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A highlight of my winter months is the annual Arnold Sports Festival.

In the  past, I’ve competed in the bodybuilding portion of this weekend (my best placing being 5th runner-up in 1997), as well as attending the invitation-only International Sports Hall of Fame (ISHOF) ceremony. This year, I was going to be there sitting at a booth with Sabu, working from my professional wrestling background as opposed to my fitness persona.  So this year, I was Super Genie Melissa Coates.

Sabu and I recently returned from a successful trip to Japan, so it turned out we had to head out to Columbus Ohio early. Very early, on Saturday morning March 5th. We drove down from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Sabu resides (my residence is in Atlanta). The weather as of late was terrible and the roads were very slippery.

I hoped to get there in time to once again attend the ISHOF, where Dolph LundgrenJohnny BenchRonnie ColemanDr. AnnMaria De Mars (former UFC champion Ronda Rousey’s mother), Kurt Angle, and Royce Gracie were being inducted, but the weather slowed us down and we got there near the end of the punctual event.

The main reason we were there was to work the Muscle Potential  Gear booth. So the ISHOF was an important part of the weekend, but not the only priority.  It was unfortunate not getting there for the start when the magic began when Arnold entered the room.

The rumor was that Sylvester Stallone came to the event to hang with Arnold (and to chat about a new movie project, and rumor was they wrestled about in Arnold’s hotel room before the ISHOF, LOL).

I always enjoy the time after the inductions, when I can chat to the inductees, past inductees and other VIPS and old friends.  I snapped a few photos from the weekend, and here they are with my thoughts.

2016 Arnold

An 8-time Mr. Olympia, Arnold joked that he was no longer talking to Ronnie since Ronnie had won Mr Olympia eight times to Arnold’s seven.

2016 Arnold

I enjoyed talking to Ron afterwards.

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Dr. Demars in her acceptance speech said that her mother (Ronda Rousey’s grandmother) skipped lunch in order to have the money to send her daughter Ronda to judo lessons.

2016 Arnold

Dr. Demars (sitting) while Kurt Angle is inducted.

Of course, MMA Crossfire readers know Ronda’s story, but I thought that was interesting.

2016 Arnold

Royce Gracie brought his son Khonry to the event.

2016 Arnold

Khonry took the above photo. He told me he was training in MMA as well, but Royce is “holding him back.” I assumed he was being held back until till he’s ready, or more than ready, which is probably more the case. With a last name like Gracie, he likely has a bullseye on his forehead.

2016 Arnold

Kurt Angle accepted his award and said he wanted to live his life for his family and Christ. Triple H, who was inducted last year, wasn’t at the ISHOF this year, despite WWE being here and NXT running shows daily.

2016 Arnold

There was a scouting booth there as well. Not sure what up-and-comers WWE found there , but I’m sure we will find out!

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Dolph Lundgren didn’t make the event, apparently due to personal problems.

2016 Arnold

Johnny Bench said his worst injuries involved being hit in the groin with a baseball on seven different occasions.

Of course, I had a chance to mingle and catch up with some of the personalities that attended the ISHOF.

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Mark Henry was at last year’s event too.

2016 Arnold

I bumped into film star Chuck Zito!  He regularly attends the ISHOF. He must have a particular seat put aside for him by Dr. Goldman, since the past three years. I have always seen him sitting in the same chair.

It wasn’t all serious at the ISHOF either.

2016 Arnold

I caught some fun people goofing off at the end of the show, including Don Wilson (inducted in 2015), and in front of co-founder Dr. Bob Goldman and his brother Mark.

2016 Arnold

Ronnie Coleman received a lot of support at the event, as he was recovering from back surgery. He needed to stay sitting during most of the event, but showed some of the resiliency and strength that made him a champion by standing up a few times.

2016 Arnold

Ronnie actually competed during the time I competed professionally. Though his streak winning the Mr. Olympia came after I had done my two Olympias.

2016 Arnold

Don is an inductee from last year. Plus I’ve met him at some A4M events, which is the Congress on Antiaging (which Dr. Bob is also a founder). He was friendly and when I mentioned Sabu and I had just returned from Japan, he excitedly started chatting about his time in Japan. He was there with all-Japan when Stan Hansen and Abdullah the Butcher were there!

2016 Arnold

Bodybuilder Carrie Rapp and I at the booth during the Expo.

Arnold

I was up late the night before catching up with old friends at the Hilton, so I did a very quick natural look that morning in getting ready for the Expo. WWE NXT was running another show that day, as they were there since Thursday night.

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Photographer extraordinaire Jason Ellis has done over 400 covers for fitness magazines! We talked a bit about some of the photographers I worked with at Muscle&Fitness, Flex and more.

2016 Arnold

I bumped into Bob Cicherillo several times that Saturday. A successful bodybuilder and model, he is best known for being Titan in the original Gladiators  series.  He emcees the Olympia and hosts the Arnold Seminar.

He was kind enough to invite us to go to the Arnold Seminar the following morning.

