Japanese dominate at Yokota bodybuilding event
July 29, 2008
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — For the first several years of the Central Japan Bodybuilding and Figure Championship at Yokota, American competitors dominated the competition.
How the times have changed.
Heavyweight champion Yutaka Ono became the sixth Japanese competitor in a row to win the men’s overall title, in front of a packed house Sunday night at the Taiyo Recreation Center.
Japanese competitors also won the top spots in each of the six male weight categories, ranging from bantamweight to heavyweight as well as a master’s category.
This is the 10th year the competition has taken place at Yokota, said Pat Coleman, a former professional bodybuilder and director of the Yokota Fitness Center, who explained that the event began as an offshoot of Misawa Air Base’s bodybuilding competition.
"It’s getting bigger every year," he said, adding that roughly 500 spectators came out the cheer on the 53 competitors who flexed, stretched and posed for the crowd.
"These guys were all in awesome shape," said Coleman, who explained that over the past several years, the Japanese competitors have become a force to be reckoned with in the competition.
"The gentleman (Yasunobu Komori) who won the masters division this year has won it for the past four years," he said.
Last year’s overall winner and middleweight champ, Itaru Naitou, won his weight class again this year, only to be beaten in the overall finals by Ono.
"The quality of competition this year is really good," said Dexter Robeson, a civilian employee with Camp Zama’s Directorate of Public Works and a 23-year veteran of bodybuilding competitions.
A self described "kind of shy guy" in high school, Robeson said he first became interested in bodybuilding when he found out it was something that he had a talent for.
"It’s a lifestyle, almost like a calling," he said.
Now at age 45, he said that bodybuilding has helped keep him motivated to get in better shape every year.
Both Robeson and another competitor, 60-year-old Nobuo Wada, a crowd favorite, also proved that with age comes experience, as Robeson claimed the best poser award in the master’s category and Wada won both the bantamweight title and the overall best poser award for the competition.
"[Wada] was unbelievable," said Coleman. "The guy went into an open division in which any age can compete and did awesome."
On the women’s side, Lorrie Hollifield claimed the top spot in the figure competition.
Coleman said that this is the first year that the Yokota competition has had a women’s figure event, explaining that there had been a women’s bodybuilding competition but was discontinued due to a lack of participants.
Figure competitions are different from bodybuilding competitions in that they focus more of body symmetry and muscle tone and less of overall muscle size.
He added that the change represents a similar change taking place in competitions across the U.S. and that he hopes that the Yokota figure competition will continue in the future.
Planning for the competition goes on all year, said Coleman, adding that "as soon as tonight’s contest is over," the fitness center will begin getting to work on next year’s show.