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There are many important bodybuilding contests that have great significance. Examples include the Olympia (obviously), the Arnold Classic, and pro qualifiers such as the USA Championships and NPC Nationals. One contest that delivered this year’s special moment is the 2021 NPC Armed Forces National Championships.
The 2021 edition of this NPC show took place at Virginia’s Hilton Alexandria Mark Center. The contest is only open to active and retired members of the US Armed Forces as well as their direct family members. Promoter Tony Roberts has a deep connection to this show — not only because he is at the helm, but he was once a competitor in this show himself.
“I served in the military for 20 years. I started bodybuilding when I was in the Army,” Roberts said. “I can relate to doing the active military career and trying to diet, train, and still satisfy your military obligations. It’s a balancing act. So, for me this is like full circle. I used to compete on that stage, I did the Armed Forces Championships, and now I’m the promoter. This is great.”
Roberts, along with longtime NPC promoters Gary Udit and Rick Bayardi, made it a priority to show recognition and appreciation for everyone in the building that has connections to the Armed Forces. The show is kicked off with the National Anthem and a presentation of colors by members of the U.S. Color Guard. Every competitor received a Challenge Coin onstage from Roberts, delivered in the time-honored tradition method — a handshake with the coin in the presenter’s hand.
Two special awards were also presented onstage during the show. The Honorable Rob Wilkins was recognized for his service both in the military and in fitness. Aside from his 26 years as a member of the U.S. Air Force, he’s also a member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition.
Another special guest that was honored was US Navy Seal and NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy, who is the star of the Disney Plus show “Among the Stars.” He was recognized for his commitment on both fronts. Even the announcer, Tim Wilkins (no relation to Rob), had multiple connections to this show. He is a retired Marine, competitor himself, and father to one of the competitors, Kami Wilkins in the Bikini division.
In between prejudging and finals of the contest, the crowd was treated to a performance by the guest poser, US Army member and 2017 Arnold Classic Champion Cedric McMillan. McMillan also addressed the crowd showing appreciation for those in service as well as their families for their support.
While the events during the show exemplify the significance of service to country, the featured attraction is the athletes themselves. If you were to see them backstage, there was no conflict, standing off, or intense debates about disagreements. Competitors were helping each other with tanning and oil, sharing equipment for pumping up, even offering phone chargers so their cell phones were available for videos and pictures. All of the competitors in every division were supporting each other in victory and defeat as well. This wasn’t simply another contest on the schedule to them, they presented the best of themselves to the judges and audience watching live and on the webstream.
Competitors of the 2021 NPC Armed Forces National Championship who graced the stage took part in Bodybuilding, Classic Physique, Men’s Physique, Women’s Bodybuilding, Women’s Physique, Figure, Bikini, and Wellness. Some competitors took part in multiple shows. The winners are listed below. All champions will move on to the 2021 NPC Nationals for their opportunities to earn their IFBB Pro League cards.
The 2022 NPC Armed Forces Nationals will take place on the weekend of November 18th and 19th, and from all accounts, fans that were there will return next year. For those that have yet to be a part of the NPC Armed Forces National Championships, it’s a special one that should be added to the bodybuilding calendar. Aside from supporting athletes, fans are supporting those that have given so much to their country and the people living in it. As Roberts explained, just being in attendance is a sign of support that everyone involved would appreciate.
“We know what the family members have to do to support them, and sometimes they don’t get their just due. For us to shine the light on the athletes themselves, they deserve that. My thing is (attending the show) is a small price to pay for the men and women who have given so much to this country.”