It takes a lot of sacrifice and tenacity to enter a bodybuilding contest and allow yourself to be vulnerable.  It’s not easy to take the stage after grueling preparation and put your physique at the mercy of seven judges.

Training and nutrition is a bitch.  Being evaluated, in front of your family and friends, strangers and onlookers, is no cupcake either.

As an Ontario Physique Association judge for many years now, I often gaze in wonder at the champions that stand before me, and there is no doubt about it, they are all champions.

Judging physiques is hard. 

Painful even. 

Every comparison, of one body part against another, lifts one soul higher, but ultimately condemns another.  It can’t be helped.  It’s the nature of the beast.  It’s the DNA of a bodybuilding contest.

Catherine has a heart of a champion. 

She is driven.  A professional and no nonsense woman.  A wife and a mother. 

She is dedicated, gentle, and somewhat crazy

She seems very obsessed about picking up heavy objects and putting them down.  She repeats this madness at nauseam.  One week turns into the next.  One year blends into another.

I have met many Catharines in my time as a regional judge.

I call them ‘road kill’, or more accurately, ‘stage kill’.  I have tried over the years to come up with a more suitable name, but the fruits of my labour continue to elude me.

Stage Kill’ will have to do for now.

On this particular night, Catherine came in dead last.

Before you throw your first stone in my direction, please note that after careful consideration, I stand by my decision that based on careful analysis, hers was the weakest physique on stage. 

Yes.  I killed her.  There is no doubt about it.

Being ‘stage kill’ is not easy.  Being the executioner not much easier either.

Sometimes I think that coming up with the name of the winner is easy.  It isn’t difficult when you’re awe struck by the beautiful symmetry of the human body; male or female.  Especially when they exude great confidence and know how to pose with conviction.

I most often struggle with the last few spots.  Their place in the bodybuilding lore, is no less important in my mind, because the difference of one athlete to another is so minimal.  This is where I face the most difficult decision.  Ultimately, the stage floor must be littered with bleeding, bleating corpses, of competitive physiques.

There can only be one winner.  A runner up.  A third.  Fourth.  And a fifth.

All five competitors advance to the Provincial Championships where the game will begin anew.  One athlete is crowned with the glory of a champion.  Everyone else… is ‘roadkill’.

Catherine looked beautiful.

She presented her physique brilliantly.  Her hair and make-up was beautiful.  Her suit was magnificent.  Her tan was perfect.  Her movements were graceful.

She smiled. 


She continued to smile, even when it was evident that she would be passed over, and the knives were out.

She wasn’t in the first call out, and just like that she knew that it was over.

She continued to smile.  She continued to shine. 

She has the true heart of a champion. 

She knows that in the final analysis, although losing is never easy, the most important challenge is the one you have with yourself. 

It’s when your mind and body decide to fight each other for supremacy.  When celebrations and birthday parties come at you in waves.  When your coworkers suddenly start bringing boxes and boxes of Timbits and home baked goods.  When you feel that you have made very little progress or none at all, or worse, you actually think you have regressed. 

You become tired of eating food out of a Tupperware container.  You wish to become to normal and not have to deny yourself everything.  Most of all, you’re tired of beginning every invitation and conversation with the phrase, “I’m in the middle of a contest prep”.

You’re tired of yelling for no reason.  Crying with the changing of the seasons. 

Not knowing how it happened that you found yourself at the drive through window, five minutes to midnight, ordering a double Big Mac combo.  Not for yourself, of course, but because a dollar from your purchase is going to help families living at the Ronald McDonald house.  Yes.  You always think about the children. 

The fight is real.  It takes a champion to do battle when the country is at peace.

Everyone who takes the physique stage has the heart of a champion, although sadly, some don’t believe it. They will look at the score card, and take their broken limbs, and festering wounds, home.  They will carry the needless shame of defeat with them.

There is no reason for that.

All competitors are superheroes.

Catherine is a champion.

This is why, when I saw her on stage, armed with a warm smile, I wanted to give her something.  A few days after the show, I extended her an invitation to do a photo session with me, at no cost.  She graciously accepted, and what follows are a few samples.

I present to you Catherine the Great. 

The Lioness.

A woman, with the heart of a Champion.