COPPERAS COVE — Her name is Jessica Gaines, but she would not mind being called Ms. Olympia.
Six years after stumbling into the world of bodybuilding, the Copperas Cove resident has ascended to professional status in the sport, winning numerous local and national competitions en route to becoming one of the elite in her field.
Her true journey, however, is only beginning.
After recently receiving her pro card from the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness — the highest level of competitive bodybuilding — Gaines is focused on obtaining the industry’s most prized possession.
“Hopefully, once I compete at the pro level and do enough competitions, I’ll get to go
(compete for the title of) Ms. Olympia,” the 36-year-old mother of two said. “That’s like the big meat and potatoes, the kit and kaboodle of the bodybuilding world. It’s televised, it gets a lot of publicity, and that is my goal.”
The Ms. Olympia competition is part of a larger extravaganza known as Joe Weider’s Olympia Fitness and Performance Weekend, which was created in 1965 and helped launch the careers of seven-time Mr. Olympia winner Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno.
Soon, Gaines hopes she, too, can use the competition as a springboard, but she knows the path to being named Ms. Olympia will be difficult.
“I was looking at my schedule and just for the upcoming year I’ll be traveling to five different shows,” she said, “and they are all outside the state with the exception of one.”
To qualify, competitors accumulate points throughout a series of IFBB events with the top five individual and all overall winners from the qualifying contests advancing to the Ms. Olympia contest in Las Vegas.
Despite being exposed to bodybuilding through her husband, Aubrey Gaines, who is a veteran of the sport, the Army wife never envisioned herself participating until a simple conversation in 2007 sent her life in a new direction.
“It wasn’t (anything of interest) until I got approached by other female bodybuilders, who said I should consider this because I had the perfect physique,” Gaines said. “It just kind of launched from there. I went to a few bodybuilding shows as an introduction and got bit by the bug.”
Gaines, who is also a personal trainer, began competing several times a year and made history in Hawaii, where her husband was stationed for approximately two and a half years.
At the 2011 Stingray Classic, the couple became the first husband and wife tandem in the state to earn top honors in the same competition, winning the best overall male and best overall female categories.
While the shared moment is something Gaines treasures, she is quick to admit training with her spouse is not always so joyous.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “It definitely helps in some areas because he understands the sacrifice and the torture we put on our bodies, and he understands the passion. However, on the flip side, when you have two people who are competing, and many times it is at the same time, it is hard to not want to claw each others eyes out.”
The family returned to Copperas Cove about a year ago and Gaines continued her streak of success on the mainland, culminating with her pro card-qualifying victory in the Class B division of the women’s physique category at the NPC Junior USA Bodybuilding Championship in May at Charleston, S.C.
Although Gaines has achieved a lot in a relatively brief time, she understands things will only get tougher from here as she begins her trek toward the goal of competing for the title of Ms. Olympia.
“The competitions are on a larger scale,” she said. “Obviously, I’ll be looking at more women on my level now if not better, so I’ll have to really step up my game.”