Hickam soldier reaches top at Muscle Mayhem

Officer in Training Tiffany Winters, U.S. Coast Guard, strikes the pose.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

Posing in his first bodybuilding competition, Army Sgt. Victor Espinosa, who is stationed at Hickam with the 7th Dive Emergency Unit, captured not one, but two titles including best overall bodybuilder titles in the 2018 Polynesian Natural Muscle Mayhem Bodybuilding Contest, which was held on April 7 at the Hawaii Fit Expo at Neil Blaisdell Exhibition Center.

“I came here with an open mind, anything could happen, I seriously had nothing to lose,” Espinosa said after coming off stage with the overall title. “I stressed a couple of times, but at the end of day, I brought it home. It’s what I wanted to do and I did it.”

Army Sgt. Victor Espinoza fires up the audience en route to best overall bodybuilding trophy.

The husband and wife team of Bob Bell and Tina Smith of the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation promoted the show, which is one of the few federations that ensure a drug- free competition via urine and polygraph testing.

“It’s challenging,” Bell admitted about the stringent testing. “We go through the whole process to make sure they are eligible.”

Espinosa was one of many military competitors that also included Air Force Staff Sgt. Charles Murray of Headquarters Pacific Air Forces; Eassie Soares-Haae, a Department of Defense civilian at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam; Army Maj. James Kelly, Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sean Aikman and Officer in Training Tiffany Winters, U.S Coast Guard.

The judging panel even had a military member in Air Force Staff Sgt. Renee Murray, who was stationed here in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks from 2005-10, while she served in the Army, before switching to the Air Force in 2013.

Murray, who won her professional card in 2017, started competing in bodybuilding on stage at her home base on Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, took first place and hasn’t looked back — garnering her pro card only three years later.

Staff Sgt. Charles Murray gives the crowd a look at his muscular physique.

She talked about the difficul-ties faced by military members, who try to juggle family, work and other commitments with the lifestyle of being a physique athlete.

“First of all, with me and other military members that are doing this, military comes first,” said Murray, who will be competing in a professional show at the Cellucor WNBF Pro USA INBF Natural Muscle Mayhem in California on July 21. “You have training you have

the field and we don’t have the luxury of spacing out our meals and eating at certain times because our job just doesn’t allow that. We have to make a lot of sacrifices, but for us to stay on track, we have to get it done. It’s a lot more difficult for somebody in the military.”

The show also commemorated Army Staff Sgt. Stuart Jackson, who won last year’s overall bodybuilding champion title, but died in a tragic traffic accident last December, while driving a motorcycle in Kunia. Jackson would have been 29 on April 7, the day of the show.

Jackson’s surviving wife Stephanie Maynetto-Jackson, his sons 6-year-old Maliq and 2-year-old Dominic, other family members and supporters were in attendance to witness the tribute, which culminated with a group shot on stage.

“It’s amazing,” said Maynetto-Jackson, who is expected to deliver the couple’s third child in May.

“He was a great soldier, he was humble and he had such a bright spirit. He just loved life and would bring people out of the dark.”

Starting with prejudging at 10 a.m., the competitors returned for the final pose down at 2 p.m., with Eassie Soares-Haae winning the Master’s Division for age 50 and above.

Other winners were, David River, Master’s age 40 and above; Brandon Vallejos, Master’s Physique; Heather Rosa-rio, Master’s Bikini; Kelly and Staff Sgt. Murray placed 1st and 2nd in the Novice Physique; Aikman, Open Men’s Bodybuilding (light); Espinoza Open Men’s Bodybuilding (heavy); Vallejos took the Open Men’s Physique over Espinoza, Rosario and Winters got 1st and 2nd in the Open Bikini and finally, Espinoza closed the show by winning the overall Bodybuilding championship.

While many bodybuilders like to celebrate the end of a show by eating all those things that their diets didn’t allow, Espinoza, who started working for the contest back in August and dropped over 30 pounds, said that he would have to wait to satisfy his hunger.

The 27-year-old bodybuilder is attempting to do back-to-back shows, a rare feat, by competing on April 20 at the Stingray Classic, which is one of the biggest bodybuilding shows in the state.

“Today, I have to eat healthy because I have a contest coming up,” said Espinoza, who added that he couldn’t have done it without the support of his command. “After (the Stingray), I’m going to mess some stuff up.”

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Category: Sports