1997 Iron Man Pro Invitational
Oh my God – what a lineup!
Over 20 top athletes compete in the biggest show of muscle in this history of the IM Pro!.
1 Flex Wheeler USA
2 Lee Priest Australia
3 Ronnie Coleman USA
4 Aaron Baker USA
5 Paul Dillett USA
6 Patrick Lynn USA
7 Eddie Robinson USA
8 Henderson Thorne Canada
9 Bruce Patterson Canada
10 Ian Harrison England
11 Roland Kickinger Austria
12 Jeffrey Long USA
13 Fauzi Hanst Caribbean
14 Alessandro Komadina Italy
15 J.P. Pulkkinen Finland
16 Mohamed El Makkawy Egypt
16 Joe Spinello Canada
6th Alq Gurley USA (Dis)
12th Gunter Schlierkamp Germany (Dis)
16 Max Shamaya Israel (Dis)
16 B.J. Johns New Zealand (Dis)
Dis Jerry Rodgers USA
Dis Porter Cottrell USA
(Front cover image: Lee Priest who was runner-up. Flex Wheeler has had so many IM DVD covers we went with Lee Priest this time!)
This was the 8th year for this event, and by far, the largest collection of athletes to battle it out for the championship. Twenty three athletes, from all over the world, were here in the first IFBB pro show of the year.
Pre-judging started at 12 o clock, but by 11, there were already 300 or so fans outside the doors waiting to get in. Backstage, there was nervousness, and intense concentration by the athletes, as they prepared themselves for the event. During pre-judging, there were four parts. The first part introduced all of the athletes, half of them lining up first, and second half a couple of minutes later. The second part consisted of the first call outs, in which the judges compared athletes to each other, three at a time.
The third part consisted of each athlete come on stage and go through a routine, consisting of 7 poses. There were, in order, Front Double Bicep, Front Lat Spread, Side Chest, Rear Double Bicep, Rear Lat Spread, Side Tricep, and Abdominals & Thighs.
The fourth part brought out the final call outs of the pre-judging. This is where you could really see the differences between the top stars, and judge on who will win based on symmetry, muscle, and overall appearance. The call-outs were as follows, in order, three athletes being compared at a time.
Lee Priest – Flex Wheeler – Ron Coleman
Lee Priest – Aaron Baker – Ron Coleman
Paul Dillett – Aaron Baker – Flex Wheeler
Paul Dillett – Ron Coleman – Lee Priest
Ian Harrison – Bruce Patterson – Eddie Robinson
Henderson Thorne – Bruce Patterson – Patrick Lynn
Alq Gurley – Porter Cottrell – Patrick Lynn
Alq Gurley – Jeffrey Long – Patrick Lynn
Gunter Schlierkamp – Jeffrey Long – Roland Kickinger
The prejudging ended and the audience went home or to lunch to await the evening show. Backstage, the athletes were tested for diuretics.
The evening show started at 8 pm. There was a crowd of over 1,500 people on hand, including such notables like Chris Cormier, Shawn Ray, Mike Christian, Vince Gironda, Michio Grubbs, Craig Titus, Garret Downing, Mike Matarrazzo, and Jeff Poulin. The emcee even went as far as predicting that Chris Cormier will win the IFBB Night of Champions event in New York in May.
The evening presentations went as follows. The first part was introduction of all 23 competitors, second part was the routines of the athletes, complete with music and theatrics, and the final part was the selection of the top 10, narrowing down to the winner.
Porter Cottrell was disqualified for failure to appear at award presentation, while Jerry Rodger was disqualified for failure to take the drug test. According to Porter, he did not hear the judge announced his name and went to the dressing room to change. Four athletes were disqualified for testing positive in the drug test for diuretics. They were Alq Gurley, B.J. Johns, Gunter Schlierkamp, and Max Shamaya.
It was a hard fought battle, and the only major audience clash with the judges was that Aaron Baker should have placed third instead of fourth over Ronnie Coleman. The biggest suspense of the night was the final moment between Lee Priest and Flex Wheeler. Would Wheeler win the third Iron Man in a row or lose to a 217 pound 5 foot 3 inch, completely muscular Lee Priest? We now know the answer! It was FLEX WHEELER.
Report courtesy of Ron Avidan, getbig.com Thanks Ron for a wonderful summary of this show. Wayne