|Germany's Mighty Mite .44 MAGNUM MUSCLE|
It's hard to believe that Christa Bauch is already 44, and even harder to believe that
she did not pick up a barbell until she was 37. It was June 1985 when she first walked
into her local gym to ask about a trial session.
"I'd never been happy with my figure, and having three children didn't help. I wasn't overweight, but I felt my bust was much too small, my backside wobbled, and my legs were thick - with cellulite. Starving myself by dieting hadn't helped to make me any more attractive. If anyone mentioned the idea of going to a swimming pool I wanted to die with embarrassment. After seeing the gym adverts several times, I finally plucked up enough courage to go in. The trainer looked at my arms and asked me how long I'd been training - I suppose that's evidence of good "genetics"! I told him my problem was at the other end - in the bottom and the legs. He didn't have time to do the trial session right then, as he was taking an aerobics session, but he invited me to join in the aerobics. After a quarter of an hour I caught sight of myself in the mirror. My face looked like a very ripe tomato. The next day every part of me hurt, but I went in for the trial session anyway. I thought it was great to be able to feel each muscle working. From then on I trained four to six times a week. It made me feel so good. After five months training, I took part in my first contest, a regional championship, and placed second. Actually, I planned just to go and look, as I'd never seen a bodybuilding contest, and so I even bought a ticket to get in!"
Bauch won several local and regional shows before her first big competitive year in 1987.
After only two years training she took a hat-trick of second places, in the NABBA German,
European and World championships - in the last of these losing out to a very muscular
American Connie McCloskey. In 1988 she switched to the WABBA organization, taking the
overall European title as well as the couples title. The following year brought a move to
the IFBB, and professional status after only four years in the gym. Following a
disappointing second place in the German Nationals, Bauch won the World Games heavyweight
title in Karlsruhe - only 20 miles from her home - beating out a strong field including
countrywoman Jutta Tippelt and America's challenger Kim King. The World Games winner
earned the chance to turn pro, but Bauch now feels she made a mistake in doing so.
"I was so overwhelmed that I never thought twice about accepting the pro card. But I didn't realize there were so few pro shows to compete in. Looking back, I realize I should have stayed an amateur, gone for the IFBB Amateur World title, and got to the Olympia that way."
Realistically speaking, Bauch could indeed have taken the World title in any of the
following three years. However she set off optimistically in 1990 for her first pro show,
the Ms. International. After turning in an impressive fourth place, disaster - she was
disqualified as a result of a positive drug test. More problems followed as Bauch had to
have an operation later that year to remove a vein in her leg. A few months later she
bounced back with a fourth-place finish in the highly controversial Italian Grand Prix in
Rimini. Although clearly the second best physique on stage, after the third-placed Marie
Mahabir, she missed an Olympia qualification by one slot. Bauch's life before bodybuilding
was not entirely uneventful, either. Born in Bad Schandau, in what was formerly East
Germany, she enjoyed music, riding and athletics (sprinting) at school, before training as
a masseuse and swimming pool medic. At 27 she left East Germany to settle in the West - not
over the wall, but legally, having married a West German citizen and waited the required 5
years for an exit permit. Her oldest son, Daniel, was already 5 years old, and she was
pregnant with her second child, Patricia. No sooner was she in the West than her husband,
employed by the big German engineering company AEG, was transferred to Baghdad. Further
spells followed in Guatemala and in Algeria, before Bauch returned to Germany on her own
with the children, to ensure they got a proper education. Her third child, Rene, was born
a few years later. Bringing up her children alone gave Bauch plenty to do, but she felt
unfulfilled. She took up rifle shooting for a couple of years - with reasonable success -
before finding the answer in bodybuilding. What has the sport done for her?
"I'd always had a complex about my figure. Really I wanted to look like a contemporary woman, with long slim legs and a big bust and of course, long blond hair. It was impossible, for genetic reasons, but that didn't stop me dreaming. Through bodybuilding I have been able to get away from that by making the most of the physical structure I was born with. I like the way I look now and my self-confidence has increased enormously."
How have her family and friends reacted to this metamorphosis?
"My friends supported me from the start, my children as well - the two older ones have been to contests to cheer for me. They love it when I am on a diet because unlike most dieting bodybuilders, I love cooking and baking even though I can't eat any of it myself. I hide sweets around the house, in case I get an excuse to give up the diet for some reason. Last year my flat was redecorated, and some friends helped me clean the clothes closets out. Chocolate bars and sweets fell out all over the place. When the diet is over I just forget where I hid them."
In actual fact, dieting is not so hard for Bauch. At 5'3" she has a normal contest
weight of 132 pounds and never goes above 145. She can get down to contest weight in five
to six weeks and can stay in top shape for several weeks at a time. For the Jan Tana
Classic she was ready three weeks before the contest — as the photos show. Her trademarks
— wicked bicep peaks, vascular forearms, a highly detailed back and the best pectoral
development in women's bodybuilding today.
"I'd never get implants,"she states emphatically. "It looks alright on an ordinary woman, but on a bodybuilder it looks silly, the way they just stick out when the woman has gotten hard for a contest. It's all part of this nonsense about muscle versus femininity: really I see no conflict at all. A trained, athletic body looks very aesthetic. It expresses strength and beauty, strong willpower and self-confidence. For me this is what being a woman is about. The bimbobarbie doll type is too undemanding. Most men need to learn how to get along with STRONG women — both physically and psychologically."
What does Christa think of the current state of the sport?
"The last Ms. International showed how confused the judges are at present. There is no other sport where limits are set — no-one says you must not jump more than a certain distance or run faster than a certain time. So why in bodybuilding? Let's just leave nature to see the limits. Anyway, only a few women have the symmetry to look good carrying a lot of mass — Lenda Murray is the classic example for me. Maybe it would be easier to judge if the IFBB set up separate figure and physique classes, like in the other organizations, but it wouldn't solve the underlying problem. But one thing is clear — and you see it at every show. Bodybuilding fans don't want to see figure girls on stage — they want to see hardcore muscle.
My target is still the Ms. Olympia:
if I don't make it, I'll still carry on training. It's a part of my life."