Okinawa bodybuilders muscle out competition

By FRED ZIMMERMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 30, 2005

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Bodybuilders from throughout Okinawa gathered here Sunday to compete in the 10th Marine Corps Community Services-Okinawa Far East Bodybuilding Competition.

Forty competitors — 17 Okinawans and the rest Americans — squared off against one another at the theater here in three women’s and seven men’s categories. Trophies were given out to the first- through fifth-place finishers in each category, and samurai swords were awarded to the top male and female bodybuilder.

American women swept all first-place finishes, while Okinawans won three of the men’s divisions — the overall champs were split.

Monique Shaw posted her second straight women’s Far East win by topping lightweight division winner Gina Burton and heavyweight Crystal Cooks. Local bodybuilder Masashi Kouri first took the men’s lightweight division before outlasting the six other men’s finalists, capturing the coveted samurai swords.

For one competitor, getting back on the stage was a victory, let alone winning his division.

“It’s been 17 years since I’ve competed,” said men’s heavyweight winner Robert Caldwell, a Marine sergeant major. “It was tough … a lot of it mentally. But my family gave me a lot of support, and the Marines in my unit also.. They kept me honest on my diet, and motivated me to continue.”

Caldwell said that on his 40th birthday in April he weighed 250. At weigh-in for the competition, he was down to a cut 217. He said dieting, and his training regimen of cardio two times a day and weightlifting two times a day, did the job.

After all that dieting and eating bland foods, Caldwell said the first thing on his menu was chicken Caesar salad with Thousand Island dressing.

Women’s heavyweight winner Crystal Cooks, a petty officer first class, said she enjoyed seeing her fellow competitors transform.

“This is my first Armed Forces competition,” Cooks said. “I loved it because there is more camaraderie. It makes it more fun when you see these people all the time … at work, in the gym. You get to see them getting ready for the competition and you see their bodies changing.”

Kenny Walker, the men’s middleweight winner, improved what was once his weakness to take top honors this year in his division.

“In 2003, they said my back was lacking, so I worked on that,” said Walker, who placed third in the middleweight division in both 2001 and 2003. “It feels good, because I felt like I would be disappointed to get second or third. I was kind of iffy, but I got it.”

Walker, who is a former Marine, said the best part of his victory was having his 2-year-old son, Daunte, in the crowd.

“It was all worth it because my son was out there watching,” he said. “At least I hope he noticed me.”

Weight class winners

Women’s lightweight: Gina Burton

Women’s middleweight: Monique Shaw

Women’s heavyweight: Crystal Cooks

Men’s bantamweight: Morihide Ota

Men’s lightweight: Masashi Kouri

Men’s welterweight: Shingo Nagato

Men’s light-middleweight: Mikal Bowman

Men’s middleweight: Kenny Walker

Men’s light-heavyweight: Benjamin Laster

Men’s heavyweight: Robert Caldwell

Marine Sgt. Maj. Robert Caldwell shows off his massive arms. He took first in the men’s heavyweight division.

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