by John Plummer
Photography by Christopher Bailey
You can view and buy photos of this event here: https://www.ukbffphotos.com/2018/ULTIMATE-BEGINNERS
Competitors can buy all their images as a package here: http://www.christopherbailey.co.uk/product-category/ukbff-stage-photos/
A tidal wave of new competitors took part in the Ultimate Beginners contest in Gravesend, Kent.
The brilliant turnout, which included 20 in junior men's physique alone, shows the sport is in rude health with lots of young competitors coming through.
For some, it was a one-off adventure – an opportunity to get in the shape of a lifetime.
For others, it will prove to be the start of a wonderful experience that will lead to national and international competitions with the UKBFF and the IFBB.
Competitors didn't have to look far for inspiration: one of last year's Ultimate Beginners champions is preparing for the Arnold Classic Europe; another of last year's newbies competed in this year's IFBB European Championships in Spain, with her flight and hotel paid for by the UKBFF. The rise can be rapid if you're good enough.
The presence of IFBB Elite Pros Rasto Valent and Ade Bishop, who have both won prize money in the $1m IFBB Elite Pro league this year and are preparing for big shows in Spain and China, provided further examples of what is possible within the UKBFF/IFBB.
A number of competitors here did enough to suggest they could thrive at the forthcoming British Championships qualifiers in Pudsey, Dartford, Belfast, Birmingham, Leicester and Bedworth – and possibly beyond.
Alex Lord set a high standard for the day by winning junior bodybuilding with a shapely, tight package that included lots of cuts in his legs and an impressively small waist with sharp abs. Runner-up Artem Olekhnovych's physique was bigger but less refined.
Bob Vine was seriously lean by anyone's standards, let alone for a man over 40 on stage for the first time. His condition was the best of the day. Runner-up Paul Blackwell needed to be leaner to show off his muscularity to best effect.
The classic class was one of the highlights. Runner-up Joseph Peers has star potential: he had breathtaking shape and some terrific classic poses, but could be a little tighter. The winner, Maksim Anuszkiewicz, was leaner.
Lewis Green was the pick of seven entrants in the up to 90 kg division. His excellent quads and nice shape were enough to hold off Lukasz Debek, who nailed his condition.
James Wood won a close encounter in the over 90 kg class. Runner-up David Dankiewicz was shorter and wider and had some good body parts but James had a tighter waist and better shape.
The short height class was the largest female line-up of the day, featuring 15 women. Some outstanding women failed to make the top three and shouldn't be disheartened – bodybuilding can be a cruel sport.
The winner, Constance Booth, had superb legs and glutes. Runner-up Alice Richardson had a wonderful flow to her physique.
Tawana Cushine, who won the tall class, is a name to remember. Her slender but beautifully trained shape, combined with stunning looks and an excellent pair of glutes, has star potential.
It's been quite a week for Chloe Green: last weekend the 21-year-old from Telford won a silver medal at the Taekwondo International World Championships; this week she proved just as deadly in a pair of high heels by KO'ing her rivals in junior bikini fitness. Impressive runner-up Stephanie Lhamas displayed great shape and tone as well as a dazzling smile.
The popular wellness class boiled down to a battle between Lily Anderson, who had an army of fans cheering her on, and Sarah Ekanem. Lily brought a terrific package to the stage and with a little more lower body mass could be a real force. But Sarah's sizeable, shapely quads proved better suited to the class and earned first place.
Nora Koczka looked too young to be in masters bikini – her face and body defied both the years and gravity. What great proportions. Her legs were especially impressive.
Amy Hale won bodyfitness with the kind of glutes and lines it takes most competitors years to acquire. Her condition was excellent too – she was a credit to her coach, British bodybuilding great JD Dawodu, who looked on proudly. Definitely one of the finds of the day.
The stacked tall class featured 15 well trained guys. Tomas Tieber, the winner, had serious depth to his abs and a sharp and polished look.
Medium height class winner Jason Magee's conditioning and abs were on point.
Ebin Lazar, who won the short height class, is slender but has a super structure that flows beautifully.
