An incredible 143 athletes lined up on stage for the first time at the Ultimate Beginners – Stars of Tomorrow in Kent.
Not many contests attract that many competitors so for an event dedicated solely to novices to do so is testament to the strength of the sport and the efforts of promoter Sarah Bridges.
It wasn't just the quantity of competitors that was impressive – the quality was too. In front of a sell-out crowd at The Woodville in Gravesend, which used to host the Kent Classic, some exciting new talent seized the day. Many would do well to get back on stage soon for a British Championships qualifier.
The stage newbies didn't have to look far for examples of the opportunities that exist in the UKBFF. Emma Paveley, who has qualified for this year's Fitness Olympia, handed out trophies and Zulmira Woodrow, one of this season's outstanding international competitors, received her IFBB elite card.
Not long ago Emma and Zulmira were beginning their bodybuilding adventures. Now they're competing for top prizes around the world. If you're good enough, the sky is the limit.
It was encouraging to see a good number of bodybuilders in an era when men's physique is so popular.
Nobody made a bigger splash than over-90 kg champion Robert Takan. What a shape this guy has. He's tall, and will need to fill out more before he can trouble the mass monsters on the national scene but he has a really impressive and balanced physique, with a tight, tiny waist, great legs and decent width. This south Londoner is one to watch.
The under-90 kg class was close between Scott Long and Timothy Bartlett. Timothy was taller than everyone else in the class and with his width and big quads was hard to ignore. However, Scott Long was sharper and also had a good muscular shape. He dominated the rear poses, where his hamstrings showed off his superior conditioning, to take first place.
All five juniors showed potential but Grant Bavidge was an outstanding champion. Grant was the most muscular, with impressive overall size and a particularly strong back. He was also in excellent condition, which slammed the door shut on any hope his rivals had of defeating him. Jan Karac's superior muscularity and conditioning prevailed in the masters.
Classic bodybuilding champion Marcin Koza almost missed the class after arriving late on stage but made up for lost time by making an immediate impact with his highly detailed physique.
Ellesse Phipps was one of the stars of the day. She won an outstanding bodyfitness class with a package that would not only shine in a qualifier but also on the national stage. Slender, with a tiny waist, she has enhanced her shape further by intelligently sculpting muscle on to her frame to make it flow beautifully. Her shoulders and upper back were superb; her legs were excellent and if she repeats this level of conditioning she can go far. Runner-up Martyna Polenska and third-placed Robin Swinkels rounded out a top class top three.
Thirty women competed in the two bikini fitness open height classes. In the huge 16-strong tall class, the effervescent Lauren Hope shone brightest. She was sharp and worked the stage well with the confidence that came from knowing she'd nailed her prep. Runner-up Philippa Sturdy wasn't quite as tight but she had impressive shape, especially from behind.
Of the 14 women in the short class, the stunning Lucy Hillsley took the winner's trophy with a slender but well trained body, ahead of Shanice Graham, who had excellent legs and a terrific package.
The masters class was one of the strongest of the day. There was little to separate the top three but Carly Howlett claimed first spot with a lovely, athletic shape and was then joined on stage by her children. Holly Fletcher's balanced body and confident presentation took junior bikini.
Two contrasting physiques jousted for first in masters bodyfitness. Runner-up Julie Horton had perhaps the best condition seen on stage all day. She was utterly peeled but winner Briony Farlow's physique flowed better.
Wellness was a difficult class to judge. The four women all had different strengths but the judges eventually opted for Marta Sikorska's nice tone and balance.
The up to 178 cm class was the biggest of the day. With 18 guys on stage, it was easy to get lost in the shuffle but it proved impossible to overlook Nathan Atkinson, a good-looking guy with a great smile and stage presence as well as an impressive V-taper. The slender Celso Dos Santos was second. Daniel Blake, in third, had a terrific back.
The tall Samuel Gellin prevailed in the over-178 cm division. He wasn't the biggest guy but he was sharp and had those lovely clean lines that men's physique are all about, as well as the looks. He jumped off stage after collecting his trophy and was mobbed by his mates.
The junior class featured no fewer than 14 guys but one stood out from the start. Eluzaj Ajie had wonderful shape and fullness to defeat Abdul Karim, whose lack of tan didn't obscure the fact he had outstanding abs.
Both masters competitors were in unusually good shape. Kev Rawson got the nod ahead of Graham Baker, who would have enhanced his prospects by smiling more.
