In a win that would make Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger especially proud, a California National Guard member landed top prize at an Army bodybuilding competition -- in Iraq.
Sgt. Erica Rinard, a mechanic with an Army Guard unit from Palmdale, scored when she won the best overall award in a bodybuilding contest judged by Billy Blanks, creator of the Tae Bo aerobics workout.
The contest was held last month at Operating Base Speicher, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, where Rinard has been serving on her second Iraq deployment since October 2008.
The 127-pound former college track star (Southern Oregon University) and Victorville resident placed first in her weight class and first overall after a training regimen that included before and after work weightlifting training sessions five days a week.
Rinard, a wheel and track mechanic who works on armored vehicles, is a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 185th Armor. She started to prepare for the competition in December and bulked up from her initial 119 pounds.
Bodybuilding contests include performances to highlight muscles before crowds and judges -- something that the state's world champion bodybuilder turned governor knows all about, but which was a very new phenomenon to Rinard.
"Some chances only come once a life time, so I took this chance to step out of my comfort zone and overcome my fear of standing before a large crowd," Rinard told colleagues in the Guard's 16th Sustainment Brigade, which reported her win on a Guard Web site.
"I guess that's the true reason why I took on this challenge to prove to myself that I could do it," she said.
IMAGE: Sgt. Erica Rinard/ California National Guard photo