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Many people became aware of the name Stephanie Gibson when she shocked the bodybuilding world by placing third in the 2021 Figure Olympia, which was her debut on the sport’s biggest stage. It’s not often that someone takes that stage for the first time and gets compared to a legend such as five-time Olympia Champion Cydney Gillon. It even surprised Gibson herself.
“I was shocked honestly. You know as a rookie, I guess expectations are pretty low,” said Gibson. “You just go to see where you fit in or where you rank. That was definitely a shocker for me.”
Being under the bright lights and facing the pressure that comes with competing doesn’t bother Gibson, though. She’s been in serious situations far beyond the stage as a member of the United States Air Force. She was inspired to join by her then boyfriend’s mom and dad.
“My now husband’s parents were in the military. His dad was in the Army, and his mom had just retired from the Navy. That made interested in going that route because I was just tired of trying to make ends meet. I needed more stability, guidance, and structure.”
Staff Sargeant (soon to be Technical Sargent) Gibson has also been under the hot sun of the Middle East, having taken part in two deployments overseas since joining the Air Force in 2015. While the location she was deployed to was considered more Westernized than other parts of that region, there was still times that weren’t exactly comfortable for her.
“Iran was right across the street. So, I was definitely not put at ease because I knew other groups that didn’t necessarily like Americans were around,” she admitted. However, she pointed out that there were positives to that part of the world as well.
“I saw and learned more about their culture, their food, and I actually enjoyed being immersed in their way of living.”
Aside from her future promotion to Technical Sargeant, Gibson had also received the Air Force Achievement Medal for Outstanding Achievement and for Meritorious Service. She is now in her eighth year of serving her country. She credits her background in fitness for helping her be in the best position possible to fulfill her commitments.
“I’ve become reliable, dependable. I’m fit and healthy. So, I’m not falling out and I’m not having to go to the hospital all the time. I’m able to go on temporary assignments or deploy, when necessary,” she said. While she may have been looking for structure and stability in the beginning, Gibson, like many others, learned that there was more to joining the Armed Forces than making a career choice.
“When you’re in the military, your perspective starts to grow. You’re here for the people, you’re here to do a job greater than me and greater than an ordinary job,” she explained. “This is to protect my country and protect my family.”
While fitness may help her excel in her current role, her connection to that went back far beyond her decision to join. It goes back to her childhood, and it was inspired by her own father.
“My dad was a bodybuilder and started taking me to the gym at 13 years old. From then on, I’ve always been in the gym,” she shared. She also ran track and danced in high school, but competing in a bodybuilding show was a matter of “when,” not if. That when came in 2019 when she and her husband, Asante, both entered the Dennis James Classic in 2019. Gibson won both Figure Novice and FIgure Class A at that contest. Asante won the Classic Physique Overall as well.
“We both coached ourselves for that show. So, for us both to win with our own knowledge, it was very motivating to do another show.”
That next show was the 2019 Amateur Olympia. Asante won his pro card at that contest, while Stephanie placed second in Figure. Gibson began working with a new coach, Justin Horrell, in 2020 and she won her pro card at the NPC USA Championships. She then decided to compete in the Lenda Murray Savannah Pro in 2021, and took the victory in her pro debut. She was considering doing the Rising Phoenix that same year, but decided to go all in on the Olympia prep instead thanks to her win in Georgia.
“It was really hard to do that prep because I had never done a long prep like that before. It ended up being 20 weeks of prepping,” she recalled. “I was so used to feeding my body after a show. To be at a deficit for five more weeks, I didn’t know if I could do it.”
She made it work, and the rest is history. Gibson made the first callout at the Olympia, and placed in the top three at the end of the weekend in Orlando. That automatically qualified her for the 2022 Olympia, which is set to take place in Las Vegas on Dec. 16-18. Gillon is the heavy favorite to win her sixth title, but Gibson expressed no doubt that she will eventually receive the gold medal herself someday.
“I absolutely will,” she exclaimed.
Whether it’s a mission for the Air Force, preparing for the Olympia, or showing support for her followers who face challenges, Gibson goes back to what has helped her reach the point she is at today, her faith, including the scripture Philippians 4:13, which she said helped her throughout her journey.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
As one of America’s finest and an elite Olympia competitor, Gibson knows there are many eyes on her, including fans that hope to follow in footsteps similar to hers as well as those she works with. She doesn’t run from that position, either. As a matter of fact, she embraces it.
“I get to be an example for the airmen underneath me, and even those above me,” she said proudly. “Everyone around me, I get to be an example that this lifestyle is possible. It’s just a matter of prioritizing.”
Follow Stephanie on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and on LinkedIn @s.gibson03.