Baseball has the World Series. Football has its Super Bowl. But when sport involves determining who owns the biggest biceps, there only is one stage that truly matters: Mr. Olympia, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this weekend in Las Vegas. • Mr. Olympia is now billed as Olympia Weekend, as it has evolved into an entirely different animal than it was when Ah-nold was competing in the 1970s. With the addition of Fitness Olympia in 1995 and Figure Olympia in 2003, the competition is no longer looked at, as some would argue, as a "freak show" of gigantic muscles. Figure competitors, for example, showcase a toned yet feminine physique in a classification that has truly closed the door on weightlifting stereotypes. • Three accomplished athletes from Tampa Bay are made their way to Las Vegas this week for Olympia Weekend, each with a different goal in mind. — David Norrie tbt* correspondent
Why Olympia? "Olympia is the biggest show you can do, and winning it is No. 1 on my list of goals. Currently, I'm ranked No. 2. This is my second year competing in the Olympia. Last year I took sixth and was awarded Rookie of the Year (as a figure competitor) by Flex magazine."
Inside her planner: "I lift weights and do cardio six days a week. I do a lot of very intense power lifting. For cardio, I'll vary between stadium stairs, interval sprinting and uphill treadmill walking. In terms of my diet, I take in six meals a day, between 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day, but cut to 1,500 calories per day the last two weeks leading up to the show."
Inner drive: "I've always wanted to be the best at something. I was good at equestrian but I didn't have a good enough horse to get to the next level. In college, I competed in the high jump, but at 5-8 was limited by my height. I still jumped 5-11, missing the Olympic Standard to get to the trials by 3 centimeters. With figure competitions, I finally found something where I had unlimited potential."
Muscular aspirations: "I'm doing this show 100 percent naturally so I can prove to the world that you can, with proper training, discipline and nutrition, be the best in the world without taking performance enhancers."
Grid guy: Watson was an all-state football player at Largo High School in 1997 and an All-American at Appalachian State University. "Lifting as a bodybuilder requires zero functionality or sports specific movement. Simply put, some of the exercises are the same but one you do to perform on the field and the other simply to look your best on stage."
First recollection of wanting to become a bodybuilder: "I picked up a bodybuilding magazine one day when I was in 10th grade and that really sparked my interest. Plus, I'd always admired Arnold (Schwarzenegger), not just for his physique but his charisma and swagger."
Why Olympia? Watson has won several competitions as an amateur bodybuilder, but he's not actually competing in Olympia. "It's an opportunity for me to be around the best of the best, to learn more about nutrition and network with people in the industry," he said.
Whaddya bench? "I bench-pressed 530 pounds for one rep and did 225 pounds for 47 reps for NFL scouts my senior year of college. I also deep-squatted 620 pounds."
Foray into fitness: "I lettered in track at Plant High School and was a professional martial artist for seven years, training, teaching and competing in tae kwon do. I'm a third-degree black belt and won a silver medal at the 2007 world championships.
On her resume: "I won the 2007 Florida State XMA Championships. In 2008, I won the Fitness Florida (model division) and Bikini America (tall division). In 2009, I took first in the FitSciences Bikini Spokesmodel Division and second in the Fitness Model Division, which qualified me for my World Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation pro card. This month, I appear of the cover of Oxygen magazine."
At stake in Las Vegas: "I'm going ... to promote Oxygen magazine as well as my charitable foundation, P31 Caliber, which encourages women of all ages and backgrounds to live healthier and more spiritually sound lives."
Life-changing experience: "While training for my first World Championships in tae kwon do, I blew out both my left and right ACLs and had to undergo major reconstructive surgery on both, costing me … the ability to compete in martial arts. It … gave me an understanding of the term "perseverance," which I used to transform my career into competitive fitness."