Barbie Thomas lost both of her arms in an accident when she was just 2 years old—she was playing on an electrical transformer, got tangled in some wiring, and was burned "to the bone." Now, despite her unique physicality, she's competing in national fitness competitions. (Fitness models are "something in between a body builder and a bikini girl.")
"She chose the most difficult division of all," said Miles Nuessle, Arizona chairman of the NPC.
"We were thinking, 'How can she do that routine?' but she blew our minds," he said. "She was absolutely beautiful. She was on the floor jumping up and doing splits. I don't know what half the moves were called. She was rolling all over the place and shaking it — sexy, athletic, fun and emotional. The crowd went nuts.
"You can't use the word handicapped with her or she may punch you in the face," he said. "Barbie is not handicapped."
...Nuessle, who runs NPC Miles Productions, said he once made a comment to Thomas that she said gave her the "fuel" to keep competing.
"At one of the shows I said without pulling any punches, 'It's hard to win when you don't have upper extremities.' The judges look at symmetry," he said. "She got a fire in the belly and said, 'Don't tell me I can't win. I'll use that to motivate me.' … She did make me eat my words."
Thanks to her incredible core and leg strength, Thomas is able to do a backflip, though she hasn't yet done one in competition. In other news, remind me to punch myself in the face the next time I whine about having to do 90 seconds of plank.