The bodybuilders in the back row couldn't believe Smiley Elmore had only placed fourth. They muttered amongst themselves as the outrageously muscular, 45-year-old former University of Missouri running back ('90) in pink briefs exited the stage still flexing thighs bigger than some men's torsos.
It was Robert "Show Stopper" Johnson that grabbed first place at the Drug Free Athletes Coalition Championship (DFAC) Evolution Natural Bodybuilding Championship, which packed the auditorium of Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School [corrected] on Saturday. The competition included both nationally regarded bodybuilders and first timers vying for a place in the growing-but-crowded natural bodybuilding field. The win for Johnson will send him to the DFAC World Finals in Miami in November. For Smiley, it's back to the weight room.
Both Johnson and Elmore already got their "Pro Cards," meaning they've won their weight class in a previous championship. These guys are the big leagues, where winning matches can lead to sponsors and bigger competitions.
Elmore's hopes were raised after the morning prejudging round where he and six other Pros posed and flexed as judges shuffled the row order on stage. The better your performance is, he explained, the closer the judges moved you toward the middle of the row. During the round the judges placed him near the center and barely moved him again. After Elmore got off the stage, he said, "It's the best I've ever done."
Smiley wasn't the only one with inflated hopes by the time the competition broke at noon for food and rest before returning in the evening for the real prize rounds. One such hopeful was Adrian Shropshire, a 60-year-old former construction worker.
After five years of bodybuilding, Shropshire had managed to place fourth or fifth a handful of times in the Masters class, but never higher than third. "I'm going after the one," he said as his wife Val smoothed and patted bronzer on his back and shoulders before his own prejudging round. "You never know who's coming to the show. And that's one thing I've learned. There's always somebody coming whose thinking the same way you're thinking."
Does Adrian Shropshire win? Does he nab that elusive first-place prize at the age of 60?