Muscular men's physique provided a fittingly strong end to the day. Adeyemi Awoyemi dominated the line-up with his height, width and full chest. He also had a fantastic back. Runner-up James Hamsher showed enough to suggest he has a bright future too. He had superb abs and a thickly muscled, well-shaped upper body.
You can view and buy images of this event here: http://www.ukbffphotos.com/…/ULTIMATE-BEGINNERS-STARS-OF-TO…
Competitors can order all of their stage photos as a package here: http://baileyimage.co.uk/official-stage-photos-post-show/
1 Grant Bavidge
2 Jordan Messenger
3 Sebastian Chrzizonousk
also competed: Lewis McGivern and Phillip Elliman
Junior Bikini Fitness
1 Holly Fletcher
2 Laura Yip
3 Eda Williams
also competed: Andrea Simobotin, Charlotte Fritz, Ellee King, Gabriella Henderson, Laura Hawkins, Senna Whiteman and Aleksandra Czerniak
Junior Men's Physique
1 Eluzaj Ajie
2 Abdul Karim
3 Felipe Rodriguez
also competed: Billy Allen, Cameron O'Harrow, Connor Gazzard, Edward Newton, Miles McGilvery, Sam Brackenbury, William Blackburn-Hazel, Youmash Rai, Harry Mears, Lukas Jasaitis and James Lock
1 Jan Karac
2 Rifat Sucu
3 Jason Keeble
Masters Men's Physique
1 Kev Rawson
2 Graham Baker
1 Marta Sikorska
2 Bogdana Banu
3 Tara Fournillier
also competed: Amanda Fletcher
Masters Bikini Fitness
1 Carly Howlett
2 Clare Pritchard
3 Katerina Jakubcova
also competed: Barbara Caffrey, Christina Goumail, Jodie Lee Tenant, Debbie Wheeler, Denise Nero, Gemma Peters and Sharon Harris
1 Briony Farlow
2 Julie Horton
3 Nia Henderson
1 Marcin Koza
2 Fran Beier
3 Tom Day
also competed: Jacek Dudek, Ash Stead, Kristian Cumberbatch, Ryan Jones, Stefan Dodds, David Forster and Adrian Follett
1 Ellesse Phipps
2 Martyna Polenska
3 Robin Swinkels
also competed: Alexandra Campbell, Lucy Mills, Becky Bartlett and Karina Nedelcheva
Bodybuilding up to 90 kg
1 Scott Long
2 Timothy Bartlett
3 Marius Cichon
also competed: Nick Grier, Lee Satchell, Marius Cesnakas, Zycco Wovvell and Adam Zubrzycki
Bodybuilding over 90 kg
1 Robert Takan
2 Tabe Bawak Egbe
3 Thomas Morris
Bikini Fitness up to 166 cm
1 Lucy Hillsley
2 Shanice Graham
3 Evie Eyre
also competed: Elizabeth Venis, Emma Hellett, Gemma Peters, Jodie Kelly, Kirsty Bonnick, Maria Hansen, Georgina Josza, Claudia Paduraru, Jenell Rogers, Bilyana Topolova, Ksenia Morris, Amy Taylor and Jade Lennon
Bikini Fitness over 166 cm
1 Lauren Hope
2 Philippa Sturdy
3 Zoe Paynter
also competed: Abigail Hickman, Chrissie Cowlett, Daniella Jackson, Grace Slater, Hayley Fenning, Lili Bereczky, Samantha Rollins, Siobhan Turner, Charlene Weeks, Stephanie Child, Tracy Harley and Denise Nero
Men's Physique up to 178 cm
1 Nathan Atkinson
2 Celso Dos Santos
3 Daniel Blake
also competed: Asith Chandran, Alex Duke, Alex Lowndes, Elvin Wong, Kassidy Chaplin, Krzysztof Kaczmarowsi, Simon Kincaid, Simon Lewinson, Junior Telfer, Nathan Saghdaoui, Karim Elkosir, Sebastian Budny, Arlando Thompson, Laurent Hamili and Stuart Henderson
Men's Physique over 178 cm
1 Samuel Gellin
2 Daniel Poole
3 Adebisi Aje
also competed: Anthony Chase, CJ White, Luke Guy, Neil Coleman, Jamie Coe, Sebastian Pilecki, Abdulkarim Almahyawi, Vasil Demirov, Calum O'Connor, Michael Ashley and Felipe Rodriguez
Muscular Men's Physique
1 Adeyemi Awoyemi
2 James Hamsher
3 Dwayne Roberts
also competed: Harrison Roberts