Bev Francis: It’s likely that most people cannot name a female multi-sport phenom in the vein of Jim Thorpe or Donald Dinnie, or even Michael Jordan or Roy Jones Jr, though they should be able to name one- Bev Francis (b. 1955). Though politics prevented her from ever wearing the Olympia crown, Bev Francis dominated three sports in rapid succession due to her insane strength and muscularity, which were tragically the undoing of her competitive career.
An accomplished high school shot putter, Francis began training seriously at 19 in an effort to break the Australian record, which she accomplished in 1977. Until 1982, she was a member of the Australian National Track and Field team, during which time she also set multiple world records at 181lbs in powerlifting, including being the first woman in history to bench over 300 pounds in competition with a massive 330lb effort.
Bev Francis gained true international attention when a picture of her in a bikini in a most muscular pose began circulating though the magazines. Though she was not a bodybuilder, she was invited to be in George Butler’s sequel to Pumping Iron, which required her to compete in her first competition. From there, Bev Francis became a lightning rod for the men in the crowd who wanted the competitors to look “feminine,” all of whom believed Francis carried too much muscle to win.
The absolute mass monster of the era, Francis found herself in third place at the Olympia three times during Cory Everson’s reign, then runner-up twice under Lenda Murray. In spite of experimenting with her physique incessantly throughout her career, tailoring it to meet the judges’ perceived expectations, they always appeared change if she showed up the way they’d wanted. After losing the 1991 Ms. Olympia in spite of the fact she was one of the densest bundles of striated muscle ever to strut across the stage, Bev Francis retired in disgust.