2021 Australian Bikini Pro Show – IFBB Pro League
Report and photos by David Wellings.
This was the first IFBB Professional League Pro Show to take place on Australian soil in 2 years. The last one was the 2019 Arnold Australia in March of 2019. It was a very special event and was much welcomed by the competitors and fans.
The 2021 Australian Bikini Pro Show was held on Saturday 7th of March at the superb Sleeman Sports Complex, in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The Pro show took place after the IFBB Pro League Australian Nationals. With no Arnold Australia taking place in 2020 due to Covid, this was a much anticipated show, not only for the Australian professional athletes, but also for the event starved fans of the sport.
With Australian borders closed to international competitors, and international travel ruled out for Australian competitors, Tony Doherty decided on staging a Pro Show for the Australian Bikini Pros. With a very healthy number of Australian Bikini Pro Card holders this was an inspired idea. Although the National Amateur event featured almost every IFBB division, with Men’s Bodybuilding, Classic Bodybuilding, and Physique, and Women’s Bikini, Wellness, Figure and Physique classes, the Pro Show was only for the Bikini division. Hopefully with the ever-increasing number of Australian Pro card holders in the other categories, more pro shows including NZ pros, and expanded divisions won’t be too far away.
Firstly, a few words on the venue. The Sleeman Sports Complex, in Chandler (just outside of Brisbane) is exceptional. Wayne had shared some stories of previous events held at the venue, and I must say his description and praise for the venue was well justified. The theatre has a capacity of 1,500. The seating is staggered and everyone has a great view. I must also give credit to the stage lighting. The lighting for the show was perfect.
Eight Bikini Pro’s from around Australia came to compete for the title of Australian Bikini Pro Show Champion, with much more at stake. The title of Aussie Pro Show champion was not the only thing on offer because the contest included qualification for entry at the 2021 Olympia, in Florida USA, later this year. There has never been an Australian competitor on the Bikini Olympia stage, to the best of my knowledge, and so the opportunity to be the first one was a huge incentive. As you would imagine, the anticipation in the theatre was great.
Eight Pro women were scheduled to compete in the show, and the winner of the overall Amateur Bikini would also gain her Pro Card and would be eligible to compete at the Pro Show. The winner of the overall Amateur Bikini was a very well deserving Jess Johnson from New South Wales, meaning that later in the day, nine bikini women would walk out for the judging on the Bikini Pro Stage.
The Competitors’ line-up
Competitor 1 Aleksandra Banda, Queensland
Aleksandra won her Pro Card at the 2020 Australian Arnold pro qualifier, and made her Pro debut at this event. Aleksandra looked amazing and was in sensational condition. Her presentation and posing was all class. Lots of muscle in the right places for bikini and she made a big impact. Although Aleksandra looked sensational winning her Pro Card at the Arnold Amateur in 2020, the improvements between the 2 shows was spectacular. On seeing the combination of muscle and condition on Aleksandra, I expected her to be in the first call out.
Competitor 2 Bridget Bailey, Victoria
Bridget is a former Fitness competitor and now competes in Bikini. Bridget’s experience on stage was definitely noticeable. Strong, and confident with posing, Bridget had lots of muscle and was very conditioned. Her presentation was also excellent. Bridget may have been considered a little too “hard”, but nonetheless brought excellent condition to the stage.
Competitor 3 Claire Bonaccorsco, New South Wales.
Claire won her Pro Card in Japan at the Amateur Olympia in 2019, and shortly after competed in the 2019 Japan Pro. Competing in her second Pro show, Claire’s condition was excellent. She shows beautiful overall shape, and her incredible potential is obvious. It was wonderful to see her excitement and satisfaction in competing on the pro stage. Of special note was her confident posing and excellent stage presence. I believe once Claire adds a little more overall muscle, she will be up in the high placings on any stage in the world.
Competitor 4 Melissa Carver, Victoria
A noticeable crowd favourite, Melissa did not disappoint her fans. I had no doubt that Melissa would be placed in the centre for the first callout. Conditioning was right on, and Melissa’s back is definitely packing some quality muscle. She was headed for a very high placing, and my hunch proved correct. Melissa definitely had that combination of muscle, condition and stage presence.
