2011 IFBB British Grand Prix & Fitness Expo Weekend

March 19th & 20th ExCel Centre, London
Report by Aaron Hallett (aka Incredible Bulk)

Featuring:

  • IFBB Pro Bodybuilding
  • Giants Live Pro Strongman
  • Joe Weider's Mr Olympia Euro Amateur Event & the International Cup
  • Arm Wrestling & Grappling
  • MMA
  • Powerlifting
  • World Gym Challenge Fitness
  • Amateur Strongman Qualifier
  • BMX & Skateboarding
  • Fitness Models
  • Seminars
  • Trade Stands

What a weekend! After leaving a few days to take in the weekends' events, I have had time to reflect on what was the resurgence of the IFBB British Grand Prix.

First of all I would like to say a big thank you to the reporting team consisting of MT members Dazc, Big Les, Fivos and Nigel (Biker). You guys helped make the weekend run smoothly with regards to the reporting of the events, the live play-by-play and the photography. Without you all none of this would have been possible for MT and I hope the members have enjoyed following everything that unfolded over the weekend.

As the MT crew was setting everything up in the auditorium, IFBB pros were walking around chatting to the judges and it's a very surreal occurrence for a bodybuilding fan as many never get the chance to see these guys in person, only through media such as magazines and YouTube videos. Until you see a pro in real life it never quite hits home how small you are in comparison!!

The auditorium was impressive in its set up and you could tell great attention to detail was paid to the lighting which made it reminiscent of previous British Grand Prix. The weekend started off with a flurry of activity in both the Expo Hall with the Amateur Strongman, MMA bouts, arm wrestling, powerlifting and also the début of the Amateur Olympia contest. There was a high standard of competition in all classes and the reward of an IFBB Pro card was hotly contested with a beautifully proportioned and conditioned Ebrahim Ali Alihaddad taking both the U90kg class and Overall. Sadly for bodybuilding fans, Ebrahim refused the pro card so it was handed to the O100kg winner Thomas Bures who we later saw make his pro début.

The auditorium was filled with anticipation before the Pro 202lb class prejudging; Flex Lewis had taken a year away from the stage, John Hodgson had kept a lid on his developments, James Llewellin was seeking his first Olympia qualification, Paul George was making his comeback and Shaun J Tavernier was making his pro début.

Once the comparisons were made it was a clear that the Battle of Britain that was touted about prior to the show was underway. Flex Lewis had the crowd in the palm of his hand with the progress he had made. Flex has now brought balance to his physique that only a long uninterrupted off-season could have yielded. John Hodgson and James Llewellin were battling it out for second place and there wouldn't have been any complaint had it of gone either way. At the end of it all, the 202 class will be well represented by the British at this years Mr Olympia contest that's for sure and hopefully in up and coming qualifiers: MuscleTalk's very own Shaun J Tavernier will also be joining them.

The open class seemed to be locked down for a Branch win before he stepped on stage with many fans as soon as he stood amongst the pack in the line up you could see another successive win for him. Whilst not in 100% condition from the rear, Branch still dominated the stage with his freaky size and conditioning from the front. Ronny Rockel was an impressive sight as was an improved showing from Roelly Winklaar; the Dutchman has certainly improved upon his posing and stage presence.

Some discord was heard in the auditorium when Ronny placed forth as many fans had him higher in the line up, but many were pleased to see Roelly achieve qualification to the Olympia. For most, Roelly presents a counter balance to the large physiques of Branch and Cutler on the Olympia stage.

A special note goes to Alvin Small, whilst also making his pro stage début he managed to hold his own in direct comparisons with IFBB veteran Toney Freeman. Give Alvin time and we just could well see a Brit win an open class in an IFBB show again.

If you were not a fan of bodybuilding then you had plenty of strongman events with the Giants Live show to whet your appetite. The first deadlift event alone saw the world record well broken with Mark Felix and Laurence Shahlaei defending their territory against the invading Arnold Classic winner, American Brian Shaw. MT's own Terry Hollands sadly had to retire later from the competition with an injury.

Derek Poundstone, although out of the contest with a back injury, still brought a large crowd to the strongman arena and took to the microphone commentating with World's Strongest Man hall of famer Svend Karlsen. Brian Shaw took the title but Laurence Shahlaei still pushed him every inch of the way during the contest which ignited the home crowd.

Around the Expo Hall you had the supplement and bodybuilding industry well supported by companies such as Gaspari, Isopure, Bodybuilding.com and 1 Rep Max Clothing who also brought their sponsored athletes which was a good draw for the spectators seeking autographs and photographs.

The MuscleTalk stand was a hive of activity with Daz Ball, Oliver Price, Rhags and Steve Gardener entertaining the crowd and also provided a base for MuscleTalk members to meet each other throughout the weekend.

After the expo hall was closed and the auditorium emptied after the final day you could see a sea of faces alive with the gossip of the weekends' events. With the untold amount of hours, days and weeks poured into the planning of this event, much respect is owed to the three men who have cemented the return of IFBB Pro Bodybuilding back into the UK calendar: James Collier, Neil Hill and Simon Fan.

With the ExCel Arena booked for the next five years and the planning already started for 2012, we can look forward to the Grand Prix weekend being built on, expanded and improved for even greater shows in the future. As a bodybuilding and strongman fan I, for one, cannot wait.

202 line up: John Hodgson, Flex Lewis, James Llewellin, Shaun Joseph-Tavernier
202 line up: John Hodgson, Flex Lewis, James Llewellin, Shaun Joseph-Tavernier

Flex Lewis
Flex Lewis

Branch Warren with James Collier
Branch Warren with James Collier

Brian Shaw cracking the deadlift
Brian Shaw cracking the deadlift

Big Loz Shahlaei showing us that Brits are as good deadlifters as the yanks!
Big Loz Shahlaei showing us that Brits are as good deadlifters as the yanks!