Flex ‘n’ femme

Flex ‘n’ femme

Steve Wennerstrom


Last November, little Michelle Davis used the 2003 NPC National Championships to help her become one of the year’s biggest bodybuilding success stories.

The Georgia native began competing seriously in 2001 at age 44. That year, she qualified for the NPC Nationals but finished a distant 13th among the lightweights. A year later, she ventured to the NPC USA and soared to the sixthplace spot. Later in 2002, Davis returned to the Nationals and promptly moved up to fourth.

With an engineering degree from Baruch College, specializing in computers, Davis engineered an all-out assault on the 2003 NPC National lightweight competition. She flexed her way to victory in a field of 27 women–the largest lightweight assemblage at the Nationals in a decade. In just three years, she jumped from 13th to fourth to first at the toughest amateur contest in the land.

At 5′ and weighing 118 pounds, Davis was a unanimous pick among the judges this time around, showing outstanding muscular detail in virtually every bodypart. In fact, many observers opined that her back poses were among the best in the entire contest.

Her win also put her in the record books on several scores. Born July 19, 1957, Davis, at 46, became the oldest lightweight ever to win at the NPC Nationals. Surprisingly, she also became the first black woman to win the NPC National lightweight class. So, in more ways than one, diminutive Davis from Alpharetta managed to carve a slice of bodybuilding history for herself, while leaving a lasting memory as one the finest lightweights ever to win the coveted NPC National crown.

For more information about this national lightweight champion, go to


When the subject turns to strength in the world of women’s sports, the names Becca Swanson and Jill Mills should come up immediately. Both women are truly remarkable in their respective strength abilities, and both can back up their rightful claims as the strongest women on the planet with feats and accomplishments that leave onlookers shocked and awed.

The shock comes when examining the dizzying lifts and the resultant poundage totals the duo has achieved. The awe is elicited from their visual impact: They are immediately recognizable and believable as true modern-day female strength athletes.

During the past decade, Mills has competed in bodybuilding, powerlifting and strength competitions–putting her solidly on the map as one of history’s top female strength athletes.

In 2001, Mills traveled to the African nation of Zambia to win ESPN’s World’s Strongest Woman competition–a contest that includes carrying, dragging or lifting various heavy objects for speed, time or distance. She came home the easy winner. In 2002, she repeated her victory when the event was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Mills moved to the powerlifting platform in 2003, winning the 181-pound class at the APF National Powerlifting Championships with a total of 1,477 pounds. Her lifts included a 363-pound bench press, a 540 squat and a 573 deadlift. In November, she repeated her winning ways with a victory in the same weight class at the WPC World Powerlifting Championships in Calgary, Canada. In the process, she bettered her National total by nearly 60 pounds with a 385.8 bench, a 622.8 squat (on a fourth attempt) and a 551.1 deadlift. Her official total was 1,537.7 pounds.

As a bodybuilder, Mills competed in several local events in Texas from 1993 to 1995 before turning her focus to powerlifting in 1996. Since then, Mills has been ranked first nationally in both the 165-pound and 181-pound weight classes and holds numerous state and national lifting records.

When not competing, 5’4″ 170-pound Mills operates a successful personal-training business (Jill’s Bodymill) and is a registered massage therapist and diet counselor.

Like Mills, Becca Swanson also claims a bodybuilding background and won overall titles at the NPC Nebraska, NPC Rocky Mountain and NPC Midwest in the late 1990s. But it is in powerlifting where the Swanson name carries the most weight.

At 5’9″ and 231 pounds, competing in the 198-pound-and-over class, Swanson has no peers. She is the first woman in history to surpass the 1,600-, 1,700-and 1,800-pound barriers for total. Her individual lifts are equally inspiring. How about a 777-pound squat, for example? Then there’s her 429.9-pound bench press. And she caps it all off with a 639.2-pound deadlift. Her national record for total currently stands at 1,824 pounds–and no one is a close second.

In all, Swanson has set 16 world powerlifting marks and countless national standards and, at 29, she has a few good years of top-level lifting left. “I’d like to put up some numbers that will take a long time to break, and so far I’m satisfied with my progress.”

Along with her coach, Rick Hussey, Swanson, a 1998 graduate of University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in mechanical engineering, built the Big Iron Gym in Omaha. They have made the hardcore lifting center their personal passion as well as a fulfilling business venture.

For those who really want an up-close-and-personal view of Swanson and Mills, the two have produced a pair of videos that are a must for fans of female strength. The first is called Hardcore and runs 75 minutes. The lifting on this tape defies description. The second is called Benching with Becca and Jill, and this 48-minute tape will show you all you need to know about heavy benching–denim shirt and all.

Hardcore costs $39.99; Benching costs $24.99. Add $5 shipping and handling for either video. You can save money and buy both for $55 plus $5 shipping and handling by sending a check or money order to Swanson/Mills Video, 643 N. 98th Street, PMB 176, Omaha NE 68114. For serious inquiries, both women can be reached via their Web sites: and


It’s been almost two years since we first reported on the pugilistic aspirations of lightweight boxer Jenifer Alcorn. From Fresno, California, Alcorn had accumulated 11 victories without a defeat, with eight wins by knockout.

Fast forward to December 11, 2003. The 5’7″ 135-pound Alcorn has not only made substantial progress as one of the sport’s best fighters, she has become a world champion.

Alcorn’s record now stands at 18-0, with 11 wins by knockout, and during the course of the past two years, she has earned world championship lightweight-title belts from three of the four recognized sanctioning organizations for women’s boxing.

Already holding official world lightweight championship status in the WIBF (Women’s International Boxing Federation) and the WIBA (Women’s International Boxing Association), Alcorn won her most recent world title by defeating Melissa Del Valle in a 10-round split decision on December 11. That victory added the IWBF (International Women’s Boxing Federation) belt to her growing collection.

It’s worth noting that Alcorn’s latest victory was staged in front of a sellout crowd of 1,550 fight fans at the Palace Indian Gaming Center in Lemoore, California, and that the undercard–Alcorn and Del Valle’s title bout was the main event–featured only men’s-division fights. Hats off to promoter George Chung and American Champion Sports for being the visionaries that helped produce the most exciting and entertaining bout on the evening fight card.

Alcorn, now 33, is trained and managed by her husband, Brad, and has three children who are her strongest support group. In her spare time, she serves as the strength coach for the Fresno State women’s basketball team and performs countless hours of community work in California’s central valley.

In 2004, Alcorn hopes to fight for the IFBA (International Female Boxing Association) lightweight title, which is currently vacant. Should she accomplish her goal of holding all four belts in the same weight class, it would be an unprecedented achievement in the history of women’s boxing.


To contact Steve Wennerstrom, write to P.O. Box 421431, San Diego CA 92142.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Weider Publications

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