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  • Don't Mess With Texas Vegans: Vegan Bodybuilders Dominate Mainstream Competition


    Before the sun set over the Austin, TX skyline on July 27, 2013, the mission to make a statement for veganism in athletics had already been made loud and clear. The PlantBuilt Vegan Muscle Team, founded in 2012 by Giacomo Marchese and Dani Taylor, co-owners of VeganProteins.com, had dominated the bodybuilding stage at the Naturally Fit Super Show, producing four overall champions. The team of 15 vegan athletes ran the table in many categories of the International Natural Bodybuilding Federation (INBF) sanctioned event, producing five individual champions, four overall champions, two professional qualifications, and numerous top three finishes, including a 2nd and 3rd place finish in a class of 24. The results from the PlantBuilt athletes sent an unmistakable message to the crowd, the other competitors, and to the large online following who received live updates throughout the 2-day bodybuilding and fitness competition, that there was a new sheriff in town, who only eats plants.

    Light-heavyweight Champion Derek Tresize (left) and Lightweight Champion Torre Washington (center) battle it out for the Overall Title, which Torre won, earning his Professional qualification within the INBF (International Natural Bodybuilding Federation)

    The tone set by the founders of the team they named PlantBuilt was one of teamwork in a collective effort to stand up for animals and make a loud statement for veganism in athletics. The team formed a cohesive unit that plowed its way across the Texas landscape en route to celebratory performance by many, highlighting some individual accomplishments. Bodybuilder Torre Washington won the lightweight division and the men's overall bodybuilding title, outlasting light-heavyweight champion Derek Tresize who also won his division earning him a spot in the finals. Bodybuilder Sara Russert won her lightweight division and the women's overall bodybuilding title. Figure competitor Pam Kalstad won her division and overall title, earning her professional status, and bodybuilder Will Tucker won his division and overall title for master's bodybuilding (over 40 years of age). Bodybuilders Austin Barbisch and Marcella Torres finished second in their divisions and Giacomo Marchese finished 3rd in men's middleweight bodybuilding. Figure competitor Stephanie Rice finished runner up and Tiffany Burich followed in 3rd. Men's physique models Ed Bauer and Chad Byers finished second and third of two dozen vying for the title, and cash prizes. Finishing in the top three, both increased the bulk of their wallets to Texas-sized status including a large physical check to carry around like a walking billboard.

    "We did better than we even imagined," said team co-founder Giacomo Marchese. "Everyone did so well and we made such a great impact" he added. When asked about what the plans are for next year, he suggested that because of the incredible response from social media buzz throughout the week that the team could be double or triple the size come next summer. You know what they say, 'everything's bigger in Texas', including the vegan bodybuilders who crushed the competition.

    For some it was their first time competing, and for seasoned veterans it was an opportunity to join others to make a louder statement for veganism than can be accomplished alone. Many athletes met for the first time and formed what will likely be long-lasting friendships. The enthusiastic crowd roared for the PlantBuilt athletes and many fans were in the audience sporting their vegan-themed shirts. Approximately 10,000 people attended the fitness expo, and hundreds were on hand to take in the bodybuilding competition. They all witnessed history as the vegan athletes stole the show.

    PlantBuilt co-founder Dani Taylor (front) with the clients she trained behind her from L to R - Tiffany Burich (3rd place winner), Stephanie Rice (2nd place winner), co-founder Giacomo Marchese (3rd place winner) and Sara Russert (1st place winner and women's bodybuilding Overall Champion)

    After some time to wind down, and eat something other than tofu and broccoli (staples in a vegan bodybuilding competition preparation diet), the PlantBuilt founders plan to open up an application process in late September with an opportunity to join them in their historic pursuit to come together to make a positive difference in the world through their leadership and athletic success.

    For more information about PlantBuilt, including seeing photos of the outstanding team, visit www.plantbuilt.com and join them on their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/VeganOlympia. See you in Austin next summer. Bring a Texas-sized sense of adventure. PlantBuilt is taking the bodybuilding world by storm with their own vegan muscle Texas tornado, sweeping up the competition.

    Robert Cheeke

    Robert Cheeke

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