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1999 Ms. Olympia controversy
The 1999 Ms. Olympia was originally scheduled to be held on 9 October in Santa Monica, California. However, one month before the scheduled date, the IFBB announced that the contest had been cancelled. The main cause was the withdrawal of promoter Jarka Kastnerova (who promoted the 1998 contest in Prague) for financial reasons, including a low number of advance ticket sales for the 1999 event. The backlash following the announcement led to a flurry of activity, with the contest being rescheduled as part of the Women’s Extravaganza (promoted by Kenny Kassel and Bob Bonham) in Secaucus, New Jersey on 2 October. Last minute sponsorship came from several sources, most significantly in the form of ,000 from Flex magazine. Amid all the turmoil, Kim Chizevsky-Nicholls won her fourth consecutive title.
Changes in 2000
The IFBB introduced several changes to Ms. Olympia in 2000. The first change was that Ms. Olympia contest would no longer be held as a separate contest, instead became part of the “Olympia Weekend” in Las Vegas and held the day before the men’s show. The second change was when heavyweight and lightweight classes where added. The third change was the new judging guidelines for presentations were introduced. A letter to the competitors from Jim Manion (chairman of the Professional Judges Committee) stated that women would be judged on healthy appearance, face, makeup, and skin tone. The criteria given in Manion’s letter included the statement “symmetry, presentation, separations, and muscularity BUT NOT TO THE EXTREME!” The 2000 Ms. Olympia is the only Ms. Olympia with no overall winner, with Andrulla Blanchette winning lightweight class and Valentina Chepiga winning heavyweight class.
Of the three pro contests held in 2000, only the Ms. International named an overall winner – Vickie Gates, who had won the contest in 1999. The Jan Tana Classic and the Ms. Olympia simply had weight class winners. With Kim Chizevsky-Nicholls retiring from bodybuilding to pursue fitness competition, the Ms. Olympia title was shared by class winners Andrulla Blanchette and Valentina Chepiga.
Two legends return
The 2001 pro schedule opened routinely enough, with Vickie Gates winning the Ms. International title for the third consecutive year. However, the Ms. Olympia featured a “surprise” winner, as Juliette Bergmann returned to competition at age 42. Bergmann, the 1986 Pro World champion, had not competed since 1989. Entering the Olympia as a lightweight, she defeated heavyweight winner Iris Kyle for the overall title. In the five years that the Ms. Olympia was contested in multiple weight classes, this was the only time that the lightweight winner took the overall title.
In 2002, six-time Olympia winner Lenda Murray returned after a five-year absence. Bergmann (lightweight) and Murray (heavyweight) won the two weight classes in both 2002 and 2003. Murray won the overall title both years, setting a new standard of eight Ms. Olympia titles. Another noteworthy event in 2003 was the thirteenth and final Jan Tana Classic, won by newcomer Helle Nielsen from Denmark.
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