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FOOTBALL: PRENNO ON THE TELLY.

Byline: DAVE PRENTICE

"PEOPLE probably think I look like a freak, but you know what? I'm just another type of woman."

A very big woman. A woman who looks more like a man.

Joanna Thomas' plaintive plea provided the whole essence of Five's absorbing Supersize She, the second in the series of Hidden Lives.

So many people are repulsed by female bodybuilders. But they are athletes who are just as driven, just as motivated, even more self-sacrificing than any other sports star.

And Five offered us a more insightful, more sensitive depiction than most - but still left the viewer with a sense of deflation and despair.

Joanna was shown as a cute Cornish schoolgirl, before a chance glimpse at a bodybuilding magazine inspired her in a quest to become the world's most muscular woman.

Now 27, and one of only 70 professional female bodybuilders in the world, Joanna remains unfulfilled.

"I'm trying to find happiness," she says. "I love my bodybuilding but as I'm getting older it's not enough any more."

It's difficult to gauge what Joanna is searching for.

Her parents support her quest for glory, but yearn for her to retire and settle down.

A competition body-fat percentage of 2.6, however - less than 20 per cent is considered dangerous for women - plus crash diets and the barely suppressed suggestion of chemical support, means she has probably already damaged internal organs. The issue of steroid use is a prickly one.

Joanna speaks like a man, has poor skin - and an undeniably splendid physique.

But she snaps: "Yeah you just take steroids and you suddenly become this big" - the clear inference being you have to take steroids - and train hard.

Even more depressing is the way Joanna has to fund her training. She has more than 400 paying subscribers to her personal website, where she flexes her muscles in revealing poses.

"I'd rather she didn't have that website," mutters her father, "but she has to pay the bills somehow."

Despite her obsessive zeal for training, Joanna still comes up short when competing at the prestigious Miss Olympia event.

On the eve of the show, Joanna's parents send her a video tape of her first competition appearance at the age of 16. Joanna watches it wistfully. "I had such a cute face then," she whispers.

If Pumping Iron was inspirational and light-hearted, this was seedy, sad and informative

CAPTION(S):

SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS: Bodybuilder Joanna Thomas
COPYRIGHT 2005 MGN Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 15, 2005
Words:406
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