One of the sport’s most esteemed officials — Sandy Williamson, took part in a rare interview with former seven-time 212 Olympia Flex Lewis. During their discussion, Williamson addressed a myriad of topics including early female bodybuilding inspirations, judging criteria, and America’s 54 percent obesity rate.
If you have ever watched or witnessed the annual Mr. Olympia event, you’ve likely heard judge Sandy Williamson’s voice. As a pioneering figure in bodybuilding for females, Williamson boasts over 40 years of experience as a registered nurse but found a passion for the sport and has never looked back.
Given how often rule changes occur in the IFBB Pro League, hearing from Williamson is always enlightening. As of late, the Classic Physique and Men’s Physique categories have seen new weight/height caps, all of which Williamson had a hand in crafting. Now, with female divisions soaring in popularity, Sandy Williamson sat down to give her thoughts on where the sport is headed in 2024.
Judge Sandy Williamson Discusses Female Bodybuilding Inspirations and Obesity in America
Williamson credited eight-time Ms. Olympia Lenda Murray as an early female bodybuilding inspiration.
“If you talk to somebody like Lenda Murray, she was the only female in her gym. You know training. Yeah! So, the landscape has obviously changed but again you have to remember in the 70s, women grew up, we had models that were 5’10’, 5’11’, 6-foot and they weighed 115 pounds that’s what the goal [was].”
“If you could go all day long and not eat and just eat dinner then oh my God you had great willpower. Because I went to see that first Ms. Olympia and then obviously it was all magazines. I mean God, I would give my teeth for what we have now, the resources and stuff. It was all by reading magazines.
In addition, Williamson underscored the impact that the first Ms. Olympia Rachel McLish had on her and the sport as a whole.
“I slowly learned. I’m a nurse for 44 years. You don’t learn nutrition in nursing or anything in medicine, no offense but you don’t. But this sport taught me about lifting weights and what building muscle can do for women and how to eat.”“Because she was such a beautiful woman [Rachel McLish] and she wasn’t a skeleton,” said Sandy Williamson. “That’s what inspired me.”
“I don’t think people realize what this sport has done for so many people. Again, I know more from the female standpoint obviously because that’s more, but it is, it has saved countless lives. I have so many women I’ll talk to that have battled cancer, have lost children, have other diseases that they battle and yet they can still get on stage because no matter where you end up placing on stage, the sport can only make you a better person.”
“Here in America, I think we’re at a 54% obesity rate, yeah. It’s a huge obesity rate. When I’ve gotten into nursing, type 2 diabetes was not even in the books at the time. When it first started coming in the late 70s it was elderly people, sedentary, heavy elderly people.Now you’re seeing type 2 diabetes in young children okay. Because again, I’m sure when you were younger too, we went outside and played. Now, everything is on the iPad in front of the TV and stuff.”
“I think it’s a new era but there’s good and the bad. There really is, because there’s so much that’s good about social media obviously, especially athletes now from different parts of the world can actually meet each other and actually have a relationship together from an athlete’s standpoint and stuff. It also again, gives resources, if you’re a new athlete about how to train.”
“You have to keep up and I tell this to athletes all the time I say at seminars, I say, you are the foundation, they are so many shows here now we’re so fortunate around the world here in the US that you can pick and choose what shows you want to go to.You’re going to go to the shows that you think are well-run that you’re respected that are judged well, other promoters are either going to step up to the plate or they’re going to go by the wayside. It’s a business,” said Williamson. “In 2024, there’s going to be a lot more drug testing in natural shows in the NPC.”
“For the Classic Physique heights and weights, but that’s not set in stone. When you add a new division it’s going to grow, it’s going to change and the athletes themselves are going to help shape what it’s going to look like you know what I mean? If we have to change the criteria a little bit, we do. Based on what the athletes seem to want.”
“One of the biggest things this year was Tyler doing those videos. Well, he does visuals. I tell people all the time, I can say to you, ‘Well Flex, you need to be bigger.’ Well, how much bigger, but when I do a cut and paste and you need to be this tighter or pose this way and now they can look and go okay. That’s obviously what Tyler does with the videos.”“One of the things we realized as an organization, is we’re looking a little bit too much for the conditioning. Conditioning is for one day. Full muscle bellies and developing muscle is for your lifetime, especially for women, it’s what’s going to keep us healthier the older we get.”