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Arnold Sports Festival, Arnold Schwarzenegger come back to Columbus

Credit: Melissa Prax / Lantern reporter

Members of World Jump Rope Jenna Bica (left) and Leah Turner, both of Seattle, perform before the jump roping competition at the 2014 Arnold Sports Festival, which ran from Feb. 27 to March 2 in various venues throughout Columbus.
Credit: Melissa Prax / Lantern reporter

Arnold Schwarzenegger, a man whose résumé boasts the somewhat unusal combination of governor, actor and former bodybuilder, also has a tie to Columbus — a weekend festival filled with sports, muscles and spandex.

Nearly 18,000 athletes and 175,000 spectators crowded the Columbus Convention Center for the annual Arnold Sports Festival.

The Arnold Sports Festival is four-day event, running Thursday through Sunday, filled with an interactive expo, competitions, bodybuilding and fitness workshops.

When the expo opened at 9 a.m. Saturday, a line of nearly 100 festivalgoers began running to get free protein snacks and other fitness goodies from more than 800 booths. The festival included more than 45 sports and events, including gymnastics, fencing, bodybuilding and physique competition and powerlifting.

The festival is one of the largest events held in Columbus, and has continued to grow each year.

“We’ve been working with the (Arnold Sports Festival) for 15 plus years. It’s the biggest event at the convention center, and one of the biggest events in Columbus,” said Mike Walton, head of registration services at the event and president of registration service company WalCom, Inc.

Named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, the event hosted competitive events in various locations including the Franklin County Veterans Memorial, the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion and the Schottenstein Center.

Schwarzenegger ran through a back door of the Convention Center to make his ambush appearance Saturday.

He showed up at events throughout the weekend to offer motivational advice and shake hands with eventgoers and competitors, including the athletes in the men’s gymnastics event.

This year, events like swimming, pole fitness and wrestling were added to allow more participants and expand the festival.

The Arnold Sports Festival has expanded the past two years to include events in Spain and Brazil.

“Planning for next year begins 10 days after this event closes,” Walton said. “We’ve been working with this event since it started.”

For some who attended the event as a fan, coming to the Arnold Classic is a tradition.

Tyler Vandoren traveled six hours from St. Louis with a group of friends.

“We come every year,” Vandoren said. “We’ve been coming, this will be as a group four (years), and then as a total for me it’s nine (years).”

On Saturday, competitive events included jump roping.

Aaron McCanty, a second-year in computer science and secretary for the Ohio State Jump Roping Club, competed in the World Jump Rope competition.

The club has two coaches who have helped teach participants in the club how to jump rope efficiently, McCanty said.

“Most of us didn’t even know how to jump rope before this year,” McCanty said.

The OSU Jump Roping Club was started in September, and this was the group’s first competition.

Jump ropers in the OSU club competed in the fitness category, where participants jumped as many times as they could in one minute.

For Varun Shah, a first-year in neuroscience, joining the jump roping club and participating in the first competition was rewarding.

“We get to publicly show what we like to do, so it’s really fun,” Shah said.

Some attendees come to the Arnold Sports Festival with the hopes of participating in the future, such as Nick Imber, a first-year undecided major at Columbus State Community College. Has been coming the past three years to festival, mainly for the expo. He weight lifts currently, with the hopes to get into bodybuilding.

“I’d like to see if I can get into the physique competition. Maybe next year or the upcoming years, I know I’ve got a long way to go, but I can see myself doing it in the near future.”

Correction: In a prior version of this article, the caption under the photo stated that Jenna Bica and Leah Turner were pictured competing in the jump roping competition at the 2014 Arnold Sports Festival. In fact, they were just performing because their team, World Jump Rope, hosted the competition. 

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