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Throughout 2021, the talk of the bodybuilding industry was the addition of the Wellness division to the Olympia weekend. While there were a few that thought it was too many divisions in one show, the results spoke for themselves. The fans in Orlando waited at the Expo stage in anticipation of seeing the athletes, and the competitors exceeded expectations. As a result, the Olympia has announced that in 2022, the Wellness division would be contested on the main stage in Las Vegas, NV.
One of the earliest supporters of Wellness and its athletes was renowned photographer J.M. Manion of NPC News Online. He joined Alina Popa and Lenda Murray on a recent episode of Femme Flex Friday to follow up on how much the division has grown within the IFBB Pro League. He explained that he had been under the impression that Wellness represented something else until he saw it for the first time in person.
“When I first saw it in Colombia in 2018, I originally thought, like a lot of people’s misconception that wellness was just out of shape bikini or figure competitors,” says Manion. “And seeing it in person was like, wow, okay, now I completely understand that.”
Manion had been talking to his father, NPC and IFBB Pro League President Jim Manion about bringing the emerging division into the fold, and promoter Tamer El Guindy had also been expressing praise about the athletes. It would take Manion filming a video of a competition at the Arnold Amateur in 2019 to verify that Wellness was for real.
“And I took a video I stood up and took a 180 video I followed behind me to show my father the audience at the wall has prejudging. So, I sent it on on WhatsApp. And he goes, ‘oh, is that the audience for the pro men’s bodybuilding?’ I said ‘no, this is for the Wellness Model Search,’” Manion explained. “There was at the end of that Expo at the back, men had women, their girlfriends or wives sitting on their shoulders so that they could see the stage.”
Clearly, the first impression was a good one, and the rest is history. Speaking of history, Popa and Murray also recap the evolution of the Wellness division since its inception in 2020. From Renee Harshey becoming the first Wellness Pro to Francielle Mattos becoming the inaugural Olympia champion, relive the growth of this popular division on this episode of Femme Flex Friday. Catch this episode as well as the entire season over at www.wingsofstrength.net.