Five burning questions heading into the 2008 NPC USA Bodybuilding, Fitness and Figure Championships

by Allan Donnelly

July 23, 2008


We’re two days away from the biggest amateur bodybuilding event of the year, the NPC USA Bodybuilding, Fitness and Figure Championships in Las Vegas Nevada. Who will be the next in line to win a pro card and join a list of past overall winners that includes Phil Heath, Melvin Anthony, Dennis James, Chris Cormier and Flex Wheeler? Check out our list of Five Burning Questions heading into Friday’s prejudging.

Stay tuned to, as we spotlight the women’s field and present a video a Day in Life with precontest favorite Brandon Curry six days out from the USAs.

For a complete list of competitors for the 2008 NPC USAs go here.

Go here for a replay of a USA preview on Pro Bodybuilding Weekly featuring predictions and an appearance by Brandon Curry.

WHAT: NPC USA Bodybuilding and Figure Championships
WHERE: Artemus Ham Hall, Las Vegas NV
WHEN: July 25-26
PREJUDGING: Men’s Bodybuilding and Figure Friday at 4:30 pm PST; Women’s Bodybuilding and Figure Saturday at 9 am PST
FINALS: Saturday at 6:30 pm PST

QUESTION NO 5: Who’s breaking out?
For the second year in a row, over 300 competitors will take the stage on Friday and Saturday. Who among those will be the breakout star? Twenty-five-year-old Brandon Curry, the 2007 USA and Nationals heavyweight runner-up, seems the most likely. But there’s no guarantee there will be one. On the men’s side, there hasn’t been a USA grad who’s successfully transitioned to the next level since 2005, when Phil Heath stormed to a heavyweight and overall win. Before Heath, the last USA grad to develop into a top tier pro was Melvin Anthony in 1999. The past two men’s overall winners – Omar Deckard (2006) and Ben White (2007) have yet to make their mark, and it doesn’t appear likely that they ever will. On the women’s side, Felicia Romero earned her pro card in Vegas by winning her class in 2006. Since then she has the same number of professional wins (three) as Heath over the course of her two-year career. So if Curry isn’t your breakout star here, you should find her in the figure ranks.

(Phil Heath winning his pro card at the 2005 USAs)

QUESTION NO. 4: Will someone come out of nowhere and win a pro card?
Every year, it seems, someone shows up and takes everyone by surprise winning – or at least coming very close – a class after coming from relative obscurity. Curry flew under the radar last year and ended up as the runner-up in the heavies, while Al Auguste came out of nowhere to challenge eventual winner Peter Putnam in the light heavies. In 2005, Heath announced his presence a month earlier by winning the Junior Nationals, then cruised to the overall here in his first attempt at a pro qualifier. In 2003, Richard Jones, competing for just the second time, won the heavyweight and overall. This year could very well be one in which a newcomer to the national-level stage hits paydirt in his first appearance in a relatively weak super heavyweight class and in a light heavyweight class where none of last year’s top-five finishers return.

(Richard Jones winning the overall at the 2003 USAs; Al Auguste placing second in the light heavies at the 2007 USAs)


QUESTION NO. 3: Did Peter Putnam make a mistake by skipping the USAs?
That question won’t be answered until November. Putnam entered the 2007 USAs as the competitor everyone was talking about. He ended up winning the light heavyweight class, but not his pro card, then finished second at the Nationals behind eventual winner Charles Dixon – all of which did little to damage his reputation as one of the top – if not the top – competitors in the NPC. But Putnam’s decision to sit this one out will allow another name to emerge from the light heavies and, if that competitor doesn’t win his pro card, challenge Putnam for supremacy in the light heavies at the Nationals. Curtis Bryant placed seventh in the heavyweight class at the 2007 Nationals and is dropping down to compete in the light heavies, which could spell trouble for the rest of the class. 2007 Junior Nationals light heavyweight winner Brandon Ray and Tamer El-Guindy, who is moving back to light heavyweight after finishing second in the middleweight class a year ago, could also contend.

(Curtis Bryant placing seventh at the 2007 Nationals; Brandon Ray winning the light heavies at the 2007 Jr. Nationals)

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QUESTION NO. 2: Who will win the Super Heavies?
Grigori Atoyan is the front-runner after placing second in the supers at both the USAs and the Nationals and winning the class at the North Americans in 2007. But the 35-year-old Atoyan will be pushed by a few super heavies on the rise. Edward Nunn displayed some potential after placing fifth in the super heavies at last year’s Nationals, while Sean Allan is riding some momentum after winning the overall at the Junior Nationals last month.

(Grigori Atoyan placing second in supers at the 2007 USAs; Sean Allan winning the overall at the 2008 Jr. Nationals)

QUESTION NO. 1: Curry Coming of Age?
A year ago, Brandon Curry was the surprise of this contest, coming out of nowhere to storm to a second-place finish in the heavyweight class, then do the same at the Nationals. It seemed only a matter of time before Curry earned his pro card. Well, that time is now. Yes, the pressure – anything less than a heavyweight win and one of the two pro cards will be viewed as a disappointment – on Curry will be tremendous. But Curry is the marquee name heading into the USAs, the only proven commodity on this level. The knock on Curry a year ago was his conditioning and his legs. He likely will be the most complete bodybuilder on at Artemus Ham Hall this weekend, with a pro-caliber upper body right now. If his conditioning is there, the night will belong to Curry.

(Brandon Curry from the 2007 USAs)