The Fitness International has been a significant part of the Arnold Sports Festival since 1994. In the 29 previous years, 16 women have won the title. The 30th edition of the contest will be a part of the 2023 Arnold Classic, scheduled for the weekend of March 2-5 in Columbus, OH.
One of the 10 women on the roster hopes to be the ninth Fitness athlete to win this prestigious title twice, while eight others aim to be the 17th champion in history. The full roster is in alphabetical order below:
2023 Fitness International Roster
- Jaclyn Baker
- Tiffany Chandler
- Michelle Fredua-Mensah
- Ariel Khadr — Defending Champion
- Allison Kramer
- Minna Pajulahti
- Terra Plum
- Kristin Pope
- Tamara Vahn
Past Champion — Ariel Khadr
Khadr enters this contest as the defending champion, having won the title in 2022 with a memorable Terminator-inspired performance during the routine round. Khadr has five wins as a pro.
Khadr was considered a top contender to win the 2022 Fitness Olympia, but she placed third to winner Missy Truscott. It was Truscott’s second Olympia title in Las Vegas, NV. This will be Khadr’s sixth Fitness International appearance.
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Below are the athletes likeliest to challenge Khadr for the crown:
Jaclyn Baker has been rising through the ranks over the last few years, but 2022 was when she made the most noise. She finished the 2022 Fitness Olympia in second place to Truscott, one rank higher than Khadr. Baker’s 2022 season included a third-place finish in the Fitness International and a runner-up finish in the Boston Pro, also won by Truscott.
The former Figure competitor turned pro in 2017 and has one pro win — the 2019 Pro Miami Beach contest. Since there were less than three months between the Olympia and Arnold weekends, Baker should feel confident going into Columbus.
British competitor Fredua-Mensah placed fifth at the 2022 Fitness Olympia, which is impressive considering it was her first time on the Olympia stage. She will make her Arnold USA debut but placed second at the Arnold Classic UK contest in 2022. Fredua-Mensah turned pro at the 2021 NPC Worldwide Arnold Amateur UK contest.
Fredua-Mensah may not have as many shows under her belt as others in the lineup, but the Olympia proves she can perform well on big stages.
Vahn is a Canadian competitor and, like Baker, has been on the rise. She was sixth at the 2022 Olympia — tied for her highest rank to date — and fifth in the 2022 Fitness International. Vahn won the 2022 Puerto Rico Pro — her second victory in the IFBB Pro League. This will be her second Fitness International appearance.
Others to Watch
Below are three athletes who could make a run for the podium if they nail their peaks on competition day:
Allison Kramer was ninth at the 2022 Olympia and finished one spot behind Vahn in the 2022 Fitness International. The 2018 NPC Junior USA winner has one pro victory thus far in her pro career — the 2021 Nashville Night of Champions Pro.
Kramer’s physique is impressive, but two-thirds of the scoring comes in the routine round, in the finals. A big performance in Columbus could shoot her up the standings.
The Finland native was seventh in the 2022 Fitness International and eighth in the 2022 Olympia. She is no stranger to winning, as she has four pro wins in her six-year career. Pajulahti was a former Women’s Physique competitor who switched to Fitness in 2018.
The muscularity Pajulahti brought with her serves her in the physique round of the contests she enters. Like Kramer, the routine will be critical in how high she finishes.
Plum rounded out the top ten in the 2022 Olympia in Las Vegas, NV. She won two titles last year — the Arizona Pro and Arnold Classic UK championships — bringing her total wins as a pro to four. She turned pro in the 2018 Canadian Physique Alliance (CPA) Vancouver Pro Qualifier show. This will be her sixth pro season in the IFBB Pro League.
Upsets aren’t unusual in bodybuilding, so it would not be surprising if the two athletes below take home some hardware from Columbus:
Chandler hasn’t competed in a pro show since the 2020 Fitness International, where she placed third. She was also sixth at that year’s Olympia in Orlando, FL. According to NPC News Online, Chandler has been on the pro circuit since 2013, and she won the 2019 Puerto Rico Pro.
Chandler’s career achievements make her a contender, but we’ll see if she can hit her peak after a two-plus year absence from competition.
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2023 marks Pope’s pro debut on the Arnold stage. She was the 2022 Arnold Amateur Fitness champion and started competing in 2021. She won the 2021 Nashville Night of Champions NPC show in Fitness and Figure.
The 2023 Fitness International is one of seven pro shows at the 2023 Arnold Classic. Pre-judging will take place on the Expo stage at the Greater Columbus Convention Center on Friday, March 3, 2023, and the finals will be that evening in the Battelle Grand Ballroom. The show will be streamed on pay-per-view, courtesy of Fanmio. The pay-per-view and tickets can be ordered at the Arnold Sports Festival website.
Featured Image: @itsarielkhadr on Instagram