Competitor 5 Shanae DiCicco, New South Wales
Shanae won her Pro Card in 2018, and I have seen her compete once before at the 2019 Arnold Australia Pro Show. Talk about condition! Shanae had incredible condition, stage presence and presentation. Shanae has a lot of muscle on her frame, and perhaps she may have been considered a little too lean, but the improvements Shanae has made since I last saw her at the Arnold were very noticeable. Possibly due to nerves, Shanae missed the centre mark on her walk out, losing just a little of that key centre lighting, but nonetheless, showed incredible condition. Her tan was spot on and her stage presence was immaculate.
Competitor 6 Stephanie Kalms, Queensland
Steph’s presentation was fantastic, and her posing was great. She was another competitor who was very popular with the fans. I had last seen Steph compete at the Amateur Olympia in 2019 in Las Vegas. Steph gained her Pro Card not too long after that at the Amateur Olympia Japan. This was the best version that I had seen of Steph, really bringing her A-game. Steph’s posing definitely commands attention, and the audience responded with great enthusiasm!
Competitor 7 Jade McKee, New South Wales
Jade came in the best condition that I have seen from her in any competition. Definitely in fantastic shape, along with an incredible mid-section. I noted that Jade had a little less size that some of the other competitors who placed higher, particularly in the glutes, but her condition and presentation highlighted all of her strengths. Jade’s posing was excellent.
Competitor 8 Katie Morris, Queensland.
Katie is a former Figure Pro, who has transitioned into the Bikini Division. I believe that Katie’s last appearance on stage was at the Japan Pro, like several others of the women. Katie was a home state fan favourite with the Queensland crowd. She delivered some strong posing and excellent presentation, and Katie was another athlete where you could clearly see the enjoyment of being back on stage. With plenty of quality “bikini competitor muscle”, Katie showed a confident presence on stage, but needs a little more conditioning to be up in the higher placings.
Competitor 9. Jess Johnson, New South Wales
Jess won her Pro Card only hours earlier after winning the Overall Bikini Amateur Show. Jess was a standout, and reminded me of established Pro and former Bikini Olympia champion Ashley Kaltwasser. She was definitely deserving of walking out onto that Pro stage today. Her conditioning was spot on. Her confidence was high and she was ready! I knew immediately that she would make a big impact in this her first Pro line up.
The competitors were put through their paces by head IFBB Pro League Australia judge Michael Buna. During the call outs, the girls were moved around many times, with several different women being placed in the centre spot for comparisons. It was obvious that it was going to be a close show.
With an Olympia Qualification at stake, you could see how hard the girls had “prepped” for the show. In the end, Melissa Carver came away with a well-deserved victory, and the added bonus of qualification for the 2021 Bikini Olympia. Mel’s emotion on winning showed just how much it meant to her. Congratulations Mel on a stunning victory.
Second and third places went to Aleksandra Banda and Jess Johnson respectively. Both made their Pro debuts at the show, with Jess only gaining her Pro Card earlier in the day.
Congratulations to Tony Doherty for organizing and making sure this show took place. After such a challenging 12 months, certainly like no other – thanks to the pandemic, you could see what this contest meant to everyone involved. The athletes, the coaches, the Pro League Staff and the fans. Even the tanning crew! As Tony said, “2021 – we are back!”
1st Place – Melissa Carver
2nd Place – Aleksandra Banda
3rd Place – Jess Johnson
4th Place – Steph Kalms
5th Place – Claire Bonaccorso
6th Place – Shanae DiCicco
7th Place – Bridget Bailey
8th Place – Jade McKee
9th Place – Katie Morris
Report and Photos by David Wellings – For GMV Productions.
(David Wellings is a very important member of the GMV Camera team at the Olympia as well as local shows. We look forward to our return to the international events such as the Olympia and Arnold Classic as soon as the “Covid no International travel” period has come to an end for all Australians. Thanks Dave for the great report, Wayne Gallasch.)