Bodybuilding shows off its muscles in its debut at Pan American Games

Jonathan Martinez of Guatemala flexes during the debut of the men's classic bodybuilding competition at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima. AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

LIMA, Peru -- The version of bodybuilding that debuted Saturday at the 2019 Pan American Games seeks to emphasize symmetry and harmony in the human form over muscle bulk. Make no mistake, however; preening, pecs and poses were front and center at the Coliseo Mariscal Cáceres.

Complete with dance routines and feats of flexibility in front of judges, bodybuilding may one day achieve its long-term objective of becoming an Olympic sport. In the meantime, high-powered camera lenses outnumbered laptops in the media area as curious onlookers sought a peek before the Games' first gold medals in men's classic bodybuilding and women's bikini fitness were awarded to El Salvador's Yuri Rodriguez and Paulina Zamora.

Rafael Santonja, president of the Madrid-based International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness, welcomed spectators to the venue, beaming like any proud father would.

"These magnificent athletes are making their dream come true," he said of the 32 participants from the Americas moments before the start of the women's prejudging.

Classic men's bodybuilding was recognized as a new discipline by IFBB in November 2005, responding to demands for competitions for men who prefer a less-muscular yet still athletic physique. Women's fitness places an emphasis on femininity and coordination with music.

Bodybuilding was a demonstration sport at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and was added to the 2019 lineup a year later. It is not, however, in the lineup at the moment for the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

The United States did not have an entry in Lima 2019.