to the top.
“Today was a crazy and unforgettable experience.”
With a healthy balance of newbies and experienced competitors, the Commons crowd got to experience, first hand, the cream of the crop in aesthetics from Eastern Ontario.
“It’s a little bit intimidating when you get backstage with the other competitors,” said Smith.
“The more experienced girls were a lot more calm than I was, but they saw that I was nervous and were very friendly and comforting. You make friends quickly doing this.”
Smith, who was one of the first call-out competitors in her pre-judging routine, had been meticulously preparing for the contest since June 10, training every day and calculating the composition of every meal. Smith ultimately took fifth place in her discipline in her debut show and qualified for the pro show in Toronto in six months.
Those nerves weren’t unique to Smith either.
“I was freaking out before I got on stage, but after I stepped out I felt so good. It’s a big rush,” said first-time bikini medium competitor Breigha Birkhof, from Peterborough, Ont.
“Once I walked offstage I felt like the happiest girl alive. I did something that I’ve always wanted to do and I plan on doing this for a long time now.”
Prior to the finals, it was announced that the Commons Theatre was at capacity and was host to the largest crowd that the annual competition has ever had.
“The Algonquin theatre, it’s the most beautiful theatre I’ve been at this year,” said Ron Hache, president of the Ontario Physique Association.
“We’re very proud to be here.”