The juniors featured no fewer than 20 entries, which tells you everything about the quality of the winner, Adam Powe, who had the most complete and polished look in the line-up. Runner-up Elliot Troy was peeled and third placed Alexandru Tatu had a nice shape and a healthy look.
With his tattoos, crewcut and sharp muscularity, masters champion Neil Cornwell was a hard man to miss.
Courtney Moseley's wide shoulders and big chest edged out Sam Deakin, who had a brilliant midsection, in muscular men's physique.
1 Alex Lord
2 Artem Olekhnovych
Junior Bikini Fitness
1 Chloe Green
2 Stephanie Lhamas
3 Teigan Lodge
also competed: Hajnalka Balazs, Heather Damian, Lucy Oliver
and Lauren Varhinsbergh
Junior Men's Physique
1 Adam Powe
2 Elliot Troy
3 Alexandru Tatu
also competed: Joseph Jessop, Kieran Perham, Michael Lincoln, Alex Wright, Mina Fidal, Thomas Sanderson, Byron Willicombe, Cameron Cleaner, Ronald Firman, Dane Knighton, Alin Docan, Courtney Moseley, Wiktor Platenik, Jack Willmore, Patrtk Pilawski and Hedley Howlett-Brown
1 Sarah Ekanem
2 Lily Anderson
3 Rebecca Wright
also competed: Stacey Skelding, Megan Birkett, Charlotte Epsom, Lauren Stone, Nassia Mannian and Lauren Wall
1 Bob Vine
2 Paul Blackwell
Masters Men's Physique
1 Neil Cornwell
Masters Bikini Fitness
1 Nora Koczka
2 Louise Mosedale
3 Gemma Rahman
also competed: Claire Spencer, Claire Harwood and Carol Aquino
1 Maksim Anuszkiewicz
2 Joseph Peers
3 Mark Coleman
also competed: Adrian Giersz, James Cook, Marius Moldovan and Callum Todd
1 Amy Hale
2 Amy Beckett
3 Rachel Tedford
also competed: Nicola Wilson
Bodybuilding up to 90 kg
1 Lewis Green
2 Lukasz Debek
3 Paul Dunn
also competed: James Bowmer, Adrian Giersz and Edgaras Lindinas
Bodybuilding over 90 kg
1 James Wood
2 David Dankiewicz
1 Tanya Nelson
Bikini Fitness up to 164 cm
1 Constance Booth
2 Alice Richardson
3 Kayley Bull
also competed: Chiara Cappellaro, Claire Morris, Gerda Siauciulyte, Hannah Jakeman, Kirsty Dove, Lauren Cowle, Lorena De Vanna, Rebecca Munson, Laura Kempyte, Elise Harrison, Nora Koczka and Natalia Jelsvicova
Bikini Fitness over 164 cm
1 Tawana Cushine
2 Annabel Von Bergen
3 Nicoll O'Rallaghan
also competed: Heather Damian, Huamei Wu, Kristy Beaumont, Stephanie Stubbington and Lauren Varhinsbergh
Muscular Men's Physique
1 Courtney Moseley
2 Sam Deakin
3 Vlad Petrescu
Men's Physique up to 172 cm
1 Ebin Lazar
2 Kishan Patel
3 Dennis Pascual
also competed: Joss Armstrong, Matthew Bicar, Max Fontaine, Abhinav Ganguly, Rob Crook, Samir Rai, Yogi Sharp, Dale Spears, Syed Ashraf and Csaki Szilard
Men's Physique up to 179 cm
1 Jason Magee
2 Gregg Tipler
3 Badqi Chen
also competed: Mauricio Cadenas, Chris Crehan, Deividas Katiliavas, Joe Deverell, Matthew Parris-Kellman, Christopher Mansfied, Jonathan Sokbiov, Andrew Huxley and Andrei Adam
Men's Physique over 179 cm
1 Tomas Tieber
2 Filip Carlos
3 Orhan Timur Mehmet
also competed: Jacques Meredith-Smythe, Mo Adel, Stephen Carter, Courtney Moseley, Krzysztof Antkowiak, Kun Qian, Lula Markovich, Daniel Brown, Shaun Pickering, Peter Boakes, Anish Daddar and Ben Lucas