IFBB Figure Pro Shalako Bradberry Blogs About Her Olympia Experience
“Trust in the plan!” He said.
“Contest prep for OLYMPIA!” He said.
As of last Friday September, 18th, Kim Oddo’s words were proved prophetic as I took the Olympia stage for the very first time. The following words are my feeble attempt to describe one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
I have literally flown in and out of airports dozens of times…you know the drill, wandering up the ramps like a herd of cattle, crowding around baggage claim, lugging all of your bags out to the taxi, etc. This trip to the airport would prove very different than those prior experiences as I quickly discovered that Mr. Chang, VP – AMI Corp Events and Olympia Promoter spares no expense in taking special care of the IFBB athletes who qualified for the Olympia. While exiting the plane, I received a text message from Olympia Staff informing me which baggage claim was mine and that he would be awaiting my arrival with my luggage. He was in fact waiting there with another Olympia staff member. They greeted me by name and quickly ushered me to the curb where a black stretch limo was awaiting to usher me and my husband to host hotel, The Orleans.
For those that don’t know, there is an athlete’s meeting prior to every competition that you compete in. This meeting is to provide instruction, order of events, competitors’ numbers and any other information they would like us to have. I have sat in 8 of these meetings as a pro competitor, often with women whose names I was familiar with, but I had never sat in an athlete’s meeting with all the women I have idolized for these past few years. It was at this meeting that it first hit me… “I have really made it to the Olympia” and was competing amongst the best physiques in the world. Candice Lewis, Ann Titone, Latorya Watts, Camala Rodriguez, Gennifer Strobo, and OMG that is Nicole Wilkins sitting right next to me. This was one of the few moments where my nerves were shaky.
The night before the Olympia begins, all of the competitors are assigned booths at The Orleans Arena in order for fans to meet and greet their favorites. I was assigned a booth on the main floor. As fate would have it, so were the biggest names in the sport of bodybuilding. My booth, which I shared with Jason Poston, was located with Phil Heath on one side and Flex Lewis on the other. The lines to see these athletes were exceptionally long. The veteran athletes had many items to show and sell, but as a rookie I was ill prepared for a booth and only brought a few pictures of myself to sign. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to sell them, but I ended up giving them to the few fans who stopped and acknowledged me. I knew that this sport had a great following, but until you see how passionate they are up close, you don’t realize the magnitude. The Meet the Olympians was really pretty cool!
The Figure Olympia Prejudging is held in the Las Vegas Convention Center along with the Olympia Expo. If you have never been to the expo, imagine an entire football stadium full of people all standing on the field at the same time. At least that’s what it felt like to me trying to get backstage. Once backstage, I found my Oddo’s Angels teammates and we began our pre-stage rituals. Hair – check. Makeup – check. Selfies – check. Suit glued to your butt – check. Glaze – check. Pump up – check. SHOW TIME!!! Lucky #2, what was going through my mind? “I hope they say my name right!” And Bob Cicherillo did! I made it through my individual posing routine, I’m not sure how, because I’m pretty sure I blacked out. It was only during comparison round, as I stood off to the side mesmerized by the scene, which I realized I was really standing on THIS stage!
1st callout….2nd callout…3rd callout…. Number 2, Shalako Bradberry. “Did Sandy really say my name?” I’m not going to lie, I was very relieved at the moment I realized that I wasn’t going to finish last. I tried not to set expectations for myself at my first Olympia, but if you would have told me prior to the show that I could finish in the top 15, I would have been ecstatic!
Figure Olympia Finals: Welcome to the Big Show
The Finals for the Figure Olympia are moved from the Las Vegas Convention Center to the big stage in The Orleans Arena. By the time I found myself backstage for finals, all the nervousness had subsided and I felt calm and relaxed. Maybe I was just hungry. As I was taking the stage, I told myself to have fun, and enjoy the moment as you never know if you’ll ever get the opportunity again. My inspirational speech to myself put a big smile on my face (and a few goosebumps on my arms), I took a deep breath and strutted what I will describe as my very best routine to date for the 8,000 fans in attendance that night as well as the numerous friends and family watching from home. My final placing was 15th place.
Following every show that I have competed in as an Oddo’s Angel, I am required to send the infamous Kim Oddo’s post show pictures and weight. Although, I maintain a very clean post show diet, I do allow myself some small indulgences. These small indulgences have a tendency to sit right in my lower abs and my body retains a couple pounds of unwanted water for a few days. I think he asks me to send these pictures so he can blackmail me in the future. I would consider not sending them except for the fact that in doing so, I also get to speak with him on the phone. I value his advice and opinion above all others, and consider myself lucky to be a part of his “Body By O” team. Kim’s confidence and encouraging words are priceless. Thank you Kim for all the time and effort that you put into helping make me the best that I can be!
You are my coach, my mentor, and my friend. I couldn’t do it without you!