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There were reasons, beyond her control, why Kim Chizevsky did not get the recognition she deserved. For example, when she won the Ms. Olympia title in 1996, she was dethroning Lenda Murray, one of the most popular female bodybuilders of all time. Plus, she was bigger and more muscular than most of the other women at a time when there was still a lot of resistance to more mass and extreme muscularity in women competitors.
Of course, competitors who would follow a few years later, like Iris Kyle and Alina Popa, would reset the standard and make more mass and muscularity the norm rather than the exception. And I remember arguing back in the day that “too much” was relative and a sliding scale. But Kim would nonetheless suffer from a lot of resistance due to her physical development.
Another obstacle for Kim was what the sport calls “overall presentation.” Kim was an attractive female athlete. But the previous Ms. Olympias had been what you might call “glamour girls,” strikingly beautiful as well as excellent bodybuilders. When the standard is Rachel McLish, Cory Everson, and Lenda Murray, that sets a pretty high bar.
Actually, when Kim first started competing as a pro, she didn’t spend a lot of effort on things like hair and makeup, which would emphasize her aesthetic qualities. But she took steps to correct her overall presentation, and when she won Ms. Olympia in 1996, I remember standing next to Jim Manion and hearing him say how much prettier Kim looked onstage.
Unfortunately, first impressions sometimes persevere, and a lot of judges and officials did not really acknowledge this transformation. After her 1996 victory, Kim – who was under contract to the Weider organization – was told if she didn’t switch to fitness her contract would not be renewed. Given this pressure, Kim did try to compete in fitness with some success, but not that of her Ms. Olympia Bodybuilding titles. She did an excellent job of losing muscle, toning down her conditioning, and was able to perform the mandatory fitness stunts and gymnastics, but her natural physical structure and size were not well suited for the Fitness division. If some considered her too big and muscular for bodybuilding, imagine how she looked in a fitness lineup.
As a photographer, I was always aware of Kim’s aesthetic qualities and I made an effort to capture them on film, rather than just shooting muscle poses. The result was that often viewers of the pictures did not recognize the subject. Kim along with the guidance of her husband and trainer, Chad Nicholls revolutionized the level of muscle and conditioning on the professional stage for both men and women. In 1996, Kim Chizevsky introduced us to a new level of muscularity that we had not seen before. I hope the photos I am including here help to show the viewer just how special and remarkable Kim Chizevsky was. People don’t believe what they see as much as they see what they believe.
Kim Chizevsky deserves recognition as a great 4-time Ms. Olympia and 2-time Ms. International, but also as somebody who persevered despite challenges and continued to improve after achieving success. Kim is married to Chad Nicholls and lives in Springfield, Missouri. She is the mother of 2 boys Dominic and Morgan, an IFBB Pro League and NPC promoter.
Kim Chizevsky-Nicholls is regarded as one of the greatest and most muscular female bodybuilders of her time. She was the first female bodybuilder to win both the Ms. International and Olympia in the same year in 1996. She ranked as the best female bodybuilder in the IFBB Pro Women’s Bodybuilding Ranking List until October 22, 2000. In January 2008, Chizevsky was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame.
· 1999 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 1st
· 1998 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 1st
· 1997 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 1st
· 1996 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 1st
· 1996 IFBB Ms. International – 1st
· 1995 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 2nd
· 1995 IFBB Ms. International – 2nd
· 1994 IFBB Ms. International – 5th · 1993 IFBB Ms. Olympia – 5th · 1993 IFBB Ms. International – 1st
· 1992 IFBB North American Championship – 1st (HW and overall)
· 1992 NPC Junior Nationals – 1st (HW and overall)
· 1991 MPC Midwest Grand Prix – 1st (Overall)
· 1991 NPC Continental USA – 1st (Overall)
· 1990 AAU Central USA – 1st (Overall)
· 1990 AAU Illinois – 1st (Overall)
· 1990 AAU Southern Illinois – 1st (Tall)
· 1990 NPC Tri-State – 1st (HW)
· 1989 AAU Central USA – 2nd (Tall)
· 1989 AAU Illinois – 1st (Tall)
· 1989 Tri-State Bodybuilding (Illinois) – 2nd (LHW)