Of all the most frustrated perennial second place finishers in the IFBB, it is likely that few are most frustrated with their inability to crack the top spot than Vickie Gates (b. 1962). Girlfriend of Ronnie Coleman as he rose to dominance in men’s sports, she was initially one half of the most serious power couple in the strength sports world. Tragically Gates competed at a time when women’s bodybuilding was in a state of extreme flux, and she was never able to package herself in such a way for the judges that she could truly shine.
Gates’ string of close-but-no-cigar professional finishes had an early start. Gates first competed in 1983, shortly after she began lifting weights. Gates gradually honed her physique until she earned her pro card as a middleweight in 1993, then began a string of top-six finishes in professional bodybuilding that truly belied her apparent closeness to an Olympia title- in 22 pro contests, she only finished outside of the top six three times, and only failed to make the top three in nine of her competitions. That means that in 60% of her contests, Gates landed in the top three, which is no mean feat.
Frustrated with the constantly shifting judges’ criteria and her seeming inability to unseat a reigning Ms. Olympia, Gates threw in the towel on her competitive career after a disappointing seventh place finish in 2003. Though she’d managed to nab three Ms. International titles, the Olympia title eluded her for the entirety of her ten year professional career. Since retiring, however, Gates has remained extremely active in the industry, training bodybuilders and professional football players and maintaining impressive size at 57.
Olympia titles aside, Vickie Gates should definitely in any discussion of the top bodybuilders in history- simply from a base comparison perspective, it would be hard to rank her outside of the top ten. Her size, shape, condition, and incredible consistency are nearly unmatched in the history of bodybuilding, and she remains an inspiration to up-and-coming lifters with her continued good health and impressive physique on the cusp of her 60th birthday.