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Any athlete who can say that he or she reached the summit of a sport on 10 different occasions must be recognized as a special type of athlete. In this case, we’re talking about one of the best female bodybuilders in history, Iris Kyle.
The 10-time Ms. Olympia winner Kyle has a decade of women’s bodybuilding dominance on her professional record before walking away in 2014. Since then she was able to move on from just an athlete to entrepreneur, but last year,. many fans were anticipating her return to the 2020 Olympia.
Then, something mysterious happened. Kyle was in Orlando, FL, for the big contest, but she never made it to the stage. There was a cloud of mystery over what happened, and how she has been since. The Las Vegas native spoke to M&F about what happened that weekend.
“I had thought I had captured my best physique possible in my career,” Kyle says. “I didn’t even second-guess the thought of not winning.”
At 165 pounds the night before the contest, everything appeared to be on point for her. Then she began feeling ill after the athletes’ meeting, and had to go to a medical clinic. No one was certain what had happened. Was it COVID-19? Did she get injured? She explained that a virus actually attacked her pancreas.
“It was something that I hadn’t felt in my whole time in the sport,” Kyle says. “They took a test while I was sitting, and everything was registering as fine. Immediately after they asked me to stand, that’s when things went 10 points higher.”
Kyle would have to withdraw from the contest, and returned home to have her personal team of doctors take a look at her. That was when the pancreatic virus was confirmed. She also was dealing with high blood sugar, her insulin had shut down, and she had lost over 20 pounds. “I had felt like I went from a bodybuilder to a bikini (competitor). It was devastating. Emotionally, I was wrecked, even a month after the Olympia.”
The good news is that Kyle has fully recovered. All of her numbers returned to normal, and she is in good health today. “I’m back up to 165 (pounds), I am training again, so yes, everything is fine. I do have to wear a Dexcon to track my numbers so I know they are where they should be.”
Fans of women’s bodybuilding are curious to find out if they will see Kyle return to the stage at this year’s Olympia to take on 2020 champion Andrea Shaw. The thought has been on her mind, but she remains undecided as to whether she will compete this year or not.
“It pretty much runs through my mind every day,” she says. “I haven’t made a decision or come to a conclusion. Time is running out. I have to weigh, ‘is there a reason that I should get back onstage? What is the reason? Is it because of money? Is it because I’m competitive?’”
Other factors that weigh heavily on her mind includes other aspects of her life. “I have so many things that say that I have nothing to prove. Let’s go in another direction.”
One of those directions that helps Kyle thrive is in the world of Las Vegas. She already runs Bodi Café with fellow pro Hidetada Yamagishi. Now they are preparing to open a new gym in the Las Vegas area, a city that is seeing a boom in growth from the world of bodybuilding.
“I can love the sport in another way,” she says. “That’s when Powerhouse Gym came into play. It will be where I can continue to monitor and help my clients. Hide and myself have been thinking about this going back to before COVID. We’ve always had this on our plate. We’re taking everything that inspires ourselves and our clients, and we’re putting it into this. We’re going to make this a place that people want to come to, a motivational place, a place that is drama free, a place that has the top of the line equipment.”
Whether it’s her career onstage, her business life, or anything else she commits to, she wants to make one statement loud and clear: “Never count Iris Kyle out on anything anytime I have my hands in anything,” she says. “Whether it’s business or from the sport’s standpoint, I’m going to give my best and offer all of my experience, my humbleness, to make sure whoever I’m gracing or in the presence of, they’re going to walk away with a good feeling and in good spirits with what I had to offer or share.”