The IFBB Professional League has been expanding its divisions over the last few years to encourage athletes to compete on their stages. One rising field of competition has been the Wheelchair Division. The athletes that are involved have been taking their sport to new heights every year. In 2018, this division made its biggest jump when it was given a platform at the Olympia. The only champion to have held that title is Harold Kelley, who has won it three times.
Now, new amateurs are coming up and earning their opportunity to be known as professionals — in large part thanks to the National Physique Committee (NPC) and the Wheelchair National Championships. The 2021 edition of this contest took place on March 13, 2021, in Palm Beach, FL, and saw two new pros crowned — Dillon Depiazza and Abraham Sanchez.
Athletes that compete in Wheelchair do so under two subdivisions, incomplete and complete. Incomplete means that the athlete’s spinal cord has not been completely severed. Some neural circuits between the brain and body exist. Conversely, complete paraplegia means the athlete has no feeling or sensation below the point of injury.
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Competitors in each lineup sit in wheelchairs that allow the entire upper body to be seen. Each athlete completes poses from the front, sides, and back. The athletes are then compared by the judges — and are mainly judged on their back and chest mass, arm muscle, shoulder development, and abs — to determine the winner.
Abraham Sanchez showed up in Palm Beach and will return home as an IFBB Pro. Sanchez won the novice and lightweight contests before clinching the overall title in the same show. Second place went to Xavier Vazquez, who also finished as the runner-up in the Novice show. Rounding out the top three was Matthew Westerfield.
There were two competitors in the complete division. The overall title and pro qualification went to Dillon Depiazza. The runner-up was Tim Caldwell. Caldwell did leave this competition victorious because he was the unopposed winner of the Over 40 class.
There was only one group in the men’s physique division with two athletes. Xavier Vazquez crossed over into this division and leaves with the victory. Westerfield was in second place.
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There was one competitor in the middleweight incomplete division. Rory Koonce Jr. was declared the winner since he was unopposed.
There was a women’s division scheduled for this contest, with the winner joining Jen Pasky Jaquin as the second female wheelchair pro ever. However, the contest was canceled due to no athletes showing up.
Now that Sanchez and Depiazza are eligible to enter pro contests, they can start competing immediately to earn a qualification spot on the 2021 Olympia stage, which will occur in Orlando, FL, this October.
Featured Image: @wheelchairbodybuilding on Instagram
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