In the world of fitness, 2004 was the year of Adela Garcia. She swept both major competitions, the Fitness International and the Fitness Olympia, and was seemingly the athlete to beat, the new dominant force in the sport. But turmoil in her personal life, including a divorce from her long-time husband, diverted her focus and turned 2005 into a difficult competitive period. She lost the International by a mere two points to Jen Hendershott, then tumbled all the way to third at the Fitness O as Hendershott took that title as well. Rumors abounded that she was being “punished” by the IFBB judging panel for her relationship with mercurial IFBB pro Lee Priest, but in reality, and as Garcia herself admits, her head just wasn’t in the game.

However, at the 2006 Fitness International March 4 in Columbus, Ohio, Garcia made a stunning move back to the top, upending last year’s champ Hendershott, who fell to third behind Kim Klein. With a revamped two-minute routine and upgrades in her already stellar physique, she swept three of the four judging rounds to assertively take back the crown that means so much to her. Backstage, she was ebullient, at one point leaping up and down with joy.

“Last year was tough for me,” she said. “I went through a lot of personal problems. I went from being on top to pretty much starting all over again. I used that; I realized you can’t just sit back, no matter what’s going on in your life, you have to continue training hard, continue improving. It was a learning experience. I decided to get my chin up and train hard for this show, because the Arnold really means a lot to me.”

Especially proud of her two-minute routine, Garcia donned a gangster suit and came out with a lot of energy. “I was just bringing myself back to being me,” she explained. “Last year, I was on stage . . . but it’s like I wasn’t there. This year, I just wanted to have fun. It was a challenge for me to get that title back. Alti Bautista, another fitness competitor and one of my best friends, she’s the one who gave me the idea of doing Scarface. I really had an awesome time performing that routine. When I stepped onstage, I wanted it really bad, and I performed with a lot of attitude.”

And as for her brief tumble from the top? Garcia holds no grudges. “I don’t get mad, I just learn,” she said. “I’m the type of competitor, I’m happy for everybody. I was happy for Jenny when she won. There are a lot of great competitors out there and everybody wants to win, so you gotta keep working. This is my seventh year at the Arnold, and it will be my seventh at the Olympia. [My goal is to] just continue to get better.”