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Sabu and I at the Hilton hotel. Basically, we were at the upstairs bar and restaurant that Saturday night after the day’s events. Many VIPs hung out here and relaxed after Saturday, usually the busiest day at the Classic.

2016 Arnold

Chad Nicholls or as I like to call him, Mr Kim Chivesky, LOL. Chad is considered one of the best trainers out there and trained his wife, Kim to numerous pro bodybuilding titles at both the Arnold Classic and the Ms. Olympia. I actually competed against her in 1996 and 1997, but her muscle was far bigger and denser than mine. I was a solid competitor (having won the Jan Tana in 1996 and placing 9th in my first Ms. Olympia contests, and 5th runner up at the Ms. International in 1997). It was good seeing Chad after so many years, and surprising to see him in a suit!

2016 Arnold

Finally at the party, the last notable person I bumped into was J.M. Manion, the son of the head of the IFBB and a very talented photographer in his own right. He is the main photographer for NPC magazine. I hadn’t talked to him in years, and he filled me and Sabu in on his son’s successful wrestling career and beautiful daughters’ accomplishments. A very proud father!

2016 Arnold

So after a very fun and productive night, this is the site that greeted us at the room. Sabu’ dog A.J. enjoying having one of the beds to himself, LOL.

I washed my makeup off. It’s a much easier task than earlier that day, when I wear it fairly heavy for appearances and shows and it takes a lot of work to get the eyeliner and mascara off.  A couple glasses of water later (I am a big advocate of drinking water to flush out body toxins and keep the body feeling fresh and energized. I like to add a twist of lemon or a tad of lemon juice ), I headed to bed.

Bob Cicherello invited Sabu and I to the Arnold Seminar that Sunday morning and I definitely was planning on attending.

Sunday morning I woke up around 9 AM, but it took a few moments for me to get out of bed. I had just come back a few days earlier from a wrestling trip to Japan, and was still jet lagged. Coffee. I need coffee.

I put on a better pair of workout tights, a black t-shirt (always a black t-shirt if I’m using self tanner), and a baseball cap and headed downstairs to take advantage of the complimentary breakfast.

There were many muscle fans in the breakfast room where we were staying. Dang, and not much food left, but as long as there are boiled eggs and some fruit and coffee, I’m happy. I also grabbed some yogurt, and of course coffee, and headed back upstairs via elevator to the room.

I ate a bit, showered and got ready to go. I decided what I’d do is attend the seminar, then go back to the hotel to get dressed and ready for the Expo appearance Sabu and I were to do later. This would allow me to get ready much quicker for the seminar, and it was already getting late. The seminar was starting at 11, and by the time I felt I looked presentable, it was time to head over to the Hilton, which was where the seminar was being held.

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Sabu was ready in the meantime, and we walked over to the Hilton from our hotel which was a short walk away.

The seminar was packed and Arnold was entertaining and intelligent as usual.  He presented his views and concerns on present day men’s professional bodybuilding, and talked about the importance of the athlete being a total package, including being an entertaining poser on top of having a top notch body. That is why he points out, the winner of the Classic, Kai Greene, won.

It was a very close contest between him and the first runner-up, but Kai took the championship due to his dymabic posing. Kai then took the stage and was interviewed by Arnold.

2016 Arnold

At this point Sabu and I needed to get ready for the expo and check out of the hotel, so we left the seminar.

Incidentally, some one commented that Arnold should be running for president over the current possibilities. Arnold, having not been born an American, is unable to hold the title of president. Arnold commented that he would love to run , but is unable. Then proceeded to tell of how he searched for any loophole possible, running down a hysterical list of any possible but unlikely lost relatives or situations. It was classic Arnold and the crowd loved it.

The Arnold

Sabu and I hurried back to the hotel to get our items packed and get ready for the booth. I dressed in full genie garb, though I went much lighter on the makeup than the day before, due to time restraints and just wanting to give my skin s break.

We loaded out suitcases into Sabu’s SUV in the parking lot, grabbed our photos and walked over to the convention centre.

We greeted the owner at the booth, Muscle Potential Gear (a clothing line for male competitors, and I joked that Sabu would look smashing in one of the tinier sequined thongs that were available through the company. LOL. He was horrified. He is actually pretty shy, a fact that would surprise many people. I think we will save the sequins and thongs for me, LOL.

After signing several photographs and posing for photos, we took a look around and enjoyed the perks of many protein supplement samples, energy drinks, and some booths were giving away merchandise to avoid having to pack if up and take back home. I got a cool Tshirt that reads “Swole Mate.” I love it!

By 5 PM, things were wrapping up and we were done. Always sad when the Arnold Classic ends. It’s such a fun time, with a lot of camaraderie and laughs. And good to be around so many people with similar interests. It’s a relief when the Classic is over, because if is just such a hectic time, but sad because it’s also so much fun.

We headed back to the hotel so I could change out of my Genie outfit and into some regular street clothes, then jumped in the SUV and started back on the drive home to Michigan.

@MelissaLCoates